Günther Anders

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Günther Anders
Gunther Stern and Hannah Arendt (cropped).jpg
Günther Stern and Hannah Arendt (1929)
Günther Stern

(1902-07-12)12 July 1902
Died17 December 1992(1992-12-17) (aged 90)
Alma mater University of Freiburg
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Continental philosophy, phenomenology

Günther Anders (born Günther Siegmund Stern; Breslau, 12 July 1902 – Vienna, 17 December 1992) was a German Jewish philosopher, journalist, essayist and poet.

Wrocław City in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland

Wrocław is a city in western Poland and the largest city in the historical region of Silesia. It lies on the banks of the River Oder in the Silesian Lowlands of Central Europe, roughly 350 kilometres (220 mi) from the Baltic Sea to the north and 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the Sudeten Mountains to the south. The population of Wrocław in 2018 was 640,648, making it the fourth-largest city in Poland and the main city of the Wrocław agglomeration.

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Philosopher person with an extensive knowledge of philosophy

A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.


Trained in the phenomenological tradition, he developed a philosophical anthropology for the age of technology, focusing on such themes as the effects of mass media on our emotional and ethical existence, the illogic of religion, the nuclear threat, the Shoah, and the question of being a philosopher.

Phenomenology is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness. As a philosophical movement it was founded in the early years of the 20th century by Edmund Husserl and was later expanded upon by a circle of his followers at the universities of Göttingen and Munich in Germany. It then spread to France, the United States, and elsewhere, often in contexts far removed from Husserl's early work.

Philosophical anthropology

Philosophical anthropology, sometimes called anthropological philosophy, is a discipline dealing with questions of metaphysics and phenomenology of the human person, and interpersonal relationships.

In 1992, shortly before his death, Günther Anders was awarded the Sigmund Freud Prize. [1]

Sigmund Freud Prize German literary award

The Sigmund Freud Prize or Sigmund Freud Prize for Scientific Prose is a German literary award named after Sigmund Freud and awarded by the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung. It was first awarded in 1964.


Gunther Anders' grave in Vienna GunterAndersGrave.jpg
Günther Anders' grave in Vienna

At the time of his birth his native Breslau (now Wrocław in Poland) had become the 6th largest city in the German Empire, with a Jewish population of about 20,000, 5% of the city's population. [2] He was the son of founders of child psychology Clara and William Stern as well as a cousin of Walter Benjamin. Anders was married three times, to the German philosopher and political scientist Hannah Arendt from 1929 to 1937, to the Austrian writer Elisabeth Freundlich from 1945 to 1955, and to American pianist Charlotte Lois Zelka in 1957. Zelka was born in California in 1930, toured Europe for two decades, and died of lung cancer in 2001. [3] [4]

Poland Republic in Central Europe

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin. Poland is bordered by the Baltic Sea, Lithuania, and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast to the north, Belarus and Ukraine to the east, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to the south, and Germany to the west.

German Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

William Stern, born Louis William Stern, was a German psychologist and philosopher. He is known for the development of personalistic psychology, which placed emphasis on the individual by examining measurable personality traits as well as the interaction of those traits within each person to create the self. Stern also coined the term intelligence quotient, or IQ, and invented the tone variator as a new way to study human perception of sound. Stern studied psychology and philosophy under Hermann Ebbinghaus at the University of Berlin, and quickly moved on to teach at the University of Breslau. Later he was appointed the position of professor at the University of Hamburg. Over the course of his career, Stern wrote many books pioneering new fields in psychology such as differential psychology, critical personalism, forensic psychology, and intelligence testing. Stern was also a pioneer in the field of child psychology. Working with his wife, Clara Joesephy, Stern kept meticulous diaries detailing the lives of their 3 children for 18 years. He used these journals to write several books that offered an unprecedented look into the psychological development of children over time.

In 1923 Anders obtained a PhD in philosophy; Edmund Husserl was his dissertation advisor. Anders' sister Hilde Stern was at one time married to the German philosopher Rudolf Schottlaender, who was also a student of Husserl. However Anders' own father was arguably the most significant intellectual influence in his life.

