Kurt Huebner (philosopher)

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Kurt Huebner (1981)

Kurt Karl Rudolf Hübner (born September 1, 1921 in Prague ; † February 8, 2013 in Kiel ) was a German philosopher who stood out with his work on the theory of science , myth , art theory and music theory . He taught as a full professor in Berlin and Kiel and was President of the General Society for Philosophy from 1969 to 1975 . Kurt Hübner is considered to be the main exponent of epistemological historicism.


Kurt Hübner was born in Prague as the son of the Association Syndicate Dr. Rolf Hübner and his wife Rosa, b. Ganghofner, born. He first studied philosophy in his hometown and later in Rostock and Kiel. He completed his studies in 1951 with a doctorate . His dissertation on Immanuel Kant dealt with the topic The transcendental subject as part of nature . In 1955 he completed his habilitation with the text The logical positivism and metaphysics . From 1960 to 1971 he was a full professor at the Technical University of Berlin and honorary professor at the Free University of Berlin . From 1971 until his retirement in 1988 he taught as a full professor at the University of Kiel . Until 1988 he was also director of the Philosophical Seminar there.

At the 14th World Congress for Philosophy, which took place in Vienna in 1968 , Hübner was chairman of the colloquia and member of the scientific advisory board. From 1969 to 1975 he was president of the General Society for Philosophy in Germany . As such, he carried out the national philosophers' congress in Kiel in 1972. He was also an advisor to the planning commission of the 16th World Congress of Philosophy in 1978 in Düsseldorf . From 1978 to 1988 he was a member of the Comité Directeur of the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés de Philosophie in Bern . The Sudeten German Academy of Sciences and Arts appointed him a full member of the humanities class in 1979. In 1986, on his 65th birthday, the commemorative publication On the Critique of Scientific Rationality was published. In 1986 Kurt Hübner received the Great Sudeten German Culture Prize . At the invitation of the Salzburg state government, on July 25, 1987, Hübner gave the lecture for the opening of the Salzburg Festival with the theme of the festival as a mythical event . In 1993, Kurt Hübner was awarded the Humboldt plaque as an honorary gift, and Hans Lenk gave the laudatory speech .

In 1994, together with Teodor Iljitsch Oiserman and other Russian and German philosophers, he founded the Center for the Study of German Philosophy and Sociology in Moscow. This was financially supported by the Volkswagen Foundation. A first conference with German, Austrian and Russian speakers took place in Moscow in January 1995. A second conference was held at the Catholic University of Eichstätt in March 1997. A commemorative publication on his 90th birthday was published in 2011 under the title The Secret of Reality , edited by Volker Kapp and Werner Theobald. On the same occasion he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit 1st Class by the Federal President.

"Hübner is probably one of the last universalists of philosophy and philosophy of science, who is able to judge the Mosaic Law as well as the deciphering of the genome with equal competence in the natural and art sciences, Einstein and Goethe."

- DIE ZEIT, 46/2001


Philosophy of science

Five classes of determinations

The five classes of fixings according to Huebner

Hübner's epistemological work Critique of Scientific Reason appeared in 1978, was translated into many languages ​​and reprinted several times. According to Hübner, scientific work is generally determined by the attempt to connect individual things, be it individual events, facts, data or objects, through rules or systems of rules. In order to make science as an enterprise possible, he considers it necessary to differentiate at least the following five classes of stipulations and to determine their content implicitly or explicitly:

