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Wolfgang Schirmacher - Biography

Wolfgang Schirmacher, Ph.D., is a continental philosopher, professor of philosophy and founder of the pioneering Media and Communications Division at the European Graduate School (EGS). As conceived by Professor Schirmacher, the Division brings together master’s and doctoral students to work with some of the most prominent visionaries and philosophers of the world today. An enigmatic and inspirational professor, Wolfgang Schirmacher believes in the potential of every new philosopher to alter the course of philosophy and history. An internationally renowned Arthur Schopenhauer scholar, he is the President of the International Schopenhauer Association. Not surprisingly, Dr. Schirmacher is also the Arthur Schopenhauer Chair at EGS. Wolfgang Schirmacher was born in 1944 in Germany.

In Wolfgang’s words:

Media creators need to be bold thinkers, capable of inventing frameworks and designing artificial life. Uncertainty is the beginning. In an ever-changing information society, the crucial skill is a kind of thinking which explores openness and challenges our fear of the unknown. In the age of media, knowledge has become information, an all too perishable commodity. Hence, only questions have kept their defining power.

Under Wolfgang Schirmacher’s vision the curriculum at EGS stresses the importance theory and practice equally. Faculty members are guided to reflect an inter- and cross-disciplinary approach as they lead intensive live-theory seminars. Dr. Schirmacher not only founded the graduate and post-graduate Media and Communications division but he became its first Dean. Professor Schirmacher retired from the position in the Fall of 2006. Since 2006 Wolfgang Schirmacher has held the position of Program Director of Media Communications. The EGS curriculum’s focus is on applied philosophy with a clear focus of doing so in media and communication. Schirmacher says the following about EGS:

Philosophy, in its genuine sense as a bold and creative questioning of the world, guides our approach.

Professor Schirmacher is an internationally respected philosopher of technology. His research emphasis is on media, gene technology and neuroscience. Wolfgang Schirmacher is Chair of the Artificial Life Group and Director of International Relations at the Philosophy and Technology Studies Center at the Polytechnic University in New York. Additionally, Dr. Schirmacher was an Emeritus Core Professor of the graduate program in media studies at the prestigious New School for Social Research. Previously Schirmacher also taught philosophy at the University of Hamburg.

The philosophy of Wolfgang Schirmacher is as much about living as it is about thinking. Indeed, early in his career Schirmacher was strongly influenced by the existential phenomenology of Martin Heidegger. Wolfgang Schirmacher’s doctoral dissertation (which was over 300 pages) focused on Heidegger's philosophy of technology and was entitled Ereignis Technik: Heidegger und die Frage nach der Technik (Event Technology: Heidegger and the Question Concerning Technology, 1980). Within this work Wolfgang Schirmacher offers us a new interpretation of human existence for the post-technological era in which life is intrinsically artificial and humanity has moved towards a new form of subjectivity, Homo generator.

A radically affirmative being surviving the death of God, Homo generator anthropomorphically generates worlds without the need for any transcendental purpose outside of life itself. Such a life can make no claim for authenticity beyond itself, and in this sense it is artificial. As he puts it in a conversation with Jean-François Lyotard in 2005, "An artificial life is led as the art of life, by a person who exists authentically, whose ethic is anthropologically characterized by openness." The hitherto unpublished book Homo Generator: Ethics for an Artificial Life is forthcoming in German.

Wolfgang Schirmacher defines Homo generator as, "a Dasein beyond metaphysics, a human being which needs no Being, no certainty, no truth." In his 1994 essay, Homo Generator - Militant Media & Postmodern Technology, he explains: "What I call homo generator realizes the hope and the angst of the philosophers after Hegel, a Dasein beyond metaphysics, a human being which needs no Being, no certainty, no truth."

Homo generator is not the technological deterministic success story of nature conquered by intelligence and efficiency. On the contrary, Schirmacher presents homo generator as the eternally human dilemma of dealing with ones own mortality in the midst of the fragility and destructive world that exists to us as natural. Homo generator gains its significance in the context of human artificial existence. It takes the form, for instance, of the media artist who becomes a generator of human reality and bears the responsibility for tomorrow's artificial world. His work on homo generator is fundamental in the works of up and coming scholars of media and computer sciences who deal with the complications inherent to a world where nature and technology are inexplicably linked.

