Curriculum Vitae

SKIRBEKK, Gunnar (b. 1937, Norway), professor emeritus at the Department of Philosophy and the Center for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen.


Studies at the University of Oslo 1957-59, in Paris 1960-61 and in Tübingen 1961-62. Research assistant for Herbert Marcuse and Avrum Stroll at the University of California in San Diego (UCSD) 1966-67; dr.philos. at the University of Bergen in 1970; research at UCSD 1979-80, 1983, and 1991.

Academic career

Assistant teacher at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bergen 1962, associate professor in 1964, professor in the philosophy of the sciences and the humanities in 1979. Director of the Center for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities (established 1987) 1987-1991, 1995-1997, and 2001-2003.

Co-editor of Norsk filosofisk tidsskrift [Norwegian Philosophical Journal] 1979-1983; member of the editorial board of Praxis International 1980-1993, of Social Science Studies 1988-1994, member of the Overseas Correspondence Board of Chinese Social Sciences Quarterly from 1994, member of the editorial board of Redescriptions, Yearbook of Political Thought and Conceptual History from 2004. Together with Jürgen Habermas, Hilary Putnam († 2016) and Patrick Suppes (†2014), member of the advisory board of Philosophical Analysis (Shanghai) from 2010. Member of the board of Nordic institute of philosophy from 1981-1998. Member of the board of the Norwegian Research Council (NAVF) 1987-89. Member of the governmental commission for the freedom of expression, 1996-1999. Member of comité scientifique for Revue Noesis, at Centre de recherches en histoire des idées, Université de Nice – Sophia Antipolis, 2014. Member of international editorial board of Danish Yearbook of Philosophy, 2019.

Norwegian coordinator of “Marco Polo” 1994-2005, a program of comparative studies of cultural modernization in Europe and East Asia, etablished in 1994, at the University of Bergen and East China Normal University in Shanghai.

Professeur invité at the University of Nice - Sophia Antipolis, spring 1997. Professor at the department of philosophy, Freie Universität Berlin, 2000-2001. Advisory professor at East China Normal University from 1998. Fellow (Kurator) at the Hans-Jonas-Zentrum in Berlin from 1998. Fellow (Kurator) at the Centro filosofico internazionale Karl-Otto Apel from 2006.

The Lauritz Meltzer Award for most outstanding research at the University of Bergen in the period 1990-1996. Member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters and member of the Norwegian Academy for the Sciences and the Arts. Translated into more than 20 languages.

Themes and projects

Existentialism: the problem of evil and a search for universally valid principles, in a post-WWII-setting. Nihilisme? Eit ungt menneskes forsøk på å orientere seg, 1958; Nihilism? A Young Man’s Search for Meaning, 1972. Literary essays in Ord, 1984, and Undringa, 2002.

Praxeology: case-oriented studies of what is necessarily (and most often ‘tacitly’) presupposed in basic human acts of different kinds; early Heidegger versus late Wittgenstein. Praxeology. An Anthology, ed./co-auth., 1983.   

Theory of Truth: first, Heidegger’s theory of truth, in a critical analytic perspective, Dei filosofiske vilkår for sanning, 1966, Truth and Preconditions. An Interpretation of Heidegger’s Theory of Truth, 1970; later, by the pragmatic turn, focusing on arguments in public reasoning and self-reflection, both as to universality and contextuality (in between Apel, Habermas, and late Wittgenstein), e.g. Rationality and Modernity. Essays in Philosophical Pragmatics, 1993; Wahrheitstheorien, ed./co-auth., 1977; “Wahrheit und Begründung. Überlegungen zu epistemischen Begriffen und Praktiken“ in Reflexion und Verantwortung, co-ed./co-auth., 2003.

Transcendental Pragmatics, conceived melioristically, focusing on improvement, in critical self-reflection, public reasoning, and ‘thinking through examples’, e.g. by ‘arguments from absurdity’. Mutual learning-processes and mutual recognition as fallible and reasonable human beings, by discursive will-formation. E.g. Rationality and Modernity. Essays in Philosophical Pragmatics, 1993; Timely Thoughts. Modern Challenges and Philosophical Responses: Contributions to Inter-Cultural Dialogues, 2007; “On the Advantage and Disadvantage of Transcendental Pragmatics for Life. A historical perspective on the late Frankfurt School (Apel, Habermas, Wellmer)”, 2016.

