Origins of Contemporary European Thought 1837-1938

Principal Investigator: Guillaume Fréchette
SNSF Consolidator Grant 2024–2028

General Presentation

If European thinking begins with the Greeks, as Bruno Snell once wrote, then contemporary European philosophical thinking begins with the Austrians and the Germans. The analytic-continental divide —the most widely accepted mapping of the vast regions of contemporary European thought— is the most eloquent illustration of this fact. In most histories at the origins of this mapping, the divide finds its source in the geographical space between the Rhine and the Danube, within the timespan of one hundred years, roughly between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. This geographical space and timespan is exceptionally rich: not only does it contain the outstanding cultural and artistic explosion of Fin-de-siècle in the Austro-Hungarian empire, but it is also the space in which Austrian economics emerged at the turn of the century.

If these are the sources of the divide, why is there so little historical, philosophical, and editorial work conducted systematically on this geographical space? We want to fulfil this desideratum by following a threefold objective: 

(1) Genealogically, by focusing  on the philosophers at the origins of the main movements and tendencies of contemporary European thought: Bernard Bolzano (1781–1848), Ernst Mach (1838–1916) and Franz Brentano (1838–1917);

(2) by showing how these three major figures were involved in the major disagreements concerning the history of the late nineteenth–early twentieth centuries, disagreements which gave rise to contemporary European thought, and 

(3) by drawing on primary sources, e.g. the literary remains, correspondence and lecture manuscripts of these three thinkers, and by making these materials available in the form of editions and translations.