Gerda Walther
  • introduction

    While her writings on social ontology and phenomenology proper make up only a small portion of her vast corpus, Gerda Walther made numerous lasting contributions to the field pioneered by her teachers, Edmund Husserl and Alexander Pfänder. Echoes of her early interests in the philosophy of Karl Marx and sociology can be found in Zur Ontologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften, wherein Walther expands on Pfänder’s concept of “inner joining” in order to explain how communities are formed. This work has made its way into contemporary discussions of social ontology. However, there is much work to be done in terms of critically engaging with Walther’s work on abnormal psychology, her concept of the person, and her analyses of religious and mystical experience.

    Women were key members of the early phenomenological movement, and played important roles in each of the Göttingen, Munich, and Freiburg Phenomenological Circles. Our aim at the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists is to highlight the important contributions to phenomenology and ontology made by these women, and to bring their work into dialogue with their contemporaries and with current philosophical debates.

    By reading Walther alongside her phenomenological teachers and contemporaries, we hope to develop a comprehensive view of her philosophical project.


  • Philosopher's Profile

    Gerda Walther was born on 18 March 1897, in Nordrach, Germany. She was the daughter of Otto Walther and Ragnhild Bajer. At a young age, Walther became interested in Marxism and socialism, following the interests of her father, who was a well-known social democrat and Marxist. Walther enrolled at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in WS 1915/16 to study politics and sociology. During her first year in Munich, Walther came under the influence of Alexander Pfänder and her attention shifted to philosophy and psychology. Early in her studies, Pfänder introduced Walther to the work of Edmund Husserl.

    In 1917, Walther transferred from Munich to the University of Freiburg to study with Husserl. There she took courses not only with Husserl, but with Martin Heidegger and Edith Stein. In WS 1918/19, Walther gave the inaugural lecture of the Freiburg Circle – “Zur Problematik von Husserls reinem Ich” – and established herself as a voice to be taken seriously within the phenomenological movement. During her time in Freiburg, Walther also underwent what we might a spiritual encounter that played a role in shaping her future interests in religious experience, mysticism, and abnormal psychology. In the fall of 1919, Walther returned to Munich to complete her dissertation under the direction of Pfänder, and enrolled in courses with Mortiz Geiger and Max Weber as well. On 10 March, 1921. Walther defended her dissertation, Ein Beitrag zur Ontologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften, and was awarded her doctorate summa cum laude. This work was published in Husserl’s Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung in 1923.

    In October 1922, she moved to Heidelberg to begin work on her habilitation under the supervision of Karl Jaspers. However, this project was abandoned due to personal financial troubles. Nevertheless, in 1923 Walther published her magnum opus Zur Phänomenologie der Mystik. In the years that followed, Walther took a series of jobs, including one at a state mental hospital. Her experiences in this position led to the authoring of the essay “Zur innen psychischen Struktur der Schizophrenie”, published in 1927. Walther enjoyed some notoriety based on this piece, which led to her obtaining positions first as an assistant to Hanz Prinzhorn, and then to the psychiatrist and parapsychologist Albert von Schrenck-Notzing. From then on, Walther’s work focused almost exclusively on parapsychology. Throughout her life, she worked on an autobiography, which was finally published in 1960 under the title Zum anderen Ufer: Vom Marxismus und Atheismus zum Christentum. Walther died on 6 January 1977.

  • Project: No mere mystic. Walther's reflections on the Ego and Person

    by Dr. Rodney K.P. Parker

    In her phenomenological writings, Gerda Walther devotes considerable effort to elaborating a concept of the person. The aim of this project is to uncover the background considerations which motivate Walther’s work in this area. On the one hand, we know that Walther was critical of Husserl’s concept of the pure ego, and Walther’s reflections on the ego-center and self are a response to the Master. On the other hand, we know that her interests in Marxism, the problem of free-will, and Pfänder’s thoughts on social communities also played an important role in her thinking at this time.

    By studying the contents of Walther’s unpublished Nachlass alongside her published writings, we hope to give a systematic account of her reflections on the ego and the person, and identify the philosophical problem she was hoping to address. In this way, we will show that Walther was no mere mystic, and that her writings on religious experience and abnormal psychology are part of a broader philosophical project.