  1. The data, the details of the scientific knowledge, are made available through instrumental stipulations . For empirical sciences, such as the natural sciences, these are stipulations that lead to the acquisition of measurement results. This includes, for example, stipulations about the validity and functioning of the instruments and resources used. For the humanities, these are stipulations about the recognition of historical facts, about the elements of the most diverse types of communication or generally about the "alphabet" of understanding and understanding.
  2. Functional determinations provide the general of scientific knowledge. In the natural sciences, it is about stipulations that can be used when setting up functions or finding natural laws on the basis of measurement results or observations. This includes, for example, interpolation rules for summarizing individual measurement data within certain limits, but also error calculation theories. In the humanities, the functional determinations generally determine rules with which, for example, individual behavior of people can be generalized so that historical, linguistic or even artistic laws can be found.
  3. The meaning relationships between the individual and the general are determined by axiomatic stipulations and merged in the natural sciences into forms of natural laws . These are stipulations that consist in the introduction of axioms from which laws of nature can be formulated, from which, with the help of boundary conditions, predictions can be derived that can be verified experimentally. In the humanities, axiomatic stipulations are also necessary, through which linguistic understanding is made possible in the first place, such as exist with the various semantics of communication theory.
  4. Based on judicial determinations, the established laws are checked for their reliability. In the context of empirical sciences, these are stipulations which, in experiments, decide whether to accept or reject theories. This includes, on the one hand, stipulations that assess whether the theoretically derived predictions agree with the measurement results or observations received within already established limits. On the other hand, there are stipulations which, in the event of a disagreement, indicate whether the theory in question should be discarded or retained, or whether it should at least partially - and if partially, then where - be changed. Likewise, judicial determinations are necessary in the humanities in order to be able to decide whether humanistic theories prove themselves or not. Such a definition would be the consistency requirement of a theory and its consequences.
  5. Normative determinations determine the object areas of a science, its methods and the type of possible knowledge. These are stipulations in the form of rules about which properties a theory should have at all. These include, for example, criteria such as simplicity, a high degree of falsifiability, clarity, fulfillment of certain causal principles or empirical criteria for meaning and the like. If one understands the individual sciences as specific languages ​​of scientific communication, then the normative stipulations determine the general semantics and syntax of science in general.

These determinations, which Hübner also calls epistemological categories, depend on the historical situation in which the respective researcher finds himself. Using numerous examples from the history of science, Huebner shows that these stipulations can also be specified retrospectively for the most diverse areas of science, even if the scientists may have only applied them intuitively . Hübner describes all sciences as systems of rules , regardless of whether the rules that are determined with the five types of stipulations are informal (i.e. not fixed in writing) or formal (i.e. explicitly stated) are or have been present. All foundations, as they can be given for the sciences up to now, do not have an absolute, but always a historically conditioned foundation and validity.

Historical system set

The behavior of people in all areas of life can be described by informal or formal rule systems. The entirety of the rule systems through which the behavior of people at a certain point in time and in a certain geographical region can be described is what Huebner describes as a historical system set .

“A historical system can be understood as an axiomatic system or as something that can be described by such a system. If it is an exact system of axioms and thus the ideal case, then there are a few precisely formulated axioms and a derivation mechanism with which one can derive other sentences or signs from them. An example of this is a strictly structured physical theory as an object of the history of science; an example of a system that is not itself an exact system of axioms, but can be described by such a system, is a real machine for which there is a mathematical model. [...] By a historical system set [...] I understand a structured set of partly present, partly handed down systems, which are largely in manifold relationships with each other and around which a community of people moves at some point in time. Scientific systems, namely theories and hierarchies of theories as well as the rules of scientific work are therefore part of this total set, which represents the world of rules in which we live and work. The relationships in which the elements of this set stand to one another can, for example, be those of practical motivation, for example when one system is morally judged, supported or rejected from another. I would like to remind you of the corrections of theoretical and scientific statements that were customary in the past with the help of theological and ethical axioms; of the tendency that is emerging today to judge scientific projects according to guidelines of so-called 'social relevance' etc. Another form of relationship between systems is that of theoretical criticism of one with the help of the other. […] With the help of the historical-scientific categories just explained, I can now define the term 'historical situation' in more detail: I understand it to be a historical period that is governed by a certain set of systems, and I now claim: Every historical period has this constitution. "

- Kurt Huebner, Critique of Scientific Reason

The change in the set of systems that characterize a historical situation is triggered by contradictions within this set of rule systems. The people who are affected by these contradictions in their areas of life will try, because of their talent for reason, to change the rule systems in such a way that these contradictions are lifted. According to Hübner, this leads to a harmonization of the system set. The system set can be harmonized through explication , i.e. through further elaboration and application of scientific theories, for example, or through mutation , i.e. by changing the fundamentals of the rule systems, which in the sciences means that their stipulations change, in particular the normative stipulations.


