Karl Otto Apel

Karl Otto Apel (* 15. March 1922 in Duesseldorf) is a German philosopher. He is a representative of the discourse ethics as well as a languagepragmatic, inter+subjective Transzendentalphilosophie (Transzendentalpragmatik).

Apels philosophy is on the one hand by a connection of languageanalytically (joke gene stone, Peirce) and hermeneutischer philosophy (Heidegger) characterized and is on the other hand by the defense of relativistic positions, in particular in the ethics coined/shaped.

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transformation of the Transzendentalphilosophie and last the latter

Apel aims at one „transformation of philosophy “(so the title of its Hauptwerkes), wants however at the same time the fundamental point of view of the Transzendentalphilosophie maintained: the exit of the subject must be overcome in favor of a inter+subjective perspective, without from Immanuel the Kant won insights into the unhintergehbaren Konstituionsbedingungen of the objectivity are to be lost. In place of the apriorischen acceptance Apel goes out of „the Apriori of the Kommunikationsgemeischaft, verwurzelten with Kant in the subjective reason, “: In reflection to always the discourse conditions already presupposed in each discourse situation point yourself also a Apriori unhintergehbares for the philosophical debate. These conditions can be regarded after Apels opinion as last-justified discourse standards: Each attempt to deny it explicitly presupposes it implicitly. Apel marks thus its last reason the latter as follows: Sentences are lastly, if them A) not to be proven can, without to be presupposed and them b) not to be denied not be able, without as valid to be regarded at the same time. By this second condition, the avoidance of a performativen contradiction be present in that argument no circle conclusion . That contradiction of performativer or pragmatic nature is at the same time, it originates not from subjective thinking, but from the act of the inter+subjective discussion, so that for Apel the intersubjectivity results as unhintergehbare regulation human thinking and acting.

discourse ethics

Apel tries to justify fundamental discourse standards with this “last reason the latter” and to develop thus a discourse ethics, like it in weakened form - i.e. without last reason the latter - also by Jürgen Habermas one represents. The ethical principles are to be won thereby after Apel from in each discussion around each ethics, also around the ethical Nihilismus always acceptance already presupposed. Each philosophical and ethical beginning appeals at the criterion of the objective commitment and truth of the own statement, so that the commitment requirement and the truth ability cannot be questioned after Apel reasonably. A goal Apels is here the defense of the ethical Nihilismus and the return to an objective and rational ethics, which is to overcome „the paradox “of the present. Apel sees one of the Hauptprobleme of the modern trend in the separation between objective fact knowledge of the single sciences and the privacy and arbitraryness of ethical convictions, from which the discourse ethics is to represent a way out.

Hermeneutik and language criticism

Apel can be considered as one of the first German philosophers, who connected and the opposite currents of hermeneutischen philosophy and languageanalytic philosophy as a result of joke gene stone, tying separated up to then, at Heidegger. Apel tries the differences by a criticism both Heidegger, to which he accuses Logosvergessenheit, as joke gene stone, whose Tractatus he as contradictory fixing of the boundaries of the reason regards, not only to seize but the thing in common of both currents. Like that both Heideggers and joke gene stone philosophy are characterized by an overcoming or a “twisting” the Metaphysik. Both directions aim at the pragmatic environment, as this comes with Heidegger by the priority of the Zuhandenheit over the theoretical existingness to the expression. Into evenly that direction go also the language play analysis of joke gene stone. As the pragmatics and the language play a central role as inter+subjective structure with both philosophers, the transition is carried out for the philosophy of the present as philosophy of the intersubjectivity in both cases. On the basis of an argument with these two philosophical directions Apel tries to mediate in its transzendentalen Hermeneutik between the models of the world explaining of the natural sciences and the world understanding of the Geisteswissenschaften.


a substantial objection against Apels and also different similar Letztbegündungkonzepte is based on the difficulty of sentences more or less independently from their context to to evaluate. Several points of view represented in philosophy oppose that. Beispielsweie means for instance the Duhem Quine thesis explicitly that sentences are never isolated evaluated, or after Thomas's bold partial unconscious theories always also () basic assumptions enter, which are important for the interpretation and evaluation of the individual sentences.

It is therefore, if at all possible to disprove not simply stranger of conceptions of the world by it (and its own thereby “to last-justify”), as it is tried to show that individual statements of the strange conception of the world lead to (performativen) a same contradiction. The danger lies in the fact that instead of a same contradiction only a Inkompabilität of the statement to the own context, or which own unconscious basic assumptions was shown. Someone would e.g. try the these would have. everything of its own fundamental convictions consciously its, in the layer its this at least temporarily to suppress, and it must have recognized the fundamental convictions and the context of the strange conception of the world fully. It would have to get involved thus at least temporarily - tactically, for the purpose of the internal refutation - fully in another Welbild. If however different conceptions of the world can be inkommensurabel, how it represents the relativism (Feyerabend), this would be impossible possibly in principle, since then at least a part of the other conception of the world would be not in principle accessible. In addition, if these barriers in principle do not exist, then at least practical barriers (religious or emotional obstacles, earlychildlike coinages etc.) can do it make themselves to with difficulty impossible into a strange conception of the world (and all of its possible variations) to in-permit, even if it is to only be passing and for the purpose of its refutation. But even if this is possible, then there is a further problem to indicate i.e. a criterion that it indicates whether one actually created it to in-think itself completely into the strange conception of the world. One cannot look the representative of strange conceptions of the world usually “into the head”.


  • arguments in testing of the transzentendalpragmatischen beginning, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/M. 1998, ISBN 3-518-58260-7
  • discourse and responsibility. The problem of the transition to the post office-conventional moral, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/M. 1997, ISBN 3-518-28493-2
  • explaining: Understanding controversy in transzentendalpragmatischer view, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/M. 1979, ISBN 3-518-06109-7
  • transformation of philosophy, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/M. 1994


  • Vittorio Hösle: The crisis of the present and the responsibility of philosophy. Transzendentalpragmatik, last the latter, ethics, Munich 1990
  • walter Reese shepherd, Karl Otto Apel for introduction. With an epilog of Jürgen Habermas, Hamburg: Junius, ISBN 3-88506-861-3
  • Gerhard beautiful-smell: On occasion discourse. Of the borders of the discourse ethics and the price of last the latter. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp 1994. (stw; 1111) ISBN 3-518-28711-7

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in the catalog


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