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  • History of Philosophy

    Here you can find information on the research area "History of Philosophy".  

    Christine de Pizan, 1413

History of philosophy in Bielefeld

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Studies in history of philosophy at Bielefeld

  • as part of the BA- and MA-programmes at the philosophy department

Philosophy is a social activity: while reading and thinking in the quiet of our rooms is one aspect of the discipline, discussing our thoughts with others is also a necessary means for making philosophical progress. Discussion and critical exchange with fellow philosophers helps to develop, sharpen, and strengthen our arguments. In doing the history of philosophy, we do not only converse with our contemporaries but also with past thinkers whose thoughts are only accessible through their writings. Unlike those with whom we can have (or at least could have) direct intellectual exchanges, thinkers of the past cannot correct us when we get them wrong. This is especially difficult since misunderstandings are natural when we encounter writings whose authors in multiple ways “do not speak our language.” To do justice to these texts, we need sensitivity for the historical context: in which historical circumstances did the author live? With which texts is he or she engaging? Are there theological discussions that loom in the background? At Bielefeld University, we understand the history of philosophy as a humanistic, interdisciplinary endeavor, i.e. one that often requires knowledge of the fine arts, literature or music of the period.

In addition to situating past philosophers in their historical context, we also pursue an explicitly analytic approach to the history of philosophy. Philosophers both past and present aim to answer important systematic questions, and reading recent work by contemporary analytic philosophers can help us better understand, and sometimes criticize, historical thinkers’ approaches to specific philosophical problems. By bringing contemporary work to bear on philosophy’s history, we aim to facilitate conversation between ourselves and those who have come before us.

In terms of historical period, we focus on Early Modern and Enlightenment philosophy with a special emphasis on the history of practical philosophy. Due to this focus, we work closely with the chairs of Practical Philosophy as well as Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Law and participate in the research colloquium “Practical Philosophy.”


Prof. Michaela Kirchhofer-Rehm

Photo: Silke Tornede
  • works on applied ethics and political phiolosophy, philosophy of law, philosophy of religion and history of practical philosophy
  • Areas of specialization include:
    • moral and political contractualism

    • natural justice

    • morality ↔ justice

    • policy ↔ religion

    • practical philosophy in the early modern age, especially Suárez, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant and their milieu.

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Dr. Ariane Schneck


  • AOS: Early Modern Philosophy (esp. Descartes and Elisabeth of Bohemia)
  • AOC: Philosophy of Mind (esp. Philosophy of Emotions), Feminist Philosophy

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Fynn Niklas Lichtenberg, B.A.

Student assistant



Research Projects

New Research Project (2023-2024): "Iconoclasm – How to make women in philosophy more visible and establish new role models"

After a successful grant application at the BMBF, Michaela Rehm and Ariane Schneck are part of the project “Iconoclasm – How to make women in philosophy more visible and establish new role models.” In the project, interdisciplinary teams from seven German universities aim to increase the visibility of women in philosophy and in so doing work against the underrepresentation of women in the field. The part of the project based in Bielefeld, “New Voices in the Canon,” concerns how to better highlight the contributions of women not only in philosophical research but also in teaching philosophy. Is it enough to merely add individual female thinkers to the existing syllabi? Or, when we critically reflect on the so-called “canon,” should we consider not just which figures to include but also which topics are taught? How can we best integrate the contributions of women thinkers? A conference in Bielefeld at the beginning of May 2023 (see below) will mark the beginning of the 12-month research project. It will also include an academic publication on the topic, as well as the development of material aimed at a broader audience, e. g. a podcast series about the project.

Link to website of Innovative Frauen im Fokus

Link to the project: "Iconoclasm – How to make women in philosophy more visible and establish new role models"

Conference: "Increasing Women Philosophers’ Visibility: How and Why?"

On May 3rd 2023, Michaela Rehm and Ariane Schneck will host a conference on "Increasing Women Philosophers' Visibility: How and Why?". The conference is part of the BMBF-project "Iconoclasm – How to make women in philosophy more visible and establish new role models" and will take place at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) at Bielefeld University. Everyone who is interested in how to change the so-called "canon," especially in teaching (but also in research), is cordially invited to join the conference in person in Bielefeld or participate online via Zoom. The speakers are Daniel James (TU Dresden), Sarah Hutton (York), and Lisa Shapiro (McGill). For further details and registration please contact


Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 (all times are CET)

9.30-10.30 am: Introduction and talk Sophia Hohmann (Bielefeld University, in-person): "Making women visible in philosophy: On the contradictions of an inclusive canon"

10.30-11 am: Coffee Break

11 am-12.30 pm: Talk Daniel James (TU Dresden, in-person): "Narrative, Ignorance, and the History of Philosophy: Lessons from Feminist Philosophy of Science"

12.30-2 pm: Lunch

2-3.30 pm: Talk Sarah Hutton (University of York, in-person): “Women, Philosophy, and the Classroom: The Lessons of History”

3.30-4 pm: Coffee Break

4-5.30 pm: Talk Lisa Shapiro (McGill University, online): "How to Change a Canon”

6.30 pm: Dinner 

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