Johannes Heinrichs (philosopher)

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Johannes Heinrichs (born September 17, 1942 in Rheinhausen , today Duisburg ) is a German philosopher ( social philosopher ) and semiotic .


After graduating from high school in Rheinhausen, Johannes Heinrichs entered the Jesuit novitiate in Eringerfeld Castle (Westphalia) in 1962 , completed his basic studies in philosophy from 1964 to 1967 at the Jesuit University of Philosophy in Pullach near Munich (with a philosophical license ) and was there until 1970 repetitor (assistant), in addition to philosophical studies at the University of Munich. In 1970 he went to the Hegel Archive in Bochum to prepare for his Hegel dissertation "The Logic of the 'Phenomenology of Mind'" and received his doctorate in 1972 under Klaus Hartmann in Bonn. After a degree in Theology at the Philosophical and Theological College Sankt Georgen in Frankfurt, the ordination in Frankfurt Imperial Cathedral in 1974, as well as research studies in Paris, he was in 1975 at the same university with state valid habilitation . Habilitation achievements were, in addition to his Hegelschrift, the script for the lecture on social philosophy , which was published in 1976 under the title Reflection as a social system. On a reflection system theory of society partially appeared in print.

From 1975 he taught philosophy, especially social philosophy, at the Frankfurt University . He dealt in a new way with Catholic social teaching , in close personal contact with its Nestor Oswald von Nell-Breuning . In 1977, however, he stepped down from the Jesuit order because of fundamental criticism of the institutionalized church, so he gave up his chair. After a transitional period as clergyman rector and lecturer at the Catholic Academy for Adult Education (autumn 1978 to spring 1981), he switched from the Roman Catholic to the Old Catholic Church in 1981, from which he resigned in 1983.

In 1981/82 he was a substitute professor for Kant research at the University of Bonn . After that, despite multiple applications for a "secular" professorship in philosophy, he only held teaching and research assignments, which led to the concordat relationships at German-speaking universities, i.e. H. specifically traced back to the right of church-dependent professors to have a say in the appointment process.From 1998 to 2002, as part of an endowed professorship of the Schweisfurth Foundation, he succeeded the deceased GDR dissident Rudolf Bahro at the Humboldt University with a visiting professorship for social ecology . Today Heinrichs lives as a writer (over 40 philosophical books, several volumes of poetry) and speaker in Duisburg and Berlin, at times in Auroville in southern India . He teaches in guest lectures and lectures around the world and was a member of various philosophical and cultural-political societies, from 1999 to 2013 in the scientific advisory board of the German Language Association .


Heinrichs regards philosophy as the progressive self-development of methodical reflection . It means to him the form and at the same time the content of philosophical thought. As a form it is retrospective, theoretical reflection (reflection), as content it means lived self-referentiality (lived reflection, life of consciousness and the reality of action of the individual and society). Theoretical reflection has the task of reconstructing the life of consciousness. This basic understanding of philosophy connects him most with Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel , but he wants to transfer his dialectic of the negativity of the other into a no less systematic dialogue. This bridges the gap between classical German philosophy and dialogical language thinking: Both currents are relational thinking. The I-id relation ( dialectic ) can be thought of together with the I-thou relation ( dialogic ). His 1972 dissertation on Hegel's Logic of the Phenomenology of Mind was aimed at building this bridge. After Heinrichs analyzed the dialogical relationship in 1975 as a reflection relationship between people with a limited series of four reflection steps (this practical-social reflection and its gradation represents a fundamental discovery for his thinking), a comprehensive one developed from the early “transcendental dialogue” Reflection system theory of the social.

Heinrichs, however, strictly distinguishes the collective social perspective from the perspective of the individual actors. Based on the insight that action in the broader sense of meaningful trains (consciousness movements) must also be reconstructed, he founded a philosophical semiotics as the theory of meaning processes. While semiotics is normally understood as an individual scientific discipline group dealing with given signs, philosophical semiotics determines the location of signs in the overall human meaning. The four levels of reflection in the social relationship find, from the individual perspective, an analogous expression in four comprehensive semiotic levels that reflexively build on each other: action - language - art - mysticism. These four semiotic levels apply to the books on the theory of action and language, which were published for the first time in 1980/1 and which were re-published in a greatly expanded version in 2007–2009, as well as the writings on the theory of art and mysticism, which are currently published in essay form. The reflection-theoretical connection of all theoretical parts (epistemology, anthropology, natural philosophy, social philosophy, action theory, language theory, religious philosophy, ontology and ethics) is summarized in the 2014 book "Integral Philosophy".