We can detect the phenomenological influence on Dr. Schirmacher when he explains in Militant Media & Postmodern Technology, "Homo generator's body politics is to SEE/ HEAR/ SMELL/ TOUCH/ TASTE/ THINK before you act, it claims aesthetic perception as the basis of comprehending and interaction." In the same essay, Professor Schirmacher brings attention to our ultimately artificial, postmodern technological condition: "We are the artificial beings among all others, our bodies are artifacts by nature."

Taking his cue from a wide array of post-Kantian and post-Hegelian thinkers all the way from Schopenhauer to Lyotard, Dr. Wolfgang Schirmacher declares technological advances as responsible for he refers to as "the first-degree murder of the body." For Schirmacher, as in many ways for his mentors, the body is not only the locus where technology as a threat positions itself, but it is also where resistance can take place.

Wolfgang Schirmacher is the author of several books in German, including: Technik und Gelassenheit. Zeitkritik nach Heidegger (1983), Zeit Der Ernte: Studien zum Stand der Schopenhauer-Forschung (1983), Schopenhauer (1985), Schopenhauer Aktualität: Ein Philosoph wird neu gelesen (1988), Schopenhauer In Der Postmoderne (1989), and Schopenhauer, Nietzsche Und Die Kunst (1992). Ethik und Vernunft. Schopenhauer in unserer Zeit (Ethics and Reason: Schopenhauer in our Time, 1992), explores one of Arthur Schopenhauer’s central insights, that ethics is the goal of epistemology and ontology and not reason.

Professor Schirmacher is the author of the following volume Just Living. Philosophy in Artificial Life. In the chapter of the book entitled "Ethics and Artificiality" he writes:

In the age of technology with its sphere of artificiality, certain phenomena strike us and show themselves to be ethical by sparking controversies about right and wrong behavior. Phenomenologically, I need not share in this act of self-showing, but it suffices to occasion a description rich in perspectives, one that postpones judgment.

Wolfgang Schirmacher is the editor of New York Studies in Media Philosophy and Schopenhauer-Studien. Additionally, Dr. Schirmacher has edited and continues to edit many books, both in English and in German, including: Transience: A poiesis, of dis/appearance (2010), Facticity, Poverty and Clones: On Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’ (2010), The Suicide Bomber; and her gift of death (2010), BLACKOUT: On Memory and Catastrophe (2009), Propaganda of the Dead: Terrorism and Revolution (2009), Deleuze and the Sign (2009), Media Courage: impossible pedagogy in an artificial community (2009), The Novel Imagery: Aesthetic Response as Feral Laboratory (2009), Performing the archive: The transformation of the archive in Contemporary art from repository of documents to art medium (2009), The Organic Organisation: freedom, creativity and the search for fulfilment (2009), Literature as Pure Mediality: Kafka and the Scene of Writing (2009), The Ethics of Uncertainty: Aporetic Openings (2009), Sonic Soma: Sound, Body and the Origins of the Alphabet (2009), Can Computers Create Art? (2009), Mirrors triptych technology: Remediation and Translation Figures (2009), Repetition, Ambivalence and Inarticulateness: Mourning and Memory in Western Heroism (2009), The Art of the Transpersonal Self: Transformation as Aesthetic and Energetic Practice (2009), Shamanism + Cyberspace (2009), Community without Identity: The Ontology and Politics of Heidegger (2009), Trauma, Hysteria, Philosophy (2009), Schriftzeichen der Wahrheit: Zur Philosophie der Filmsprache (2009), Trans/actions: art, film and death (2009), The Infinite City: Politics of Speed (2009), Imaginality: Conversant and Eschaton (2009), Follow Us Or Die (2009), Philosophy of Culture, Schopenhauer and Tradition (2008), German 20th Century Philosophical Writings (2003), German 20th Century Philosophy: The Frankfurt School (2000), German Socialist Philosophy: Feuerbach, Marx, Engels (1996), German Essays On Science In The 20th Century (1996), German Essays On Science In The 19th Century (1996), German Socialist Philosophy: Feuerbach, Marx, Engels (1996), Ethik und Vernunft: Schopenhauer in unserer Zeit (1995) and Schopenhauer: Philosophical Writings (1994).

Wolfgang Schirmacher founded the Master and Doctoral Programs in Media and Communication at the European Graduate School, serves as program director and teaches many Intensive Seminars during the summer residency in Saas-Fee.