Presentation

The First World War was an unprecedented event of destruction, transformation, and renewal that left no aspect of European culture unchanged. Philosophy proved no exception: the war motivated an historically singular mobilization of philosophers to write about the war during the years of conflict; significant works of philosophy were written during the war years and immediately thereafter; the postwar decades of the 1920s and 1930s witnessed a systematic reconfiguration of the landscape of philosophical thought that still largely defines contemporary philosophy. Surprisingly, while the impact of the war on literature, poetry, and the arts, political thought has been a subject of intense inquiry and interpretation, the significance of the war for modern philosophy remains relatively unexamined, often misunderstood or simply taken for granted.

In order to provide a basis for deeper reflections on the impact and legacy of the First World War for philosophy, this website offers a number of carefully curated archival, bibliographical and audio-visual resources. It was set up as part of the ERC-funded project “GRAPH”, carried out at KU Leuven and directed by Prof. Nicolas de Warren.

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The First World War witnessed an unprecedented mobilization of philosophers and their families: as soldiers at the front; as public figures on the home front; as nurses in field hospitals; as mothers and wives; as sons and fathers. In Germany, the war irrupted in the midst of the rapid growth of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological movement – widely considered one of the most significant philosophical movements in twentieth century thought. Philosophers at the Front offers a documentary history of phenomenology in the First World War. Through an exceptional collection of primary source materials (letters, postcards, original writings, photographs) from the Husserl Archives in Leuven, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, and the Archives of the University of Göttingen, the complex narratives of how the war affected the lives and thought of central figures in the phenomenological movement are charted. Key figures such as Edmund Husserl, his sons Wolfgang and Gerhart, Max Scheler, Edith Stein, Adolf Reinach, Martin Heidegger, and others are included in this collection of materials.