Wilhelm Weischedel

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Wilhelm Weischedel (born April 11, 1905 in Frankfurt am Main , † August 20, 1975 in Berlin ) was a German philosopher and professor at the Free University of Berlin .

Wilhelm Weischedel


Wilhelm Weischedel, son of pastor Wilhelm Gotthilf Weischedel (1873-1958) and Catharina Martha Beutter (1881-1951), grew up in a pietistic Swabian family and attended school in Stuttgart , Reutlingen and Elberfeld , where he graduated from the humanistic grammar school made. He first studied theology ( Paul Tillich , Rudolf Bultmann ) and then philosophy ( Martin Heidegger , Nicolai Hartmann ) at the University of Marburg and received his doctorate in 1933 under Heidegger in Freiburg with a thesis on The essence of responsibility .

Due to the political situation (see Heidegger and National Socialism ) there was an alienation with Heidegger, "which was difficult to overcome after the war". Weischedel did not get a job at the university and initially worked as a temporary worker in the Tübingen music library and then in a commercial office. In 1936 he succeeded in doing his habilitation in Tübingen with a thesis on spruce . Weischedel received the offer of a lectureship, but refused to join a NSDAP organization and complete the prescribed camp of lecturers. Subsequently, from 1936 to 1945 he worked as a non-specialist auditor at the Wirtschaftsberatung Deutscher Gemeinde AG (WIBERA). In 1939 his habilitation thesis was published under the title Der Aufbruch der Freiheit zum Gemeinschaft . He experienced the end of the war in Paris, where, according to his own statements, he acted as a mediator between the German and French resistance from 1942 to 1944.

After the war, Weischedel began his lectureship as a lecturer and from 1946 as an associate professor in Tübingen, and in 1953 he was appointed full professor at the Free University of Berlin . Weischedel retired in 1970.

Wilhelm Weischedel died in Berlin in 1975 at the age of 70. His grave is in the forest cemetery in Zehlendorf .

Weischedel had been married to Käte Grunewald since 1934, who had received her doctorate from Johannes Tauler . The couple had two daughters, Martina Elisabeth (1935) and Sabine Monika (1938). Weischedel was a co-founder and employee of the German National Academic Foundation in 1949 and a founding member of the Scientific Book Society , which has honored him since 1999 with the Wilhelm Weischedel Fund, which was set up with the aim of promoting science and culture.


Weischedel represented his own existential philosophy position, which particularly dealt with skepticism and nihilism . He was constantly at a critical distance from Christian institutions, but worked e.g. B. worked closely with the Protestant theologian Helmut Gollwitzer . Important topics for Weischedel were also the responsibility for technology and coming to terms with National Socialism.

Weischedel assumes that the deepest essence of reality is its radical questionability. Reality and also human life should be understood as a questionable hovering between being and non-being, between meaning and senselessness. The person as a radical questioner must not be satisfied with any answer, but rather has to stand up to questioning in an open skepticism.

In his main work Der Gott der Philosophen Weischedel develops a philosophical theology in the age of nihilism , in which he understands God as the "from where" of questionability, which cannot be thought in substance. The from where is the absolute happening that enables questionability; the questionability leads to the question of meaning. An answer to the question of meaning arises from something that makes sense. So the meaning of writing lies in communication, the meaning of communication in interpersonal exchange and the meaning of this exchange in human existence. This chain of meaning can be continued until one arrives at the question of an unconditional meaning. This unconditional meaning is the horizon of meaning that the skeptic cannot cross. His answer is therefore: “Is there [...] an unconditional sense? How could the philosophizing person validly convince himself of this? Even if one speaks of a validity for the philosophizing person, certain modes of assuming an unconditional sense are excluded. So above all the religious belief, which claims to find the unconditional meaning in God. But [...] faith cannot enter into the prerequisites of serious philosophizing, insofar as this understands itself as a radical questioning and therefore must endeavor to undermine its prerequisites, including any beliefs. ”Because there are both meaningful and meaningless things in the world, such as Natural disasters, acts of violence, murders and wars, the question of meaning leads to the problem of theodicy . The problem of radical questionability cannot be overcome philosophically, so the question of God must remain open.

In his skeptical ethics , Weischedel outlines three moral attitudes, ie virtues that result from an existence in radical questionability: These are the basic attitudes of openness, responsibility and seclusion. The prerequisite is that people make four decisions for themselves: the decision to be skeptical , the decision to be free , the decision to exist and the decision to shape existence. For the skeptic there is no ultimate justification for these attitudes. From the basic attitudes the person can derive further concrete attitudes. The openness leads to truthfulness, objectivity, tolerance and compassion. Solidarity, justice and loyalty follow from responsibility. Farewell is the willingness to part in the constant face of death. It is the visualization of transience and at the same time the acceptance of life. It leads to a basic mood of floating sadness and a quiet melancholy. The associated ethical attitudes are, on the one hand, renunciation and humility as the counterparts to ambition, pride and greed for power. Second, seclusion leads to self-control and prudence. Furthermore, the virtue of bravery and courage is also associated with it. Because when the importance of one's own life fades into the background, people find space to overcome fears, endure illness and suffering and help others; fourth, generosity and kindness as the ability to endure and forgive the imperfections of others. Finally, serenity and patience make it possible to let go and to overcome restlessness, excitement and haste of everyday life.

