Philosophical Terms in German

by Max Andrews


Here is a list of important philosophical terms in German.  Many of these terms you’ll find regularly when you read philosophical literature. I also recommend the BBC’s free language program to help familiarize yourself with the spoken language.


  1. Abfall —a falling away (Goethe)
  2. Aktphänomenologie —act-phenomenology, phenomenology of act (Moritz Alfred Geiger).
  3. Alltag —the everyday. Eugen Fink’s expression.
  4. als ob —as if; used in Forberg’s interpretation of Kantian philosophy, moral duty is to act as if (als ob) a moral order upheld by God existed in the world.
  5. Anerkenntnis —acknowledgement, approbation (Goethe)
  6. Annäherung, die —the approach.
  7. Anschauung —insight
  8. Atheismusstreit —controversy over atheism
  9. Aufklärung—the Enlightenment
  10. Begriffsgeschichte —history of concepts (Gadamer)
  11. Beschreibung —description.
  12. Besonnenheit , prudence, deliberateness, sobriety
  13. das Konkret-Lebendige —the living-concrete (thing): a term used by Romano Guardino to describe the main focus of his philosophy
  14. Dasein —being there, conscious being, entity. etc.
  15. der Kalkül des natürlichen Schliessen —natural deduction (Gentzen)
  16. des Sich-zum-Vorschein-Bringens des Seins —the dialectical of the appearing of being (not a literal translation). Eugen Fink’s expression.
  17. das Sein aufgebrochen ins Offene der Welt —Being unveiling itself in the openness of the world. Eugen Fink’s expression.
  18. Der höhere Begriff in Rücksicht seines niederen —The higher concept with respect to one lower to it (Kant. A genus as a higher category than a species].
  19. Empfindung —perception, feeling, sensation
  20. Entfremdung —alienation (Marx).
  21. Entsagen —resignation (Goethe)
  22. entarte Kunst —degenerate art; Hegelian modernism’s attitude toward avant-garde art (the term was used by nazis).
  23. Entwurf —project. Eugen Fink’s expression.
  24. Erforschbares —accessible to investigation (Goethe)
  25. Erinnerung —recall, reminiscence. Eugen Fink’s expression describing the proper way to approach a philosophical text.
  26. Erkenntnistheorie —theory of knowledge
  27. Erklärung —explanation
  28. Erlebnisse —experiences.
  29. Erlebte —what is experienced (Moritz Alfred Geiger).
  30. Ewige im Vorübergehen —the eternal in passing-away (Goethe)
  31. formale Bedingungen —formal conditions.
  32. Fundierungsverhältnissen —the relations of foundation (Moritz Alfred Geiger).
  33. ganz Andere —the completely different, that which is completely different—described utopian thought negative dialectic releases by destroying untruths.
  34. Gefühl —feeling.
  35. Gegensätze —contradictions
  36. Gegenstandphänomenologie —object-phenomenology; phenomenology of the object (Moritz Alfred Geiger).
  37. Gesamtanschauung —holistic insight (Goethe)
  38. Gestalten —shapes
  39. Gleichnis —analogy
  40. Grundirrtum —basic error (Fichte?)
  41. Grundstellung —fundamental attitude
  42. Grundwissenschaft der exakten Naturwissenschaften —Foundational science of the exact natural sciences (Moritz Alfred Geiger, description of mathematics).
  43. Hauptsatz —fundamental assertion (Gentzen)
  44. Herunterlassung —lowering, as God lowered Himself to enter the sensible and historical world (Johann Georg Hamann)
  45. Innen-Aussen —the interior and the exterior: Romano Guardini’s term to describe the polarity of being.
  46. Kehre —turn.
  47. Konkretion —concretion? the immediate concrete thing (Moritz Alfred Geiger).
  48. kritische Existenzphilosophie —critical philosophy of existence.
  49. Lebenszusammenhang —holistic life-connection (Habermas)—an interweaving of cognition and action, a term Habermas used to describe a way of looking at the transcendental conditions for cognition.
  50. Licht —light.
  51. Mangelwesen —a being with shortcomings, a deficient being—a descriptive definition of man from the Basel school (Adolf Portmann).
  52. Münchener Kreis —Munich circle; a circle of philosophers around A. Pfänder.
  53. Nacherlebnis —an experience that reproduces—(Jacob Freudenthal) one must reproduce in one’s own experience the experiences of the person one wishes to understand. This is an approach in the history of philosophy.
  54. Nachdenken —thoughtful consideration. Eugen Fink’s expression describing the proper way to approach a philosophical text.
  55. Nähe—Distanz —the Near—the Far. Eugen Fink’s expressions describing the proper way to approach a philosophical text, as the two poles between which we must balance.
  56. Realwissenschaften —real sciences.
  57. Rechtskunde —legal science concerning the actual laws of particular nations (Eduard Gans).
  58. Rechtswissenschaft —legal science concerning general laws (Eduard Gans), as opposed to Rechtskunde.
  59. reine Selbstgegebenheit —pure self-presentation (Moritz Alfred Geiger)
  60. Sachverhalt —state of affairs.
  61. Selbstgegebenheit —self-presentation.
  62. Sonderfälle —special case, special instance (Moritz Alfred Geiger).
  63. Spielraum —the scene of a game or play. Eugen Fink’s expression.
  64. Steigerung —ascent (Goethe)
  65. Strukturontiken —ontological structures (Moritz Alfred Geiger).
  66. Subjektivität—subjectivity (Moritz Alfred Geiger).
  67. Trägheitgesetz —law of inertia (Moritz Alfred Geiger—that the unconscious or psyche exists even when we are unconscious).
  68. Universalwissenschaft —universal knowledge (Theodor Gomperz—the original sense of philosophy)
  69. Urform —primeval, first form (Goethe’s botany)
  70. Urpflanze —primeval, first, original plant (Goethe’s botany)
  71. Urphänomen —primeval, first, original phenomenon (Goethe)
  72. Urzeit —ancient time
  73. vernehmen (Ger.)—hear
  74. Vollkommenheit —beauty
  75. Volksgeist —the spirit of the people—a construct of a sort of ideological-philosophical outlook on history (historiosophy) used to explain the legitimacy of law and other things.
  76. Voraussetzungen —ultimate conditions; most general assumptions (Moritz Alfred Geiger).
  77. Vorurteil —prejudice.
  78. Vor-Urteil —pre-judgement. (Gadamer)
  79. Wiederverwendung —recycling
  80. Welt —world.
  81. Weltliteratur —universal literature, world-literature (Goethe)
  82. Widersprüche —contradictions
  83. Wiederholung —repetition.
  84. Weltganze —the whole of the world, the world as a whole. Eugen Fink’s expression.
  85. weniger —less
  86. Wesen —essence
  87. Wesensähnlichkeiten —similarities of essence (Moritz Alfred Geiger).
  88. Wesenaxiomatik —axiomatic system of essence (Moritz Alfred Geiger).
  89. Wesenschau —inspection of essence (a phenomenological term)
  90. wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewusstsein —effective-historical consciousness (Gadamer)
  91. Wissenschaftsverlagerung —scientific shifting (Moritz Alfred Geiger)
  92. Würdeträger —bearer of values.
  93. zu den Sachen selbst —to the things themselves, Husserl’s formula and motto describing the phenomenological method.


One Comment to “Philosophical Terms in German”

  1. Great List! Ausgezeichnet.

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