Does Western Philosophy Have Non-Western Roots?

Michael Forster, Alexander von Humboldt Professor, holder of the Chair in Theoretical Philosophy, and Co-director of the International Center for Philosophy at Bonn University

Co-presented with the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, and the Sydney Intellectual History Network

8 November, 2013

There was a vigorous debate in nineteenth-century Germany concerning whether western philosophy is a purely Greek invention or has non-western roots. Hegel and Zeller held the former view, whereas another group of German thinkers held various versions of the latter. This paper focuses on the most impressive version of the latter view, that of Eduard Röth, who in particular argued that Greek philosophy had roots in Pharaonic Egypt. The paper makes a case that Röth's argument for this view is a powerful one and that although Zeller's counterarguments largely won the day in public perception, they do not stand up to scrutiny

Professor Michael Forster

Michael Forster is Alexander von Humboldt Professor, holder of the Chair in Theoretical Philosophy, and Co-director of the International Center for Philosophy at Bonn University. He taught for 28 years at the University of Chicago, where he served for 10 years as chairman of the Philosophy Department and was Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor. His historical work is on ancient philosophy and German philosophy, his systematic work mainly on epistemology and philosophy of language. He has published numerous articles and 7 books, among them After Herder: Philosophy of Language in the German Tradition (2010) and German Philosophy of Language: From Schlegel to Hegel and Beyond (2011).