Rebuilding Democracy

The theory of action is expanded to become a system theory of action, in contrast to that of Talcott Parsons, however, through the uniform point of view of social reflection, at the same time to a system theory of reflection. This is essentially characterized by four value-graded, reflexively building on each other levels or subsystems (reflection system theory of the four -tiered structure or the four- tiered "value-tier democracy"), namely economy, politics, culture and legitimation or basic value system.

These system levels of society, which have been thematized since 1975, lead Heinrichs in the 1990s to a new model of democracy , which is characterized by four area-specific, reflection-logically related parliaments (by a framework-setting priority regulation from 4 to 1), the economic , political, cultural as well as fundamental values ​​parliament. For him, the distinction between these sub-parliaments results as an imperative, collective-practical and thus institutional consequence of the social system as a system of action and reflection. The area-specific (e.g. annual) elections for the respective sub-parliaments also claim to represent a realistic internal synthesis (not a mere mix) of representative and direct democracy.

In Heinrichs' eyes, the power-led dogmatism of the all-round or unitary parties (which bundle all issues in an irrelevant way) and the dominance of the economic level are primarily responsible for the global crisis and stagnation of the current democracies, especially at the European level. With the establishment of subject-specific, directly elected parliaments, the parties would transform themselves into factual parties of a new style (if cross-level cartel formation is prohibited in a new party law). As a result, through a priority regulation between the legislation of the sub-parliaments, from the basic values ​​parliament to the economic parliament, an actual realization of the basic values, as well as the cultural values, while both levels currently remain largely ideological superstructure over an economy-dominated politics. In Heinrichs' value democracy there would be an economic democracy for the first time, i. H. specifically, an economic parliament with people ’representatives specifically elected for this area; the same on the legal, cultural, ideological and ecclesiastical level.

Current issues also play an important role for Heinrichs, such as the structural problems of Europe based on system theory, which can only be solved as a European value class democracy; the factual dominance of the economy over politics in the broadest sense, i.e. over the legal system, culture and the interpretation of (ideological, ethical) basic values; a separate cultural parliament for education, science, journalism, art, thereby also the necessary liberation of science from opaque influences of the economy, the parties as well as the churches and internal unobjective power structures; Accomodation towards immigrants, but with recognition of the priority of the local culture (jus culturae), cultural solidarity of the immigrants: a way between new nationalism and the multi-cultural ideology (cf. "Hospitality of Cultures"); a fair coexistence of world views and Religions in the state (mediated by the fundamental values ​​parliament) instead of denominational privileges; and criticism of the love and sexual morality of the papal encyclicals, in particular Deus caritas est , in which he missed an admission of earlier errors, among other things. There is still no mention of the countless cases of abuse that are now known.

In an open letter as an appendix to his book Acts. In autumn 2007 he criticized Jürgen Habermas' periodic system of types of action with regard to his discourse theory of society, his almost identification of action with language, playing with an ambiguous discourse term, etc.


Heinrichs has written more than 40 books and published over 140 articles in professional and popular journals, as well as a number of articles in dictionaries and encyclopedias.