Weischedel became known to a broader public primarily through his popular scientific work Die philosophische Hintertreppe , in which he depicts the life and thinking of 34 well-known philosophers in anecdotes rich in anecdotal, generally understandable and thoroughly humorous way. In the Johann Christian Senckenberg University Library in Frankfurt am Main there is an eight-page typescript by Weischedel with the title “Schüttelreime zum Philosophenfest on July 11, 1964”.


  • 1932 attempt on the nature of responsibility . Albert Ludwig University, Freiburg
  • 1939 The departure of freedom to community: Studies on philosophy d. young spruce . Mine, Leipzig
  • 1947 The abyss of finitude and the limit of philosophy: attempt at a philosophical interpretation of the "Pensées" of Blaise Pascal . Küpper
  • 1948 Voltaire and the Problem of History . Gryphius
  • 1950 Reality and Realities: Articles and Lectures . de Gruyter, Berlin
  • 1952 The depth in the face of the world: Design of a metaphysics of art . Mohr, Tuebingen
  • 1956 Kant edition in 6 volumes . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt (1960 in Insel-Verlag)
  • 1964 Schüttelreime for the Philosopher's Festival on July 11, 1964 , pp. 17-25. In: Sprachspielereien 12 , Munich
  • 1965 with Helmut Gollwitzer: Thinking and Believing, A Debate . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart
  • 1966 The philosophical back stairs . Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung, Munich (extended edition 1973, ISBN 3-485-00863-X , new edition 2000)
  • 1967 Philosophical Boundaries: Lectures and Essays . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart
  • 1967 In: Manfred Hanke, The most beautiful shaking poems . P. 58–62: Lotteleien far from Weimar / The drunken philosopher . Stuttgart: DVA
  • 1971/72 The god of the philosophers. Foundation of a philosophical theology in the age of nihilism , 2 volumes, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt (new edition 1998; dtv 1979)
  • 1975 Praise of Age
  • 1976 Skeptical Ethics . 5th edition Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1990

The scientific estate of Weischedel is located in the Berlin State Library (manuscript department).


  • Hans Clement: Wilhelm Weischedels skeptical philosophy. An introduction . WBG, Darmstadt 2012, ISBN 978-3-534-73120-6
  • Robert Deinhammer: Questionable Reality - Questionable Life: Philosophical Theology and Ethics with Wilhelm Weischedel and Peter Knauer , Echter, Würzburg 2009
  • Johannes Hieber: Questions and questions with Wilhelm Weischedel . WBG, Darmstadt 1999
  • Rudolf F. Smit: Wilhelm Weischedels search for the possibility of meaning. Metaphysics between existential philosophy and nihilism , Lang, 1997
  • Alexander Schwan (ed.): Thinking in the shadow of nihilism. Festschrift for Wilhelm Weischedel on his 70th birthday on April 11, 1975 , WBG, Darmstadt 1975
  • Manfred Hantke: Geistesdämmerung. The philosophical seminar at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen 1918 - 1945. Dissertation, Tübingen 2015, on Wilhelm Weischedel pp. 287–295; 507ff.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wilhelm Weischedel: Self-Presentation, in: Philosophy in Self-Presentation, ed. by Ludwig J, Pongratz, Volume II, Meiner, Hamburg 1977, 316–341, 321
  2. Kürschner's German Scholars Calendar 1976, ed. by Werner Schuder, Volume 2, Berlin - New York, 12th Edition, 1976, pp. 3442-3
  3. ^ Hans-Jürgen Mende: Lexicon of Berlin burial places . Pharus-Plan, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-86514-206-1 , p. 640.
  4. “Philosophical Theology in the Age of Nihilism” was the title of a lecture that Weischedel gave in 1961 at the Church University of Berlin and which was published in 1962 in the journal Evangelical Theology .
  5. Wilhelm Weischedel: The god of the philosophers. Volume 2, Darmstadt 1972, pp. 165-174.
  6. Wilhelm Weischedel: The god of the philosophers. Volume 2, Darmstadt 1972, p. 173.
  7. ^ Wilhelm Weischedel: Skeptical Ethics. Fifth edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1990, p. 196 f.
  8. ^ Wilhelm Weischedel: Skeptical Ethics. Fifth edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1990, pp. 209 f.
  9. ^ Wilhelm Weischedel: Skeptical Ethics. Fifth edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1990, p. 211.
  10. ^ Wilhelm Weischedel: Skeptical Ethics. Fifth edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1990, p. 214.