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180172 VO Health: Ideal or Dangerous Threat? (2020W)

3.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 18 - Philosophie


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


Language: German

Examination dates


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

As recommended by the Directorate of Study Philosophy, I’ll give my lecture in the winter term in a digital way. Specifically, the lecture will be held digitally via Collaborate or Zoom, according to technical means. Of course, you will have the opportunity to ask questions or discuss any subject of the lecture during the lecture date. Therefore a registration for the lecture will be necessary this semester because otherwise there is no opportunity to get access to it.
Afterwards, the lectures will also be available as video files on Moodle.
The lecture will mainly consist of a talk, given by me, but like in a lecture hall, there will be plenty of opportunity for questions and discussions from the audience, especially, but on no account exclusively, during the last 15 minutes of the lecture. It will also be possible to use the chat feature for asking questions or commenting my explanations as well as statements of other participants during the lecture.
Apart from that the lecture will be accompanied by presentation slides and video sequences. The presentation slides and other materials (except the reader) will be available on Moodle, each time after the lecture concerned.
During the summer term I made the experience that lectures held online are less encouraging for discussions then such given in a lecture hall. To compensate for this possible disadvantage, I offer opportunities for further questions and discussions in my office, Alser Straße 28/2/22, 1090 Vienna, on Monday and Tuesday afternoons (starting with October 5, 2020), as of 5 p.m., by previous arrangement (via email: gerhard.donhauser@univie.ac.at). A reader will be available by the end of October at the latest. Questions prior to the start of the lecture are warmly welcome in the form of emails (same address as mentioned above).

Please enter Moodle on 12 October 2020 about 3 p.m. (you are welcome to do so a little bit earlier) and join the Collaborate-Meeting "12_10_20". Many thanks in advance!

Monday 12.10. 15:00 - 16:30 Digital
Monday 19.10. 15:00 - 16:30 Digital
Monday 09.11. 15:00 - 16:30 Digital
Monday 16.11. 15:00 - 16:30 Digital
Monday 23.11. 15:00 - 16:30 Digital
Monday 30.11. 15:00 - 16:30 Digital
Monday 07.12. 15:00 - 16:30 Digital
Monday 14.12. 15:00 - 18:00 Digital
Monday 11.01. 15:00 - 16:30 Digital
Monday 18.01. 15:00 - 16:30 Digital
Monday 25.01. 15:00 - 16:30 Digital


Aims, contents and method of the course

Objecitves: Elaboration of a differentiated, critical-reflected approach to subjects as law and politics, relation between law and politics on one hand, ethics/morals on the other hand, the possibilities of establishing authoritarian political conditions with reference to seemingly desirable goals. The lecture also intends to contribute to a clarification of terms as authoritarian, total or totalitarian rule from a philosophical as well as historical perspective.

Contents: In her dystopic novel “Corpus delicti” Juli Zeh describes a state or community, called “METHOD”, where the citizens’ health is regarded as the highest value. So, people are committed to do anything to make sure that they stay healthy, especially carrying out a sports program required by the state and keeping records of their eating habits. Supervision and repressive measures are supposed to ensure appropriate behavior. If people smoke for example or do not subsist on healthy food, they are being prosecuted and reintegrated into the society according to the community’s objective. A person who cannot be brought into line at all, may be frozen up for an indefinite period. Some individuals are rebelling against this program, partly they are forming groups and demand a right to illness. All of them are persecuted as terrorists. But independently from that concern, there may be some obvious objections against the protesters. Isn’t it indeed unbearable that human beings just demand something like a right to illness? Wouldn’t such a behavior cast doubt on the humanity of those human beings? Can’t we agree at least to the idea of living healthy as some kind of summum bonum? Even our everyday understanding says that health is “the most important thing” at all. But let us ask a different question at this point: What does it mean, this apparently main goal called “health”?
Of course, it can and does mean several things. And it is and at least has been possible to use terms like “health” or “healthy” to implement or intensify repressive structures within a certain society. For example, Hippolytus Guarinonius (1572–1654), a doctor and champion of Counter-Reformation from Hall in Tyrol, and by the way inventor of the anti-Jewish cult around the completely fictional child “Anderl von Rinn”, did so. In 1610 he published a tract on human health, called „Die Grewel der Verwüstung Menschlichen Geschlechts [The Horrors of devastation of mankind]”. The term “Gesondt” (translatable with “health” or “healthy”) is of central importance there, and it is used in far-reaching terms of catholic philosophy. Who wants to live “healthy” has, according to Guarinonius, to live in accordance with “Christian Philosophy”. Of course, there were people, who did not want that, and therefore the authorities had to force them.
So, lots of things may be unhealthy, depending on how you define “healthy”. Things may quickly turn out badly if champions of ideologies come to power who admire the “healthy body of the nation”. Regardless of that, references to “public health” may prove themselves as dangerous as soon as people are or can be forced to eat or drink certain things, practice some kinds of sport and avoid others, all for their “own good”. Unfortunately, some of them cannot or do not want to recognize that.
Even those few associations show how repressive an apparently innocent summum bonum like “health” may become under certain circumstances. All those considerations are far from being just theoretical or literary speculation. Their practical relevance can be easily proved by means of some state’s measures in connection with the Covid-19-pandemic since February/March 2020.

Didactic concepts, method: Lecture, (critical) analysis of texts and film sequences, discussion (collaboration, also a critical one, will be considered, only in a positive way), written exam.
A collection of important texts for the lecture will be offered.
Specifics of online teaching: Please see above, remarks on dates.

Assessment and permitted materials

Final exam, oral, digital. First date of the exam: 01.02.21., second one: 02.03.21. (Modification from 29 October 2020.) For further informations please notice the detailed explanations on Moodle.
Permitted auxiliary means: reader.

1 (A): 100 - 90 points
2 (B): 89 - 81 points
3 (C): 80 - 71 points
4 (D): 70 - 51 points
5 (E): 50 points or less

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Evaluation criteria: An independent, reflected, critical approach to the subjects of the lecture should be apparent in the exam. Important, especially relating to the exam, are coherent and consistent argumentation, use of topic-related literature and reference to it. The exam will contain of 4 open questions, 2 of them shall be answered. You are free to use literature you read while phrasing your answers. Apart from that participation on discussions as well as reading texts we agree to discuss will be of high importance for the grading.

Examination topics

Any subject of the lecture.

Reading list

Albright, Madeleine: Fascism. A Warning (London 2018).
Case, Anne/Deaton, Angus: Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism (Princeton, N. J. et al. 2020).
Donhauser, Gerhard: Nomos or Law? Hans Kelsen's Criticism of Carl Schmitt's Metaphysics of Law and Politics. In: Langford, Peter/Bryan, Ian/McGarry, John (eds.), Hans Kelsen and the Natural Law Tradition (Leiden 2019) 372 – 398.
Frances, Allen: Saving Normal. An Insider's Look at What Caused the Epidemic of Mental Illness and how to cure It (New York2013).
Harari, Yuval Noah: Homo Deus. A Brief History of Tomorrow (London 2016).
Marsh, Henry: Do No Harm (London 2014).
Mukherjee, Siddharta: The Emperor of All Maladies. A Biography of Cancer (New York 2010).
Silberman, Steve: Neurotribes.The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity (New York 2016).
Snyder, Timothy: Black Earth. The Holocaust as History and Warning (London 2015).

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 11.10.2021 10:49