Hübner describes the harmonization of a system set as progress . Progress I is present when the harmonization has taken place through explication. He speaks of progress II when the harmonization has arisen through a system mutation.

“Obviously, two basic forms of development can be distinguished here, namely firstly the explication of scientific systems and secondly their mutation. By explication of systems I mean their design and development without changing anything in their foundations, for example what Kuhn calls 'normal science', namely the derivation of theorems from given axioms, the more precise determination of those within the framework The constants required by a theory, etc. A mutation, on the other hand, occurs when the fundamentals of systems themselves are changed (including, for example, the transition from one space geometry to another). Progress can therefore only take place in these two basic forms of historical movements, and it must therefore also be possible to distinguish between two basic forms, which I would like to call progress I and progress II. "

- Kurt Huebner, Critique of Scientific Reason

With this theory, Huebner succeeds in preserving the idea of ​​progress even through so-called scientific revolutions. With the help of his theory of progress, Hübner traces the occurrence of the decisive scientific revolutions in European intellectual history. Due to the system harmonization of the historical system sets described by him, it is no longer necessary to argue in an immanent manner. Rather, non-scientific influences, such as changes in religious rule systems, can also be taken into account when depicting the historical course of scientific and social upheavals. Even the system sets of the mythical time lead, according to Huebner, to self-contained worldviews , which are in no way inferior to the various scientific worldviews in terms of their consistency and their life-sustaining functions for people.

Myth as a system of experience

Sun god Helios,
(JB Zimmermann, 17th century)
Earth rotation

In his work The Truth of Myth , Hübner tries to determine the relationship between science and myth. The widespread cliché that myth only reproduces reality in a distorted manner and that science offers an absolutely correct picture of reality on an empirical basis is exposed as false, because science is based on a series of a priori presuppositions, which are historically conditioned on the one hand and in the The framework of scientific rationality is also not justifiable, since it precisely defines the conditions for the possibility of science. In general, according to Huebner, basic theorems that are verifying or falsifying have more or less numerous a priori set theoretical preconditions. Karl Popper's attempt to achieve absolute scientific certainty, at least in the case of falsifications, had failed. The “essence of science” is constantly growing and changing again and again in its a priori drafts and framework conditions up to a radical paradigm shift. Nonetheless, science is based on a fundamental conception of reality that has never changed because it is part of the definition of the phenomenon of science. Such an a priori, fundamental and general conception of reality is called an ontology , i.e. a general doctrine of being. Like myth, modern science is a historically contingent formation.

According to Hübner, myth, like scientific ontology, represents a system of experience. There is just as little an empirical refutation of mythical ontology as there is an empirical basis for scientific ontology. There is an analogous connection between mythical and scientific ontology. Just as the sciences explain the world with the help of natural laws, myth explains the same processes by tracing them back to a sacred primal occurrence that is regularly repeated. The laws of nature in natural science correspond to the archaí in myth, i.e. the stories of the origin. In them, every regular, repetitive course in natural events is traced back to an original, non-datable primary event. As an example, Hübner cites the sun god Helios , who repeats the daily journey across the sky from east to west on his team of four, scientifically corresponding to the explanation of the change between day and night as a result of the rotation of the earth . In contrast to natural science, myth does not distinguish the general concept from the object that represents it. For myth, in contrast to natural science, the ideal and the material formed an inseparable unit. Everything ideal immediately assumes a material form.

