Anecdote as Philosophical Intervention: Hans Blumenberg’s Figure of the Absent-minded Phenomenologist

Spencer Hawkins


This article discusses anecdotes functions’ to express philosophical anxieties and skepticism towards philosophical generalizations. By taking up Hans Blumenberg’s work on the rhetoric of philosophical discourse, this article examines an unpublished one-page story written by Blumenberg about his advisor, phenomenologist Ludwig Landgrebe. The story becomes absurd when Landgrebe (identified as “L.”) uses his pocket-watch to time a ferry trip, which he is only taking in order to go home and search his house for the selfsame pocket-watch. The article interprets the story as an illustration both of Heideggerian Being-in-the-World and of Landgrebe’s little-known variation on Heidegger’s model. Blumenberg’s anecdote conveys a reductio ad absurdum of the notion that we only notice objects when they are not handy (zuhanden). Besides critiquing Heidegger and Landgrebe, the anecdote exposes problems of phenomenology that an argument would express less satisfactorily.

View Full Text

This article requires a subscription to view the full text. If you have a subscription you may use the login form below to view the article. Access to this article can also be purchased.

Purchase access

You may purchase access to this article. This will require you to create an account if you don't already have one.