Joachim Ritter

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Joachim Ritter (born April 3, 1903 in Geesthacht ; † August 3, 1974 in Münster ) was a German philosopher and founder of the knight school named after him .


Ritter studied philosophy, theology, German and history in Heidelberg , Marburg , Freiburg im Breisgau (among others with Erich Rothacker , Heinz Heimsoeth and Martin Heidegger ) and Hamburg, where he worked with Ernst Cassirer in 1925 with the work Docta ignorantia - The theory of ignorance with Nicolaus Cusanus received his PhD. As Cassirer's assistant, Ritter took part in the II. International University Courses in Davos in the spring of 1929 and was one of the recorders of the Davos disputation , which Cassirer led with Martin Heidegger.

He completed his habilitation in 1932 with the support of Ernst Cassirer (there was resistance in the faculty because of Ritter's communist past) with an investigation into the inclusion and transformation of the Neoplatonic ontology in Augustine . He then worked as a lecturer at the University of Hamburg .

On November 11, 1933, he signed the German professors' confession of Adolf Hitler . In 1937 he joined the NSDAP , the NS-Studentenkampfhilfe , the NS-Lehrerbund and the National Socialist People's Welfare . From 1940 he served as a reserve officer in the Wehrmacht and was on the Eastern Front from 1941, where he received several awards. On May 8, 1943, he was appointed full professor of philosophy at the University of Kiel , but was unable to take up the position due to his military activities.

Cushion stone Joachim Ritter , Ohlsdorf cemetery

From 1946 until his retirement in 1968 he was a full professor of philosophy at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster, interrupted by a visiting professorship in Istanbul (1953–1955).

Ritter was a member of the Working Group for Research of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (later North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and Arts ), the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz and the German Science Council .

His son was the culture and science journalist and writer Henning Ritter .

Joachim Ritter was buried in the Ohlsdorf cemetery in Hamburg, grid square AA 28 (southwest of chapel 6).


Joachim Ritter's work is initially oriented towards the history of philosophy. Following studies by Cassirer v. a. the transition from the late Middle Ages to the early modern period and late antiquity . His main interest in terms of content is the relationship between continuity and change in the concrete implementation of upheavals in philosophy and the history of ideas. In addition, fundamental considerations are made about the task and procedure of philosophy and the historicity of scientific knowledge (1938).

After the Second World War , in the course of a groundbreaking analysis of Hegel's legal philosophy ( above all Hegel and the French Revolution , 1957) , Ritter worked out a philosophical theory of modernity that focused on the concept of division . According to her, the modern world is constituted in the form of bourgeois society , its “abstract” law and the industrialized work that supports it, modern natural science and technology, essentially by breaking with the traditional ways of life and world views of historical origin. The liberation of the individual made possible in this way from the overwhelming power of nature and traditional social ties is unreservedly affirmed, but according to Ritter it would only remain negative and abstract if the historical substance of human existence, which is excluded from society and thus released at the same time, does not nonetheless exist Medium of subjective inwardness would be preserved and kept present. In this sense z. B. the training of the humanities as well as the aestheticization of art and the human relationship to nature to compensate for the abstract lack of history and the disenchanted reality of modern society.

The preoccupation with Aristotle (especially bourgeois life. On the Aristotelian theory of happiness , 1956; On the foundation of practical philosophy in Aristotle , 1960) led Ritter to develop a conception of practical philosophy as the " hermeneutics of the historical world". According to her, the task of practical philosophy is not primarily the establishment of abstract moral norms or the drafting of new political orders, but rather the interpretation of the concrete, historically developed reality in terms of reason already inherent in itself, which Ritter realizes in political and social institutions in particular sees. They guarantee and secure the connection between subjectivity and bourgeois society which is presupposed in modern division. Against this background, the modern splitting of traditional practical philosophy into a normative ethics limited to the area of ​​subjective inwardness on the one hand and a legal and state theory that examines the external, institutionally ordered living conditions of people only as positive facts on the other hand, is criticized.

Another important project of Ritter is the history of philosophical concepts . The Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , prepared by Ritter since the early 1960s and published with an extensive group of employees since 1971, has become one of the most important working bases for philosophical and humanities education and research. His methodological approach is based on a conception of philosophy, for which this "in the change of its historical positions and in the contrast of directions and schools develops as a perennial philosophy ". The separation of systematic philosophy and the history of philosophy is rejected and the reference to one's own history is understood as constitutive for philosophical thought itself.