In the epiphany a god appears and emerges from concealment into unconcealment. For the Greeks, truth therefore did not consist in the correspondence of what the subject thought in the framework of an a priori system of experience with reality, but in that unconcealment, in Greek a-letheia, in which what is actually real, the object as a god, is Reveal subject on its own initiative. Whenever and how ever God or the divine appears in the world and can be sensually experienced by humans, this happens in the form of the mythical. Reason consists in the fundamental ability to form ontologies on the basis of logical thinking and to open to revelations. According to Huebner, ontologies arise from subjectivity and only have a historically relative meaning. Revelations, on the other hand, are messages from the Godhead and have absolute meaning. In this respect, the power of reason to open to revelations is the power to believe.

Belief and thought

Tree of Knowledge, the Fall and the Expulsion from Paradise by Michelangelo , ceiling fresco in the Sistine Chapel

In his late work, Faith and Thinking , published in 2001, Hübner examines thinking in relation to revelation . The tension between metaphysics and empirical science on the one hand and myth on the other play an important role . Hübner assumes that the metaphysical form of thought has failed. But the claim to absoluteness of empirical-scientific thinking is also metaphysical inheritance. The supposed superiority of scientific knowledge turns out to be an appearance. Empirical science and metaphysics are only drafts by people and both pursue the goal of bringing reality into a continuous context that is to be logically derived from hypothetical principles.

As an ontological principle of the highest degree of generality, Hübner describes it that “reality has an aspectic character”. He postulates two tolerance principles :

  1. In the sense that all ontologies are contingent and none have necessary validity, none is preferable to any other.
  2. Non-ontological or non-ontology-dependent conceptions of reality with their special ( numinous ) experiences cannot be ontologically refuted because of these conceptions of reality, whether or not they are conceptually transformable into an ontology when viewed from the outside.

Hübner assumes that the Logos of Revelation does not contradict the Logos of Metaphysics. Instead, he wants to link revelation with myth. In mythical thinking, the abstract general concept and the singular fact are not strictly separated from one another as in science, but are completely fused with one another. The myth is based on a completely different ontology than science.

In Faith and Thought , Hübner describes the categories and structures of revelation faith from the idea of creation through the teachings on original sin , redemption and grace to the Trinity . He confronts these with the thought structures of natural science. He clarifies revelation and reason through the two trees known from the biblical description of the Garden of Eden , namely the tree of life and the tree of knowledge , cf. Gen 2.9  EU . The logos of the belief in revelation include and transcend the myth at the same time. In the logos of metaphysics, scientific thinking is based on its ultimate anti-metaphysical consequences. The attempt to demythologize Christianity is doomed to failure, as is the attempt by western metaphysics to scientifically establish or refute the Christian faith.


  • 1981: BIRTHDAY BOOK for KURT HÜBNER for his sixtieth birthday of students, schoolchildren and employees in paperback and linen binding with contributions by Hartmut Laue, Wolfgang Deppert , Robert Sell, Cornelius Bickel , Simone Guski, Eckehard W. Mielke , Claudia Böer, Hans-Peter Kröske, Matthias Kunze, Ralf-Peter Lohse, Susanne Luther-Kandzia and Hans Fiebig.
  • 1986: Festschrift for the 65th birthday of Kurt Huebner: On the Critique of Scientific Rationality . Edited by Hans Lenk with the participation of Wolfgang Deppert , Hans Fiebig, Helene and Gunter Gebauer and Friedrich Rapp . Verlag Karl Alber, Freiburg / Munich 1986.
  • 2011: Cross of Merit 1st Class of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • 2011: The Secret of Reality. Kurt Huebner on his 90th birthday . Festschrift ed. v. Volker Kapp and Werner Theobald, Karl Alber Verlag, Munich 2011.


