Summerschools & Winterschools

8th International Summer School in German Philosophy

 July 9-20, 2018 The Issue of Naturalism in Classical German Philosophy


Keynote Addresses/Visiting Professors:

  • Dr. Joseph Cohen (Dublin)
  • Prof. Adrian Johnston (New Mexiko)
  • Prof. Dr. Andrea Kern (Leipzig)
  • N.N.

Course description:

This year’s international summer school will focus on the issue of naturalism within classical German philosophy. “Naturalism” is a vague concept. As the term is used today it often connotes at least the following (in fact only loosely interrelated) theses: (1) that there are no transcendent objects (e.g. gods or immortal souls); (2) that everything is physical or at least fully describable with the resources of the natural sciences alone; and (3) that human beings are part of the animal kingdom. So understood, “naturalism” was already a central issue in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century philosophy. 
In the first week, we will look at various controversies in the 18th century which set the terms of the debate over the prospects of forms of naturalism. The second week will be dedicated to a close reading and reconstruction of Hegel’s philosophy of nature in his mature Encyclopedia. In this context, we will also consult the Schellingian background of Hegel’s philosophy of nature in order to address the issue of naturalism within the overall idealist framework of Hegel that traditionally seemed to be in conflict with the naturalism of his successors.
Many of the most explosive debates of the period revolved around one or more aspects of naturalism, including the debate between the Condillac, Rousseau, Süßmilch, and Herder concerning the origin of language; the debate between Haller and La Mettrie concerning the significance of Haller’s animal experiments on “irritation”; the Pantheism Controversy between Jacobi and Mendelssohn concerning Spinozism; the Atheism Controversy concerning Fichte’s alleged atheism; and the Materialism Controversy that arose in the middle of the nineteenth century. Moreover, virtually all of the major thinkers of the period wrestled with the issue in one way or another, including Kant, Herder, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Alexander von Humboldt, Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, Langer, Helmholtz, and Haeckel. 
In the summer school we will look at the German philosophy of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries through the lens of this issue. Specific topics covered within the seminar and by our keynote speakers will include the debate on the origin of language; Kant, Herder, Hegel, and others on human-animal difference; the Haller-La Mettrie debate and the Materialism Controversy; the role of Spinozism in German philosophy; Kant’s anti-naturalist strategies; the philosophy of nature in Schelling, Hegel, and Humboldt; the emergence of philosophical atheism in Feuerbach, Marx, and Nietzsche; and the German contribution to and reception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. 
As always, we will provide all participants with a reader containing the material to be discussed in our seminar meetings and by our keynote speakers.


Please send the following by April 15, 2018 to:

  • CV of no more than 2 pages
  • Statement of intent of no more than 1 page. Please mention in your statement whether you are interested in attending and participating in several seminars on the topic in German, which will be offered should demand warrant.
  • Writing sample of no more than 2,000 words in either English, French or German.

All students must in addition have at least one degree in philosophy.
All texts and discussions will be in English.
The course will be open to a maximum of 40 participants.

Critical Theory in Philosophy

This summer school will cover central philosophical themes addressed by the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. Frankfurt School Critical Theory is a branch of social and cultural philosophy that has a longstanding and prominent reputation in engaging with social critique and reflection on sources of societal resilience. Our focus will lie on its classic texts as well as a selection of work by its leading present-day representatives.

Critical theory aims to develop a philosophical understanding and evaluation of societal conflicts and contradictions. It maintains an interdisciplinary research programme, in methodological and thematic respects . It engages not only with classic philosophy but also with the social sciences, psychoanalysis and aesthetics. It combines rigorous social analytics with normative goals. It aspires to expose and understand the sources of social suffering.

From its start almost a century ago, it has supplied deep insights into the links between knowledge, culture and economy, as well as original reflections on philosophical method. In this summer school we will examine classic questions of critical theory – centred on for instance ideology, power, rationality and critique – and their relevance for understanding conflict and crisis in present-day societies.

The summer school will feature lectures by distinguished researchers in contemporary critical theory, discussing their ongoing research projects, and roundtable workshops on selected classic texts as well as discussions of student papers. You will get acquainted with the social-philosophical methodology of critical theory and its analytical approaches of politics and culture, specifically its studies of political and social crisis, ideology, mass culture, and aesthetics. Our discussions aim at inspiring new insights with social relevance. Critical theory’s interdisciplinary engagement with philosophy will allow you to develop fresh research angles.

Each day a keynote lecture will be held by an expert in the field. Next, seminars will be held for discussions of key texts and the keynote lectures. Participants are invited to present their own work; separate seminars will be organised for discussing their papers. The summer school aims at generating discussions among researchers at various career stages.

It won’t be all work, no play, of course. You will have enough opportunity for socialising, and for exploring the city of Groningen, which boasts a historical urban centre and many cultural attractions, among which cinemas, theatres, cafes, music, museums. We will offer at least one suitable group excursion.