Edmund Husserl German philosopher, known as the father of phenomenology

Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl was a German philosopher who established the school of phenomenology. In his early work, he elaborated critiques of historicism and of psychologism in logic based on analyses of intentionality. In his mature work, he sought to develop a systematic foundational science based on the so-called phenomenological reduction. Arguing that transcendental consciousness sets the limits of all possible knowledge, Husserl redefined phenomenology as a transcendental-idealist philosophy. Husserl's thought profoundly influenced the landscape of 20th-century philosophy, and he remains a notable figure in contemporary philosophy and beyond.

Rudolf Schottlaender was a German philosopher, classical philologist, translator and political publicist of Jewish descent.

While he was working as a journalist in Berlin, an editor did not want so many Jewish-sounding bylines in his paper, so Stern chose the name "Anders" (meaning other or different). He used that nom-de-plume for the rest of his life.

In the late 1920s Anders studied with the philosopher Martin Heidegger in Freiburg. He married fellow Heidegger student Hannah Arendt, who had engaged in an affair with their common mentor. Anders fled Nazi Germany in 1933, first to France (where he and Arendt divorced amicably in 1937), and later to the United States.

Martin Heidegger German philosopher

Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher and a seminal thinker in the Continental tradition and philosophical hermeneutics, and is "widely acknowledged to be one of the most original and important philosophers of the 20th century." Heidegger is best known for his contributions to phenomenology and existentialism, though as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy cautions, "his thinking should be identified as part of such philosophical movements only with extreme care and qualification". Heidegger was a member and public supporter of the Nazi Party. There is controversy over the degree to which his Nazi affiliations influenced his philosophy.

Hannah Arendt German-American Jewish philosopher and political theorist

Johanna "Hannah" Cohn Arendt was a German-American philosopher and political theorist. Her many books and articles on topics ranging from totalitarianism to epistemology have had a lasting influence on political theory. Arendt is widely considered one of the most important political philosophers of the twentieth century.

Anders returned to Europe in 1950 with his second wife Elisabeth Freundlich  [ de ] (19062001), whom he had met in New York, to live in her native Vienna. [5] There Anders wrote his main philosophical work, whose title translates as The Obsolescence of Humankind (1956), became a leading figure in the anti-nuclear movement, and published numerous essays and expanded versions of his diaries, including one of a trip to Breslau and Auschwitz with his wife. Anders' papers are held by the University of Vienna, and his literary executor is former FORVM editor Gerhard Oberschlick.

Anders was an atheist. [6] [7]


Günther Anders was an early critic of the role of technology in modern life and in this context was a trenchant critic of the role of television. His essay "The Phantom World of TV," written in the late 1950s, was published in an edition of Bernard Rosenberg and David Manning White's influential anthology Mass Culture as "The Phantom World of Television." In it he details how the televisual experience substitutes images for experience, leading people to eschew first-hand experiences in the world and instead become "voyeurs," His dominant metaphor in this essay centers on how television interposes itself between family members "at the dinner table." See "Die Welt als Phantom und Matrize. Philosophische Betrachtungen über Rundfunk und Fernsehen" (The World as Phantom and Matrix. Philosophical Observations on Radio and Television) (1956).

The Obsolescence of Humankind

His major work, of which only a few essays have been translated into English, [8] is acknowledged to be Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen (literally "The Outdatedness of the Human Species," 1956; vol. 2 1980). It argues that a gap has developed between humanity's technologically enhanced capacity to create and destroy, and our ability to imagine that destruction. Anders devoted a great deal of attention to the nuclear threat, making him an early critic of this technology as well.

The two volume work is made up of a string of philosophical essays that start with an observation often found in Anders' diary entries dating back to his exile in the U.S. in the 1940s.

To provide an example from the first chapter of volume one: "First Encounter with Promethean Shame – Today's Prometheus asks: 'Who am I anyway?'"; 11 March 1942. "Shame about the 'embarrassingly' high quality of manufactured goods." What are we embarrassed about? Anders' answer to this question is simply "that we were born and not manufactured." [9]

Open Letter to Klaus Eichmann

Just as Arendt in her Eichmann in Jerusalem elucidated the Banality of Evil by declaring that horrendous crimes can be committed by quite ordinary people, Anders explores the moral and ethical ramifications of the facts brought to light in the 1960-61 trial of Adolf Eichmann in We Sons of Eichmann: Open Letter to Klaus Eichmann (the son of the noted Nazi bureaucrat and genocidaire). He suggests that the appellation "Eichmann" properly designates any person who actively participated in, ignored or failed to learn about, or even knew about but took no action against the Nazis' mass murder campaigns against Jews and others. He explained to his audience in Austria and Germany, among them young writers searching for ways to empathize with their parents' generation, that "there was but one viable alternative not only for Eichmann's son Klaus but all 'Eichmann sons,' namely to repudiate their fathers since mourning them was not an option." [10]

Quotes by and about Anders

Foreword. "Outdatedness of Human Beings 1", 5th edition
"The three main theses: that we are no match for the perfection of our products; that we produce more than we can visualize and take responsibility for; and that we believe, that, what we can do, are allowed to do, no: should do, no: must do – these three basic theses, in light of the environmental threats emerging over the last quarter century, have become more prevailing and urgent than they were then."

