ALBERT Hans—a sociologist and philosopher, b. in 1921 in Cologne.
From 1952 to 1958, Hans Albert was an assistant in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Cologne. In 1957 he completed his habilitation there, and starting in 1963 he was a professor in the Department of Sociology and Economy at the University of Mannheim. From 1961 to 1969, he participated in sociological debates on positivism in science (Positivismusstreit). In 1989 he retired from academic work and presently lives in Heidelberg.
His most important works are: Traktat über kritische Vernunft (T 1968, 19804, fragments of Chapter V (17-18) have been translated in Polish in Wiara i wiedza. Teologia i idea podwójnej prawdy [Faith and knowledge. Theology and the idea of double truth], Nomos 12–13 (1997), 53–67); Konstruktion und Kritik (H 1972); Transcendentale Träumerin. Karl Otto Apel und sein hermeneutischer Gott (H, 1975); Kritische Vernunft und menschliche Praxis (T 1978); Das Elend der Theologie (H 1979); Die Wissdenschaft und die Fehlbarkiet der Vernunft (T 1982); Freiheit und Ordnung (T 1986); Kritik der reinen Erkenntnislehre (T 1987); Paul Feyerabend—Hans Albert Briefwechsel (F 1997); Konflikt pomiędzy nauką a religią: metafizyka religijna i naukowy obraz świata jako alternatywy [Conflict between science and religion: religious metaphysics and the scientific image of the world as alternatives], (Nomos 20–21 (1998), 5–30); Between Social Science, Religion and Politics. Essays in Critical Rationalism (A 1999); Kritischer Rationalismus (T 2000).
In philosophy, Hans Albert represents Karl Popper’s position of critical rationalism. In his works he presents the idea of the so-called Münchhausen-Trilemma (Münchausen’s trilemma), which takes up and, in Albert’s opinion, satisfactorily resolves the classical problem of rational justification in the theory of knowledge. In every rational justification, we should first provide a rational justification for the reasons that serve the purpose of rational justification, and this process has no end—the only “grasp” that halts this process is an appeal to common sense, or to fundamental or primary principles, etc.. Then, however, the project of certain justification is not obligatory. The third "back street" of the trilemma is the application of circular arguments. This presentation of the problem of rational justification was intended as an appeal to a critical attitude. The downfalls of all systems based on certain rational justification is an additional argument (e.g., Transzendentale Träumerain; Hans Albert discusses the ideas of K. O. Apel). Albert seems to proclaim a position of openness in thought and discussion. He seems to refute all theses, but also to accept reasons set forth by others in order then to refute them. In this context, we may speak of Albert’s “imperious criticism”.
Albert tried to show how the critical attitude could be applied in practical situations. He regarded the critical attitude to knowledge as the oldest and most noteworthy European tradition. From the times of the positivistic debate in which Albert played an active role, he thought that it was impossible to reconcile positivism with critical rationalism.
G. M. Mojse, Wissenschftstheorie und Ethik, Diskussion bei Hans A., Bo 1979; K. H. Weger, Vom Elend des kritischen Rationalismus, Regensburg 1981; P. Suchle, Kritischer Rationalismus in theologischer Prüfung, F 1982; A. Vethaus, Hans Albert Kritik am Offenarungsgedenken, F 1986; E. Hilgendorf, Hans Albert zur Einführung, H 1997.