Dates23 - 27 July 2018
LocationGroningen, the Netherlands
FeesBA/MA students: €170
PhD students: €200
CoordinatorsDr. Titus Stahl, Faculty of Philosophy
Dr. Judith Vega, Faculty of Philosophy

The Challenge of Natural Teleology

Final Causes from Aristotle to Darwin

From 3 - 6 July, the Groningen Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Thought organises the second edition of the summer school “The Challenge of Natural Teleology: final causes from Aristotle to Darwin” (first edition in 2016). This year, the summer school takes place just before the 2018 edition of the HOPOS Conference , which will also take place in Groningen on 9 - 12 July.

All along its history, the reflection on the ontological status and the explanatory role of final causes affected several domains such as metaphysics, theology, psychology, philosophy of language and evolution theory. This summer school focuses on some of the major turning points in the history of this controversy that challenged philosophers, scientists and theologians from antiquity to today’s debates.

During morning sessions, established scholars in several different fields of history of thought will offer seminars on some of crucial milestones in the debate concerning natural teleology and final causes. Afternoon sessions will consist of discussions of selected papers presented by students and roundtable workshops on selected texts. The overall aim of this summer school is to foster interactions and discussions among researchers at different stages of their career, and spark new suggestions for the ongoing debate. Advanced bachelor students are especially encouraged to attend and actively participate at the summer school.

Invited Speakers:

Julia Jorati (Ohio State)
Andrea Gambarotto (Leuven)
Mariska Leunissen (North Carolina at Chapel Hill) 
Stephan Schmid (Hamburg)

Dates3 - 6 July 2018
DeadlinesDeadline for registration: 1 June 2018*
Deadline for student presentations: 1 May 2018
Academic coordinatorsAndrea Sangiacomo
Han Thomas Adriaenssen
ContactMark Rensema,
Fees€ 150 for PhDs, postdocs and senior researchers,
€ 100 for master students,
€ 50 for bachelor students

Humor and Satire in Contemporary Europe

Cultural, Political, and Cognitive Perspectives

Dover Banksy by ijclark (2017) 

What is the role of humor in our everyday lives? Is satire only a tool for scapegoating and stereotyping, or can it lead us to a fuller understanding of complex realities? Questions such as these have become more and more prominent in recent years, within and outside Europe – suffice it to mention the controversies related to Charlie Hebdo’s use of dark humor (before and after the 2015 terrorist attack), as well as the massive role played by memes, cartoons and caricatures in populist and anti-populist discourse (from Brexit to the last US elections).

This interdisciplinary summer school will focus on the various forms taken by humour in contemporary European societies; we will discuss a broad range of sources, from literature and stand-up comedy to memes and cartoons. You will have a chance to attend and take active part in seminars held by leading international scholars in the fields of Sociology, Journalism and Communication, Literary and Cultural Studies; each session will focus on a specific topic, such as humor and populism, jokes and ‘bad taste’, freedom of speech vs hate speech, and several others.

Building on a unique combination of different disciplinary perspectives, this summer school will appeal to students and early career researchers with an interest in the multiple theories and practices of humor; it will also welcome applicants without any previous training in the subject, who are interested in exploring humor and satire as a way to better understand the conflicts and tensions underlying contemporary Europe.

Dates14 - 21 July 2018
LocationGroningen, the Netherlands
Course levelAdvanced BA/(Re)MA/PHD
CoordinatorDr. Alberto Godioli, Faculty of Arts

What about the Family?

An interdisciplinary course on ethical issues in health care, with a special emphasis on genetics

children on a street

Recent developments in healthcare and social care policy are challenging the scope of and theoretical justification for claims based on notions of family responsibility. The considerations cover a wide range, from normative issues of (for example) the basis on which we should expect responsibility to be present, to empirical considerations of how responsibilities come to exist and are enacted in a range of familial situations.

This summer school will explore various theoretical and practical approaches that can be used to address challenges arising from new forms of healthcare practice. In particular, we will examine the significance of people’s key relationships (such as with family and community), and how people deliberate and decide about their responsibilities.

As a special field of interest, issues arising from the use of genetic and genomic technologies has been chosen. Family is inherent to the field of genetics, because information can often only be meaningful when considered in the context of a family. But genetics itself can lead to new forms of kinship and dependencies.

Research questions and themes to be addressed include:

  • what ‘family’ means;
  • negotiating responsibilities;
  • familial roles in decision making;
  • justice within families.

Participants will enhance their knowledge and understanding of the theoretical approaches to ethics of families, and their applications, especially on the field of genetics, screening and decision-making. Participants will have ample opportunities to present their own research and benefit from feedback from internationally renowned scholars.

This summerschool will be organiszed for the second time and can be seen as the outcome of an international collaboration between several internationally renowned scholars, subsidized for by a network grant of NWO during the period of 2014-2017. See for more information about this network see also .

Dates12 -18 August 2018
Deadline for application1 May 2018
Academic coordinatorsProf. dr Marian Verkerk - University of Groningen
Dr. Ainsley Newson - University of Sydney

€500 (excluding housing)
€745 (including housing)