«Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch» (1928) und «Macht und menschliche Natur» (1931)

Über ein vermeidbares Missverständnis in der Plessner-Interpretation


  • Joachim Fischer




philosophical anthropology, political anthropology, eccentric positionality, Helmuth Plessner, Plessner controversy


For some time there has been a certain philosophical and sociological hype about the Power and the Human Nature. An Attempt at an Anthropology of the Historical World View (Political Anthropology) within Plessner scholarship, which portrays this book, next to the Levels of the Organic Life and the Human, as a «second anthropological key work». This will be rejected here for a number of reasons.

The argument will be set up in four steps: Firstly, we will sketch the genesis of Plessner’s philosophical-anthropological thinking from the beginning of the 1920s to the beginning of the 1930s – from the Levels (1928) to the Political Anthropology (1931). Secondly, we will rehearse the recent tendency of a certain type of Plessner research since the 1990s which attributes to the Political Anthropology its own and even superior status in relation to the Levels-book of 1928. Thirdly, from a philological point of view, Plessner himself, at a later stage, did not regard the Political Anthropology as exceptional within his body of work. Fourthly, philosophically, a systematic investiagtion can also show that the Political Anthropology as an «attempt of an anthropology of a historical world view» is all in all nothing more than an elaboration of the theory of the inescapable historicity and language diversity of the human being, a theory already derived from the second «basic anthropological law» of the «mediated immediacy» in the Levels-book. The «principle of inscrutability», which is explicated in the Political Anthropology from 1931, follows, in Plessner’s own logic, from the «anthropological basic law» of the «mediated immediacy» from 1928.

The central thesis is the following: the whole premise of the preference of the Political Anthropology of a certain type of Plessner interpretation is wrong: there is no second anthropological key work of Plessner, but the foundation set out in the Levels of the Organic and the Human which argues in a natural philosophical manner is, and remains, Plessner’s philosophical-anthropological key work to which he relates all his other writings, including the later writings such as the Political Anthropology.