  • Project: Walther’s Contributions to Social Ontology

    by Julia Mühl

    This project focuses on Walther’s investigations into social communities. In her dissertation, Ein Beitrag zur Ontologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften (1922), Walther analyzed the essential characteristics of a social community and wanted to work out how individuals are connected within a social community. This research project at the Center HWPS takes a closer look at her dissertation and examines topics such as the essential characteristic of a social community, which Walther calls “inner joining”, the concept of we-experiences, and the relation between individuals and community. In order to clarify these aspects of Walther’s philosophy, it is necessary to consider the ideas and concepts of philosophers and socialists at Walther’s time who influenced her work, such as Husserl, Pfänder, Stein, Conrad-Martius, Scheler, and Adler. With the help of these investigations, this project will illustrate that Walther’s work on social communities contributes to and enriches the current debate on social ontology.

  • Select Bibliography

    Walther, Gerda 1922. Ein Beitrag zur Ontologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften: Mit einem Anhang zur Phänomenologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften. Halle: Niemeyer.

    Walther, Gerda 1923. Zur Phänomenologie der Mystik. Halle: Niemeyer.

    Walther, Gerda 1927. Zur innenpsychischen Struktur der Schizophrenie. Zeitschrift für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie 108, 56-85.

    Walther, Gerda 1928. Ludwig Klages und sein Kampf gegen den “Geist”. Philosophischer Anzeiger 3(1), 48-90.

    Walther, Gerda 1960. Zum anderen Ufer: Vom Marxismus und Atheismus zum Christentum. Remagen: Reichl.

     

  • Nachlass

    The Nachlass of Gerda Walther is divided between the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (BSB) in Munich (signature Ana 317) and the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene in Freiburg. Ana 317 is comprised of 130 large boxes and 20 additional folders. The collection at the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene contains a small portion of Walther’s personal correspondence.

     

  • Media
    Dr. Susi Ferrarello (University of San Francisco) presents two talks with our researchers Dr. Rodney Parker and Julia Mühl:

    Phenomenology of Mystical Experience – Mühl on Gerda Walther’s Philosophy

    “A beautiful overview of Walther’s phenomenology.What’s a soul and how does it differ from spirit? How can we experience God? Is there just one God? These and more questions will be addressed in this talk.”

     

    Parker & Mühl in Dialogue on Walther’s Phenomenology of Mysticism

     

  • introduction

    While her writings on social ontology and phenomenology proper make up only a small portion of her vast corpus, Gerda Walther made numerous lasting contributions to the field pioneered by her teachers, Edmund Husserl and Alexander Pfänder. Echoes of her early interests in the philosophy of Karl Marx and sociology can be found in Zur Ontologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften, wherein Walther expands on Pfänder’s concept of “inner joining” in order to explain how communities are formed. This work has made its way into contemporary discussions of social ontology. However, there is much work to be done in terms of critically engaging with Walther’s work on abnormal psychology, her concept of the person, and her analyses of religious and mystical experience.

    Women were key members of the early phenomenological movement, and played important roles in each of the Göttingen, Munich, and Freiburg Phenomenological Circles. Our aim at the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists is to highlight the important contributions to phenomenology and ontology made by these women, and to bring their work into dialogue with their contemporaries and with current philosophical debates.

    By reading Walther alongside her phenomenological teachers and contemporaries, we hope to develop a comprehensive view of her philosophical project.


  • Philosopher's Profile

    Gerda Walther was born on 18 March 1897, in Nordrach, Germany. She was the daughter of Otto Walther and Ragnhild Bajer. At a young age, Walther became interested in Marxism and socialism, following the interests of her father, who was a well-known social democrat and Marxist. Walther enrolled at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in WS 1915/16 to study politics and sociology. During her first year in Munich, Walther came under the influence of Alexander Pfänder and her attention shifted to philosophy and psychology. Early in her studies, Pfänder introduced Walther to the work of Edmund Husserl.

    In 1917, Walther transferred from Munich to the University of Freiburg to study with Husserl. There she took courses not only with Husserl, but with Martin Heidegger and Edith Stein. In WS 1918/19, Walther gave the inaugural lecture of the Freiburg Circle – “Zur Problematik von Husserls reinem Ich” – and established herself as a voice to be taken seriously within the phenomenological movement. During her time in Freiburg, Walther also underwent what we might a spiritual encounter that played a role in shaping her future interests in religious experience, mysticism, and abnormal psychology. In the fall of 1919, Walther returned to Munich to complete her dissertation under the direction of Pfänder, and enrolled in courses with Mortiz Geiger and Max Weber as well. On 10 March, 1921. Walther defended her dissertation, Ein Beitrag zur Ontologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften, and was awarded her doctorate summa cum laude. This work was published in Husserl’s Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung in 1923.