Political theory: neo-marxism, alienation, critique of ideology, Nymarxisme og kritisk dialektikk, 1970; Er ideologiane døde? ed./co-auth., 1970. The notion of a Welfare State under difficult conditions, “The Idea of a Welfare State in a Future Scenario of Great Scarcity”, in The Rationality of the Welfare State, 1996: 28-54; updated version, Ideen om ein velferdsstat under vanskelege vilkår, 2015. The notion of citizenship in modern democracies haunted by multiple and complex crises. Personal autonomy (Mündigkeit) as a regulative idea. E.g. Krise og medansvar (Crisis and co-responsibility), 2016.

Eco-philosophy: Marxism and ecology, “Marxisme et écologie”, Esprit 11/1974, English version in The Greening of Marxism, 1996: 129-136. Science and ecology, “Technological expertise and global ethics in an age of scientization and ecological crisis”, Timely Thoughts, 2007. Capitalism and ecology, The Commercial Ark, co-ed./co-auth., 1992, The Notion of Sustainability, ed./co-auth., 1994, Økonomi, økologi, etikk, 1999. Ethical gradualism, in Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 31/1995; revised English version, “Ethical Gradualism, beyond Anthropocentrism and Biocentrism?” in Environment, Embodiment, and Gender, 2005: 149-177.

Philosophy of the sciences and the humanities: Objektivitetsproblemet i vitskapane, ed./co-auth., 1984. Vit og vitskap, 1998. Vitskapsteori – positive eller kritisk? 2004. “A crisis in the humanities?”, Timely Thoughts, 2007.  At Senter for vitskapsteori (Center for the studies of the sciences and the humanities), when it was established at the University of Bergen in 1987, there was a research project (financed by the Norwegian Research Council) called “Modernitet – differensiering og rasjonalisering” (Modernity – differentiation and rationalization, in a Weberian sense). See next theme:

Theory of Modernization, conceived in terms of development of different scientific/scholarly and practice-based forms of rationality and ‘tacit knowing’ (not merely instrumental rationality, but also interpretive and argumentative rationality), historically situated in decisive actors, institutions, and collective experiences. A focus on general modernization processes, but also on special ones – e.g. in Scandinavia: Multiple Modernities. A Tale of Scandinavian Experiences, 2011 (Norwegian version Norsk og moderne, 2010). These countries are characterized by general trust, rule of law, and a general and generous welfare state – how come? (Cf Francis Fukuyama’s ideal: “getting to Denmark!”) Also, in a modern world: general pathologies and challenges; imbalance between institutions; imbalance between institutions and their cultural preconditions; globalized, technology-based capitalism, with ecological challenges, and mass migration. Also in Krise og medansvar, 2016.

History of Western Thought: A history of philosophy from ancient Greece to the twentieth century, with special emphasis on the history of the sciences and the humanities and on political thinking. English version, A History of Western Thought, 2000, together with Nils Gilje. Available in 17 languages. Norwegian original, Filosofihistorie, first version 1970, 8th edition 2007.

Freedom of expression: its justification and challenges, Vit og vitskap, 1998: 88-128. Member of the Norwegian commission for the revision of § 100 (on freedom of expression) in the Norwegian Constitution (1993-1996). Freedom of expression as a precondition for science and democracy, not merely a “western value”. E.g. “On the normative foundation of the freedom of expression: the same freedom for all expressions?” in I første, andre og tredje person. Festskrift for Audun Øfsti, 1999: 319-326. “Ytringsfridom i ei globalisert verd. Med striden om Muhammed-teikningane friskt i minne: korleis kan vi grunngje rettsprinsippet om ytringsfridom i eit globalisert verdssamfunn? ” Årbok for Det norske videnskaps-akademi 2007:266-282.

Critique of Religion: the problem of evil in monotheism (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and its theological and practical implications (cf Nihilism? 1958). The inherent need for an open and enlightened critique of religion. The need to avoid unintended blasphemy among strong believers without cultural enlightenment. E.g.Herausforderungen der Moderne aus wissenschaftsphilosophischer Sicht, 2012. Challenges caused by a politicization of religion, without the moderating virtues of cultural enlightenment (be it in the Middle East or the Mid-West); especially in cases of “half-modernization” in terms of modern weaponry and means of communication and premodern mentalities and actions (as in ISIL and Boko Haram). Krise og medansvar, 2016: 67-120.

Crisis in the modern world: The modern world is in crisis, a double crisis, as it were: at the factual level, with various challenges that tend to interact and reinforce each other, and at the epistemic level, where no single science or expertise alone can grasp the complexity of what is going on. In this publication, such basic epistemic challenges are addressed, critically and constructively; and in this perspective four current cases are discussed and assessed, such as the United Nations Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. On this background, some proposals for epistemic and institutional improvements are considered. Cp. Gunnar Skirbekk, Epistemic Challenges in a Modern World.  From “fake news” and “post truth” to underlying epistemic challenges in science-based risk-societies. LIT Verlag, Zeitdiagnose, Zürich 2019.

