Q: Professor Habermas, let me begin by congratulating you on receiving the Prince of Asturias Prize and also the gold medal of the Bellas Artes Foundation of Madrid. You must have surprised many Spaniards, as you did me, when you confessed your admiration for two fiercely existentialist writers, Miguel de Unamuno and Miguel de Cervantes.
A: This love goes back to school days and my university years. After the Second World War, when the Keller Theater was presenting masterful productions of French plays by Sartre, Mauriac and Claudel, Existentialism gave expression to our sense of life. A book by the Tuebingen philosopher, Friedrich Bollnow – who would now be 100, like Adorno – brought Unamuno’s Don Quixote to my attention at that time. By similar paths, I also found my way to Kierkegaard, to the later Schelling, and to the Heidegger of Being and Time. That I turned my back on Being and Time, and busied myself, rather, with social-, political-, and legal theory, had one simple reason: In the rather tattered mental and moral world of the Bundesrepublik, one could grapple better with what Jaspers called “limit situations” in the language of Marx and Dewey than in the “jargon of authenticity.”
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