Changing the world
"It does not suffice to change the world. We do that anyway. And to a large extent that happens even without our involvement. In addition we have to interpret this change. Precisely because to change it. That therefore the world does not change without us. And ultimately into a world without us."

Introduction. "Outdatedness of Human Beings 2"
This volume is "...a philosophical anthropology in the age of technocracy". With "technocracy" I do not mean the rule of technocrats (as if they were a group of specialists, who dominate today's politics), but the fact, that the world, in which we live and which determines us, is a technological one – which extends so far, that we are not allowed to say, that in our historical situation there is among other things technology, rather do we have to say: within the world's status called "technology" history happens, in other words technology has become the subject of history, in which we are only "co-historical".

Dedication. "Outdatedness of Human Beings 1", 5th edition

Exactly half a century ago, in nineteen hundred and six, my father William Stern published, then twenty years younger and generations more confident than his son today, the first volume of his work "Person and Thing." His hope, to rehabilitate the "Person" through his struggle against an impersonal Psychology, he only unwillingly would have seen dashed. His very own kindness and the optimism of the times, to which he belonged, prevented him for many years, to understand that what makes a "Person" a "Thing", is not its scientific treatment; but the actual treatment of one human being by another. When overnight he was dishonored and chased away by the spurners of humanity, he was not spared the grief that comes from a better understanding into a world worse off.

In memory of him, who indelibly implanted the idea of human dignity in his son, these mournful pages on the devastation of human beings were written.

Love Yesterday. Notes on the History of Feelings. 1986.
Without knights no chivalry, without court no courtliness, without salon no charm, without material support no deference will last indefinitely, not even as make-believe. In the same manner what shrinks in a world that cheats us out of leisure and other preconditions of our privacy, are the subtleties of our emotional private lives.

Jewish Origins. In: Paul van Dijk, Anthropology in the Age of Technology.
"His Jewish self-consciousness reveals itself in the acknowledgment that he is never more ashamed than when meeting a Jew who is ashamed to be a Jew. The Judaism that Anders represents with the fierceness and decisiveness that is so characteristic of him is, however, a modern, secular, and humanistic Judaism." [11]



  1. "Sigmund-Freud-Preis". Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung . Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  2. Baedeker, Karl, Northern Germany, 14th revised edition, Leipzig & London, 1904, p.185.
  3. "Charlotte Zelka (1930 - Oct. 6, 2001)".
  4. Harold Marcuse
  5. "Günther Anders: biography, texts and links, by Harold Marcuse". marcuse.faculty.history.ucsb.edu.
  6. Dijk, Paul van (9 June 2019). "Anthropology in the Age of Technology: The Philosophical Contributions of Günther Anders". Rodopi via Google Books.
  7. Bauman, Zygmunt; Obirek, Stanislaw (21 July 2015). "Of God and Man". John Wiley & Sons via Google Books.
  8. 'On Promethean Shame', in Christopher Müller, Prometheanism: Technology, Digital Culture and Human Obsolescence (Rowman and Litlefield, 2016), pp. 29-95; Gunther Anders, 'The Obsolescence of Privacy', CounterText 3:1
  9. for a full translation see: Gunther Anders, 'On Promethean Shame', in Christopher Müller, Prometheanism: Technology, Digital Culture and Human Obsolescence (Rowman and Litlefield, 2016), pp. 29-95
  10. Dagmar Lorenz. The Established Outsider: Bernhard. in: The Companion to the Works of Thomas Bernhard. Camden House, 2002. (Studies in German Literature, Linguistics, and Culture) Matthias Konzett editor.
  11. van Dijk, Paul (2000). Anthropology in the Age of Technology. The Philosophical Contribution of Günther Anders. Rodopi Bv Editions. ISBN   9789042014022.

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