Books in English

Gunnar Skirbekk


A Young Man’s Search for Meaning

Translated by Knut Erik Tranøy.

Norwegian title: Nihilisme?

First published: University of Bergen 1972

Second edition: SVT Press 1998

Allégt 32

N-5020 Bergen

Design and typeset by Tom Klev

ISBN 82-7907-003-6




The First Bastion. Introduction and Background

The Problem of Evil

The Wheel

Two Perspectives

A Point of Departure

Gunnar Skirbekk


Ariadne (Bergen) 1992

ISBN 82-90477-22-8


The basic concern of these essays is that of the ‘incarnation of our thoughts’, or the situatedness of reason, understood in terms of the discursive tension between universal pragmatics, as in Apel and Habermas, and contextual praxeology, as in Wittgenstein. The common position is one in favour of a ‘post-skeptical rationality’.




1) Technological Expertise and Global Ethics

1.1) What about Culture?

2) Cultural Decolonization?

2.1) Pluralism and Modernity

3) The Beauty and the Beast

4) Property and Interdependence

5) Ethical Gradualism?

6) Truth

7) On the Normative Foundation of Science

8) A Critique of Pragmatic Reason



Gunnar Skirbekk


Ariadne (Bergen) 1992

ISBN 82-90477-27-9


This is a collection of essay in applied ethics. The author elaborates his programmatic notion of rationality by discussing cases related to our environment and lifeworld, that is, to our oikos – hence, “eco-philosophical manuscripts”.




Ecological Crisis and Technological Expertise

Science and Ethics

A Crisis in the Humanities?

Political Culture

Eco-Crisis and the Welfare State

A Pragmatic Notion of Nature

Gunnar Skirbekk


Essays in Philosophical Pragmatics

Scandinavian University Press/Oxford University Press 1993

ISBN 82-00-21718-3


Rationality and Modernity focuses on the philosophical discussion of rationality and basic norms. Its perspective is that of the ‘pragmatic turn’ and its discursive dimension that of a mutual criticism between hermeneutic contextualism and trans-contextual pragmatics.

With present day critical theory as his philosophical horizon, Skirbekk discusses in particular the significant contributions of Apel, Habermas, and in this connection, also Wittgenstein.

The common aim of these essays in philosophical pragmatics is to make visible, theoretically and practically, a way of thinking which brings together contextual praxeology and universal pragmatics.




Praxeological Reflections

Arguments from Absurdity

Pragmatism and Pragmatics

Madness and Reason

Contextual and Universal Pragmatics

The Pragmatic Notion of Nature

Ethical Gradualism and Discourse Ethics

Modernization of the Lifeworld

Rationality and Contextuality


Gunnar Skirbekk and Nils Gilje


From ancient Greece to the twentieth century

Routledge 2001

Translated by Ronald Worley

ISBN 0-415-22073-4 (paper)

ISBN 0-415-22072-6 (hard cover)


A History of Western Thought is a comprehensive introduction to the history of Western philosophy from the pre-Socratics to the twentieth century. Along with in-depth discussion of all the major philosophical movements, Skirbekk and Gilje also look at the historical factors that have influenced Western philosophy, including the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, as well as political ideologies such as liberalism, socialism and fascism.

It is an ideal introduction for anyone coming to the history of western thought for the first time.


Areas covered include:



the Middle Ages

the Renaissance and realpolitik

doubt and belief


the Enlightenment

Utilitarianism and liberalism






Nietzsche and pragmatism

Socialism and fascism

Freud and psychoanalysis

The rise of the social sciences

A glance at contemporary philosophy

modernity and crisis


“Not only is this an excellent history of philosophical thought, it also opens the door to a far wider range of thinkers than many introductions and histories. For this, the authors deserve special praise.” Alastair Hannay, University of Oslo


"I have read Gunnar Skirbekk's History of Philosophy in the first German translation of 1993 - it was a translation from the fourth Norwegian edition of 1987. These dates alone are telling. There are good reasons for the fact, that these two volumes are both best-sellers and long-sellers: they present us with the most interesting and innovative history of Western Philosophy I know of. The author is an original mind who never writes in the style of a mere history of ideas but presents each of them as a result of interconnected problem-solving processes." Jürgen Habermas, May 2015.


