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Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Detel



Research Interests:

History of theology and religion from the beginnings of Christianity to the High Middle Ages; Historiography; Concepts of time; Reception and Retrospection


Wolfgang Detel is professor emeritus of ancient philosophy and philosophy of science at the Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main. His research focuses on ancient philosophy (especially Plato and Aristotle), philosophy of science, and hermeneutics.

Project Abstract

Aristotle's Theory of Time: A New Reading


Aristotle's Theory of Time, as presented in his Physics Book IV, chapters 10-14, has been intensively and controversially debated. The new reading to be worked out in this project emphasizes, among other things, that Aristotle tries, not to deduce the structure of time form the structures of space and movement, as most commentators have it, but rather aims to introduce the main components of time in a logically consistent way by showing that for every pair in the order of the components, the first is a necessary condition for the second. In this way, we can see him building up a remarkably rich notion of time. Modern interpreters think that Aristotle's theory of time is doomed to fail because he is not able to explain the direction of time. The new reading shows that this objection is false. A third focus is to look at the way Aristotle combines subjective and objective notions of time, pretty much in the sense of McTaggarts distinction between the A-series and B-series of time in his seminal article published in Mind 1908.

Aristoxenos on Time and Rhythm


Aristoxenos was the most influential musicologist in ancient antiquity. But he was also a philosopher who studied with Aristotle. This project explores, in which way Aristoxenos applied Aristotle's theory of time to the theory of musical rhythm. It may very well turn out that rhythm is, according to Aristoxenos, a special version of time in the Aristotelian sense - specialized, that is, to the case of movements of the singing voice and the dancing body. In any case it is rather fascinating to see how an ancient musicologist in thinking about musical time invests the most advanced general theory of time available to him. This attitude is clearly missing in modern studies on musical time.

Curriculum vitae

Current academic position:

Professor Emeritus, Chair for philosophy, Department of Philosophy at the Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany: Lecturer, Departmant of Philosophy , University of Bremen



Classics (master), mathematics (master), philosophy (PhD), at the universities of Tuebingen, Mannheim and Hamburg

PhD thesis on Plato 1972, University of Mannheim (advisors Prof.Dr.R.Specht, Prof.Dr. Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker)

Former positions:

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Mannheim University, 1973-1976

Professor of Philosophy (tenure), Department of Philosophy, Hamburg University, 1976

Visiting Professor, Department of Philosophy, Princeton University, 1984 (fall), and at Rutgers, 1985 (spring)

Senior Visiting Fellow, Center for Philosophy of Science, Pittsburgh University, 1988 (fall) - 1989 (spring)

Visiting Professoer, Department of Philosophy, University of Reijkjavik, Iceland, 1990 (fall)

Visiting Professor, Department of Philosophy, Columbia University New York, 1991 (spring)

Chair for Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main, 1991

Senior Visiting Fellow, Center for Philosophy of Science, Pittsburgh University, 1996 (spring)

Selected Publications

Ancient Philosophy

(1993) Aristoteles: Analytica Posteriora. Einleitung, Übersetzung und Kommentar, von W. Detel. Aristoteles, Werke (hrg.v. H.Flashar) 3, II; 2 Bd., Berlin

(2005) Aristoteles, Leipzig

(2009) Aristoteles Metaphysik VII – VIII. Griechisch-Deutsch (Einleitung, Übersetzung (unter Mitarbeit von J. Wildgruber) und Kommentar), Frankfurt / Main

(2011) Aristoteles, Analytica Posteriora. Griechisch-Deutsch (Einleitung, Übersetzung und Anmerkungen), Reinbek bei Hamburg


II Contemporary Philosophy

(2005) Foucault and Classical Antiquity, Cambridge (verb. engl. Version von Detel (1998))

(2011) Geist und Verstehen. Historische Grundlagen einer modernen Hermeneutik, Frankfurt / Main, Klostermann

(2014) Kognition, Parsen, Interpretation. Elemente einer allgemeinen Hermeneutik, Frankfurt / Main, lostermann

(2015) Hermeneutik der Literatur und Theorie des Geistes Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann

(2018) Eine schulenübergreifende Systematik der modernen Psychoanalyse. Seelenmodell, Hermeneutik, Therapie Gießen: Psychosozial-Verlag

(2018) Warum wir nichts über Gott wissen können. Ein Beitrag zum religiösen Agnostizismus Hamburg: Meiner

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