  • Article Natural Philosophy , Natural Laws , in: Religion Past and Present , 3rd ed.
  • Contributions to the philosophy of physics . Tubingen, 1963.
  • Body and experience in Kant's posthumous opus , in: Gerold Prauss (Hrsg.), Kant: To the interpretation of his theory of recognition and action. Cologne, 1973, pp. 192-204.
  • Critique of Scientific Reason . Freiburg / Munich, 1978, 2002.
  • The Truth of Myth , Munich, 1985. Study edition, 2nd edition, Freiburg, 2013.
  • Article Mythos (philosophical) , in: Theologische Realenzyklopädie , Vol. 23.
  • The never-ending story of the mythical (1987), in: Texts on modern myth theory. Reclam, Stuttgart, 2003.
  • The national - the repressed, the inevitable, the worth striving for . Graz, 1991.
  • The second creation - the real in art and music . Munich, 1994.
  • Owl - rose - cross. Goethe's religiosity between philosophy and theology . Hamburg, 1999.
  • On the variety of time concepts . Eichstätter University Speeches, 2001.
  • Belief and Thought - Dimensions of Reality , 2nd revised edition. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2004, ISBN 3-16-148429-0 .
  • Christianity in the Competition of World Religions - On the Question of Tolerance . Tübingen, 2003.
  • Wrong paths and ways of theology into the modern age . Augsburg, 2006.


  • Markus Tomberg : The concept of myth and science in Ernst Cassirer and Kurt Hübner , Münster: Lit 1996.
  • Heinrich Reinhardt : Review of the book Critique of Scientific Reason , in: Philosophisches Jahrbuch 88 (1981) 402-408.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Philosopher Kurt Hübner died , Tagesspiegel, February 11, 2013
  2. "Who is who?" The German Who's Who. Federal Republic of Germany . XXXIX (2000/01), pp. 630 .
  3. Kurt Huebner, The transcendental subject as part of nature. A sub. about d. Opus posthumously Kant . Kiel, dissertation v. May 16, 1951
  4. Kurt Huebner, Logical Positivism and Metaphysics . Kiel, Hab.-Schr. v. Feb 9, 1955
  5. On the Critique of Scientific Rationality. For Kurt Huebner's 65th birthday . Edited by Hans Lenk with the assistance of Wolfgang Deppert, Hans Fiebig, Helene and Gunter Gebauer, Friedrich Rapp . Verlag Karl Alber, Freiburg / Munich 1986.
  6. See the conference volume Scientific and extra-scientific forms of thought , ed. from the Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Philosophy and the Center for the Study of German Philosophy and Sociology, Moscow 1996
  7. See the conference proceedings Reason and Existence. Analysis of scientific and non-scientific forms of thought , ed. by Ilia Kassavine and Vladimir Porus, St. Petersburg 1999
  8. Dieter Borchmeyer, Revelation without metaphysics. The philosopher Kurt Huebner justifies the belief , in: DIE ZEIT, 46/2001
  9. ^ Kurt Hübner, Critique of Scientific Reason , Alber, Freiburg 2002, p. 86 f.
  10. Kurt Hübner, Critique of Scientific Reason , Alber, Freiburg 2002, p. 194 ff.
  11. ^ Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions , Chicago 1962; dt. The structure of scientific revolutions , ISBN 3-518-27625-5
  12. Kurt Hübner, Critique of Scientific Reason , Alber, Freiburg 2002, p. 210 f.
  13. The first edition was published in 1985 and has been translated into numerous languages.
  14. Kurt Hübner, Wissenschaftstheorie - Mythos - Revelation , in: Katholische Akademie in Bayern (Ed.), Zur Debatte , 6/2007, p. 17
  15. Kurt Huebner, The Truth of Myth , 1985, p. 135
  16. ^ On the whole, see Kurt Huebner, Wissenschaftstheorie - Mythos - Revelation , in: Katholische Akademie in Bayern (Ed.), Zur Debatte , 6/2007, pp. 18 f.
  17. Kurt Hübner, Faith and Thinking - Dimensions of Reality , 2001, p. 6
  18. Kurt Hübner, Faith and Thinking - Dimensions of Reality , 2001, p. 5
  19. Kurt Hübner, Faith and Thinking - Dimensions of Reality , 2001, p. 7
  20. Cf. in particular the second part: The logos of metaphysics as eating from the tree of knowledge, in: Kurt Hübner, Faith and Thinking - Dimensions of Reality , 2001, p. 341 ff.