Cf the Norwegian original, Filosofihistorie.

Gunnar Skirbekk


Published in 2006 by

SVT Press

Allégt. 32, N-5020 Bergen


ISBN 978-82-7907-005-4


To what extent is religion modern?

To what extent is modernity rational?

And what is rational about rationality?


These are the three underlying questions of these three essays, presented in Shanghai in September 2006, within the framework of the “Marco Polo” research program for comparative studies of processes of cultural modernization in Europe and East Asia:


“Religion and Modernity”


“Alternative Processes of Modernization?”


“Truth and Justification”

Gunnar Skirbekk


Moderen Challenges and Philosophical Responses: Contributions to Inter-Cultural Dialogues

University Press of America 2007

ISBN 13-978-0-7618-3776-3








(1) The Modernity Debate: Rationality – universal and plural?

A praxeological contribution to the debate between universalist modernists and contextualist postmodernists

(2) A Crisis in the Humanities?

The challenges of culture in modern societies

(3) Technological Expertise and Global Ethics in an age of a scientization and ecological crisis

(4) Ethical Gradualism beyond Anthropocentrism and Biocentrism?

(5) On the Possibility of a Philosophical Justification for Universally Binding Principles in an age of one-state supremacy and shrinking inter-state institutions

(6) Procedural Universality, “Bottom Up”



Gunnar Skirbekk


A Tale of Scandinavian Experiences

Hong Kong, The Chinese University Press, 2011

ISBN 978-962-996-487-0


Multiple Modernities approaches the concept of modernity through two historical phases of Norway. The first study focuses on the interplay between Lutheran state officials and popular movements in the nineteenth century as an essential aspect of the growth of social democracy. The second examination of modernization centers on twenthieth-century Norway after World War II. The book is balanced between theoretical remarks on conceptual issues, an assessment of modernization processes, and a study of basic epistemic and structural challenges that confront us in our time. Scandinavian countries are often noted as cases of successful modernization processes. However, these references to a "Scandinavian model" tend to focus on the mid-twentieth century after World War II. In Skirbekk’s view, the uniqueness of modernization processes in Scandinavia, for instance in Norway, is better conceived historically, not least by focusing on the nineteenth century with a continuation into the twentieth century.

Gunnar Skirbekk


for my Chinese friends

SVT Press, Bergen, 2013

ISBN 978-82-7907-007-8




Introductory remarks

(A) Background

(B) Nihilism?

(C) Post-WWII: the intellectual constellation

(D) Philosophy in Norway after the War

(i) General remarks

(ii) Examen philosophicum – a Norwegian phenomenon

(E) Philosophy as communicative practice

(i) Fallibilism and egalitarian culture

(ii) Philosophy by travelling around

(F) Philosophy by profession – university and politics

(i) At the University of Bergen

(ii) Achievements and decline

(G) A History of Western Thought

(i) Background

(ii) Pedagogical approach

(iii) Other people start using the book

(iv) Resistance

(v) Translation and publication abroad

(vi) A popular book, but why?

(H) Transcendental-pragmatics, gradualist and meliorist, and the discussion about conceptual adequacy

(I) SVT – Center for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities

(J) Modernization theory

(K) Marco Polo

(L) Places and persons

(i) University of California San Diego

(ii) Dubrovnik

(iii) The French connection

(iv) The German connection

(v) Russo-Ukrainian connections

(vi) Nordic connections

(vii) China

Final remarks


Gunnar Skirbekk


Published in 2018 by

SVT Press

Parkveien 9

Bergen, Norway

ISBN 978-82-7907-011-5


Why is argumentative reason essential, in modern societies?

Why is freedom of expression a precondition for these societies?

Modernization processes in Scandinavia, why are they special?



1.Argumentative Reason

In a modernization-theoretical perspective


2.Freedom of Expression

A normative justification of the legal protection of freedom of expression


3.Processes of Modernization

Scandinavian Experiences