  • Intentio as sense in Thomas Aquinas. An investigation into the differentiated unity of the Thomanian concept of intention. Philosophical licentiate thesis Pullach 1967 ( PDF; 948 KB )
  • The logic of the “phenomenology of mind”. 2nd, revised edition. Bouvier, Bonn 1983, ISBN 3-416-01753-6 .
  • Reflection as a social system. To a reflection system theory of society. Bouvier, Bonn 1976, ISBN 3-416-01311-5 ; New edition as logic of the social. What society arises from. Steno, Varna et al. 2005, ISBN 954-449-199-6 .
  • Freedom, socialism, Christianity. A communicative society. Bouvier, Bonn 1978, ISBN 3-416-01433-2 (PDF)
  • Theoretical reflection semiotics. Bouvier, Bonn
  • The logic of the criticism of reason. Kant's theory of categories in their current meaning. An introduction. Franke, Tübingen 1986, ISBN 3-7720-1726-6 .
  • Spell love. Keywords on a human issue. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt 1987, ISBN 3-596-23867-6 ; Re-spell as Love. The big ABC for those keen to experience and think. Deutscher Studien-Verlag, Weinheim 1994, ISBN 3-89271-431-2 .
  • with John Hormann: Dictionary of Change. Insights for managers, mystics ... and people. mvg-Verlag, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-478-07620-X .
  • Hospitality of cultures. Multicultural society in Europe and German identity. Verlag Die Blaue Eule, Essen 1994, ISBN 3-89206-623-X .
  • Ecology. Deep ecology as a structural natural philosophy. Lang, Frankfurt et al. 1997, ISBN 3-631-31102-8 (2nd, revised edition. Eco-logic. Spiritual ways out of the climate and environmental catastrophe. Steno, Varna et al. 2007, ISBN 978-954-449-308-0 )
  • Jump out of the vicious circle. Logic of the social and natural economic order. updated new edition. Steno, Varna et al. 2005, ISBN 954-449-200-3 .
  • Draft systemic cultural theory. Department of Cultural Studies at the University of Krems, Krems 1998, ISBN 3-901806-04-0 .
  • Philosophy at the crossroads. Johannes Heinrichs in an interview with Clemens K. Stepina. 1st edition. Passagen Verlag, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-85165-522-2 .
  • 2003: Revolution of Democracy. A real utopia for the silent majority. Maas, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-929010-92-5 .
  • The secret of the categories. The decryption of Kant's central teaching piece. MAAS, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-929010-94-1 .
  • 2005: Democracy manifesto for the silent majority. The "Revolution of Democracy" in brief. Steno-Verlag, Munich 2005, ISBN 954-449-201-1 .
  • Revolution of spirit and love. Hölderlin's “Hyperion” commented on throughout. Steno, Munich et al. 2007, ISBN 978-954-449-311-0 .
  • Culture - in the art of concepts. Steno, Munich et al. 2007, ISBN 978-954-449-327-1 .
  • Philosophical semiotics.
    • Part 1: Actions. The periodic system of types of action. 2nd, completely revised edition. Steno, Munich et al. 2007, ISBN 978-954-449-319-6 .
    • Part 2: language.
      • Volume 1: The Character Dimension. The elementary game of characters. (Sigmatics). Steno, Munich et al. 2008, ISBN 978-954-449-345-5 .
      • Volume 2: The Meaning Dimension. The subjective game of objective meanings (semantics). Steno, Munich et al. 2008, ISBN 978-954-449-351-6 .
      • Volume 3: The Action Dimension. Psychology of speech acts and dialogue analysis (pragmatics). Steno, Munich et al. 2008, ISBN 978-954-449-352-3 .
      • Volume 4: The sentence construction formula. A philosophically founded grammar (syntax). Steno, Munich et al. 2009, ISBN 978-954-449-353-0 .
      • Volume 5: Text types and stylistic figures or The Festival of Style (Stylistics). Steno, Munich et al. 2009, ISBN 978-954-449-354-7 .
      • The integral systematics of language in 5 volumes. Steno, Munich et al. 2010, ISBN 978-954-449-448-3 .
  • Language speaks to me. The Summa poetica of the philosopher JH Araki, Leipzig 2013, ISBN 978-3-941848-14-6 .
  • The logic of the European dream. A systems theory vision. Academia, St. Augustin 2014, ISBN 978-3-89665-641-4 .
  • Revolution of Democracy. A constructive revolution in consciousness. Academia, St. Augustin 2014, ISBN 978-3-89665-646-9 .
  • Integral philosophy. How life learns to think: lived and express reflection. Academia, St. Augustin 2014, ISBN 978-3-89665-647-6 .
  • Hospitality of Cultures: The Way Between Multiculturalism and New Nationalism. ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart 2017, ISBN 978-3-8382-1158-9 .
  • Critique of Integral Reason. A philosophical psychology. Volume I: Grammar of Human Functions of Consciousness. ISBN 978-3-8382-1178-7 ; Volume II: Map of the Unconscious. ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart 2018, ISBN 978-3-8382-1179-4 .
  • Integral Philosophy. The Common Logical Roots of Anthropology, Politics, Language, and Spirituality. ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart 2018, ISBN 978-3-8382-1148-0 .
  • Value-levels-democracy. The Reflection System Theory of Four-segmentation. PRISMA, Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India 2019, ISBN 978-81-933675-7-5 .
  • Lived reflection: writings on reflection systems theory. Academia Verlag (Nomos-Verlagsgesellschaft), Baden-Baden 2019, ISBN 978-3-89665-787-9 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The mirror. No. 33/1982, p. 53f.
  2. ^ 'Truthfulness instead of double games', in: Leo Prothmann (ed.), Church - Accounts - Concordat, Salzburg 2015, pp. 39–64; Clemens K. Stepina. The cross with the church and the struggle with the university. On the case of Johannes Heinrichs.
  3. Helle Panke eV: Is there another way of democracy? (PDF) Retrieved September 11, 2014 .
  4. Martin Besecke: The value stage democracy
  5. ^ The value democracy for Europe. Retrieved November 15, 2018 .
  6. ^ Heinrichs 2003 (Revolution) - summary as PDF at
  7. ^ "Far ahead of his time!", A book review by Martin Besecke in Enlightenment and Criticism (Society for Critical Philosophy), issue 1/2018, pp. 286/287.
  8. ^ "The key to the key to human consciousness" , a book review by Martin Besecke in Enlightenment and Criticism (Society for Critical Philosophy) issue 3/2019, pp. 234-239.
  9. Martin Besecke: The Value-levels-democracy. Retrieved May 2, 2019 .