Joachim Ritter is one of the most influential German philosophers of the post-war period . In addition to his active involvement in education and university politics, which was based on an emphatic concept of theoretical education , the theory of the humanities and considerations on practical philosophy, which made a significant contribution to the so-called “rehabilitation of practical philosophy” in Germany, continued to have an impact. Ritter’s students include a. Günther Bien , Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde , Wilhelm Goerdt , Karlfried Gründer , Martin Kriele , Hermann Lübbe , Odo Marquard , Reinhart Maurer , Willi Oelmüller , Günter Rohrmoser , Hans Jörg Sandkühler , Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann and Robert Spaemann . Above all, critics like Jürgen Habermas spoke of a " knight school " with a conservative orientation. In the more recent research on the history of ideas, however, the contribution of Ritter and his students to the “liberal-conservative foundation of the Federal Republic” is emphasized and examined.

Fonts (selection)

  • Docta Ignorantia. The theory of ignorance in Nicolaus Cusanus , Leipzig: Teubner 1927.
  • Mundus Intelligibilis. An investigation into the inclusion and transformation of the Neoplatonic ontology by Augustinus , Frankfurt a. M .: Klostermann 1937/ 2 of 2002.
  • Hegel and the French Revolution , Cologne among others: Westdeutscher Verlag 1957.
  • Metaphysics and politics. Studies on Aristotle and Hegel , Frankfurt a. M .: Suhrkamp 1969 / extended new edition 2003.
  • as editor: Historical dictionary of philosophy, with the participation of more than 800 specialist scholars. 13 volumes, Darmstadt 1971–2007.
  • Subjectivity. Six essays , Frankfurt a. M .: Suhrkamp 1974.
  • Lectures on Philosophical Aesthetics , ed. by Ulrich von Bülow and Mark Schweda, Göttingen: Wallstein 2010. ISBN 978-3-8353-0744-5


  • Hanno Birken-Bertsch: On the criticism of anthropological changes in the outcome of Joachim Ritter. In: Studia Philosophica . Vol. 72 (2013), pp. 315–326 = The anthropological turn. Le tournant anthropologique. Edited by Anton Hügli , Schwabe, Basel 2014, pp. 315–326.
  • Carsten Dutt: Two kinds of compensation. Joachim Ritter defended the philosophy of the humanities against its popularizers and critics. In: Scientia Poetica. Vol. 12 (2008), pp. 294-314.
  • Odo MarquardKnight, Joachim. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 21, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-428-11202-4 , p. 663 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Henning Ottmann : Joachim Ritter. In: Julian Nida-Rümelin (ed.): Philosophy of the Present in Individual Representations. From Adorno to v. Wright (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 423). Kröner, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-520-42301-4 , pp. 504-509.
  • Günter Rohrmoser : Conservatism in Germany before and after World War II. Joachim Ritter as a modernizer. In: Günter Rohrmoser: Conservative thinking in the context of modernity. Society for cultural studies, Bietigheim / Baden 2006, ISBN 3-930218-36-4 .
  • Gunter Scholtz: Joachim Ritter as a left Hegelian. In: Ulrich Dierse (Ed.): Joachim Ritter in memory. Steiner, Stuttgart 2004, pp. 147-161.
  • Mark Schweda: Divisions and Compensation. Joachim Ritter's philosophical theory of the modern world. Alber, Freiburg im Breisgau 2013, ISBN 978-3-495-48614-6 .
  • Mark Schweda: Joachim Ritter and the Knight School. For the introduction. Junius Verlag, Hamburg 2015, ISBN 978-3-88506-708-5 .
  • Jens Thiel: Academic “tin soldiers”? Careers of German humanities scholars between occupation and calling (1933/1945). In: Rüdiger vom Bruch , Uta Gerhardt , Aleksandra Pawliczek (eds.): Continuities and discontinuities in the history of science in the 20th century. Steiner, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 978-3-515-08965-4 , pp. 167-194.
  • Norbert Waszek : 1789, 1830 and no end. Hegel and the French Revolution. In: Ulrich Herrmann , Jürgen Oelkers (Ed.): French Revolution and Modern Education. Beltz, Weinheim / Basel 1989, ISBN 3-407-41124-3 , pp. 347–359, here p. 348 ff.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Martin Heidegger Complete Edition (HGA), 3, 1973, p. 315
  2. ^ Odo Marquard: Ritter, Joachim. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 21, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-428-11202-4 , p. 663.
  3. a b Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945 . Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, second updated edition, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 978-3-596-16048-8 , p. 499.
  4. Newsletter of the German Science and Technology, organ of the Reich Research Council (Hrsg.): Research and progress . Staff news. Appointments. tape 19, 23/24 , 1943, pp. 252 .
  5. Celebrity Graves
  6. ^ Jürgen Habermas, Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne , Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1985, pp. 90–93 ISBN 3-518-57722-0
  7. Jens Hacke , Philosophy of Bourgeoisie. The liberal-conservative justification of the Federal Republic . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2006 ISBN 978-3-525-36842-8 .
predecessor Office successor
Hermann Goecke Rector of the University of Münster
Heinz Bittel