    In October 1922, she moved to Heidelberg to begin work on her habilitation under the supervision of Karl Jaspers. However, this project was abandoned due to personal financial troubles. Nevertheless, in 1923 Walther published her magnum opus Zur Phänomenologie der Mystik. In the years that followed, Walther took a series of jobs, including one at a state mental hospital. Her experiences in this position led to the authoring of the essay “Zur innen psychischen Struktur der Schizophrenie”, published in 1927. Walther enjoyed some notoriety based on this piece, which led to her obtaining positions first as an assistant to Hanz Prinzhorn, and then to the psychiatrist and parapsychologist Albert von Schrenck-Notzing. From then on, Walther’s work focused almost exclusively on parapsychology. Throughout her life, she worked on an autobiography, which was finally published in 1960 under the title Zum anderen Ufer: Vom Marxismus und Atheismus zum Christentum. Walther died on 6 January 1977.

  • Project: No mere mystic. Walther's reflections on the Ego and Person

    by Dr. Rodney K.P. Parker

    In her phenomenological writings, Gerda Walther devotes considerable effort to elaborating a concept of the person. The aim of this project is to uncover the background considerations which motivate Walther’s work in this area. On the one hand, we know that Walther was critical of Husserl’s concept of the pure ego, and Walther’s reflections on the ego-center and self are a response to the Master. On the other hand, we know that her interests in Marxism, the problem of free-will, and Pfänder’s thoughts on social communities also played an important role in her thinking at this time.

    By studying the contents of Walther’s unpublished Nachlass alongside her published writings, we hope to give a systematic account of her reflections on the ego and the person, and identify the philosophical problem she was hoping to address. In this way, we will show that Walther was no mere mystic, and that her writings on religious experience and abnormal psychology are part of a broader philosophical project.

  • Project: Walther’s Contributions to Social Ontology

    by Julia Mühl

    This project focuses on Walther’s investigations into social communities. In her dissertation, Ein Beitrag zur Ontologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften (1922), Walther analyzed the essential characteristics of a social community and wanted to work out how individuals are connected within a social community. This research project at the Center HWPS takes a closer look at her dissertation and examines topics such as the essential characteristic of a social community, which Walther calls “inner joining”, the concept of we-experiences, and the relation between individuals and community. In order to clarify these aspects of Walther’s philosophy, it is necessary to consider the ideas and concepts of philosophers and socialists at Walther’s time who influenced her work, such as Husserl, Pfänder, Stein, Conrad-Martius, Scheler, and Adler. With the help of these investigations, this project will illustrate that Walther’s work on social communities contributes to and enriches the current debate on social ontology.

  • Select Bibliography

    Walther, Gerda 1922. Ein Beitrag zur Ontologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften: Mit einem Anhang zur Phänomenologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften. Halle: Niemeyer.

    Walther, Gerda 1923. Zur Phänomenologie der Mystik. Halle: Niemeyer.

    Walther, Gerda 1927. Zur innenpsychischen Struktur der Schizophrenie. Zeitschrift für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie 108, 56-85.

    Walther, Gerda 1928. Ludwig Klages und sein Kampf gegen den “Geist”. Philosophischer Anzeiger 3(1), 48-90.

    Walther, Gerda 1960. Zum anderen Ufer: Vom Marxismus und Atheismus zum Christentum. Remagen: Reichl.

     

  • Nachlass

    The Nachlass of Gerda Walther is divided between the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (BSB) in Munich (signature Ana 317) and the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene in Freiburg. Ana 317 is comprised of 130 large boxes and 20 additional folders. The collection at the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene contains a small portion of Walther’s personal correspondence.

     

  • Media
    Dr. Susi Ferrarello (University of San Francisco) presents two talks with our researchers Dr. Rodney Parker and Julia Mühl:

    Phenomenology of Mystical Experience – Mühl on Gerda Walther’s Philosophy

    “A beautiful overview of Walther’s phenomenology.What’s a soul and how does it differ from spirit? How can we experience God? Is there just one God? These and more questions will be addressed in this talk.”

     

    Parker & Mühl in Dialogue on Walther’s Phenomenology of Mysticism