Publications (Books)

- Nihilisme?, Oslo, 1958 (third ed. 1998; Engl. ed. 1972, second ed. 1998).

- Dei filosofiske vilkår for sanning. Ei tolking av Martin Heideggers sanningslære [The Philosophical Preconditions for Truth. An Interpretation of Martin Heidegger’s Theory of Truth], Oslo, 1966 (second ed. Bergen, 1999: Om sanninga sitt vesen).

- Er ideologiane døde? [Are Ideologies Dead?], ed. and co-author, Oslo, 1969.

- Nymarxisme og kritisk dialektikk [Neomarxism and Critical Dialectics], Oslo, 1970.

- Truth and Preconditions, Bergen, 1970.

- Innføring i politisk teori [Introduction to Political Theory], Bergen, 1970.

- Politisk filosofi [Political Philosophy], revised version of Innføring i politisk teori, Bergen, 1972, 2nd ed. 1976.

- Økologi og filosofi [Ecology and Philosophy], Oslo, 1972.

- Wahrheitstheorien, Frankfurt a.M., 1977, ed. and co-author.

- Filosofihistorie [A History of Western Thought], Bergen/Oslo, 1980, revised version of Politisk filosofi. New editions 1987, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2007. From 1987, together with Nils Gilje; ed. 2007, in collaboration with Anne Granberg, Cathrine Holst and Rasmus Slaattelid. German edition, 1993; Danish and Swedish editions, 1995; from the sixth ed. 1996 also in Bokmål; Icelandic edition, 1999; Russian, 2000; English, 2001; Uzbek, 2002 (new preface); Chinese, 2004 (new postscript by Shijun Tong); extended edition 2016; Tajik, 2004 (new preface); Turkish 2004; Azeri and French (new preface by Jean-Luc Gautero) 2010; Arabic (new preface) 2012; Korean 2016; Serb 2017; Iranian forthcoming.

- Praxeology. Oslo, 1983, ed. and co-author.

- Ord [Words], Oslo, 1984.

- Manuscripts on Rationality, Bergen, 1984; revised and enlarged version Bergen, 1992.

- Objektivitetsproblemet i vitskapane [Problem of Objectivity in Science], Bergen, 1984, ed. and co-author.

- Til Djevelens forsvar og andre essays [In Defence of the Devil, and other essays], Bergen, 1987.

- Die pragmatische Wende, Frankfurt a.M., 1987, co-ed. and co-author.

- Modernitet - rasjonalisering og differensiering [Modernity - Rationalization and Differentiation], Bergen, 1988, ed. and co-author.

- Vernunft und Verantwortung, Bergen, 1992.

- Kulturell modernitet og vitskapleg rasjonalitet [Cultural Modernity and Scientific Rationality], Bergen, 1992.

- Eco-Philosophical Manuscripts, Bergen, 1992.

- The Commercial Ark. A Book on Ecology, Evolution and Ethics, co-ed. and co-author, Oslo, 1992.

- Geschichte der Philosophie, Frankfurt a.M., 1993, together with Nils Gilje.

- Rationalité et Modernité, Paris, 1993.

- Rationality and Modernity, Essays in Pragmatic Philosophy, Oslo/Oxford, 1993.

- The Notion of Sustainability, Oslo, 1994, co-ed. and co-author.

- Philosophy Beyond Borders. An Anthology of Norwegian Philosophy, co-ed. and co-author, Bergen, 1997. Chinese edition 1999, extended edition 2016.

- Vit og vitskap. Postmodernistisk ord-bok om modernitetens babelske forvirring [Wisdom and science. Postmodernist word-book on the great confusion of modernity], Bergen, 1998.

- Une praxéologie de la modernité. Universalité et contextualité de la raison discursive, Paris, 1999.

- Øko-etikk [Eco-Ethics], Bergen, 1999.

- A History of Western Thought, together with Nils Gilje, London, 2001.

- Modernitetens makt og avmakt. Vitskapsteoretiske perspektiv på kunnskap og makt, Oslo, 2002.

- On Pragmatics – Contributions to Current Debates, ed. and co-author, Bergen, 2002.

- Undringa [Wonder], philosophical essays, Oslo, 2002.

- Praxeologie der Moderne, Weilerswist, 2002.

- Reflexion und Verantwortung. Auseinadersetzungen mit Karl-Otto Apel (Festschrift), co-ed. and co-author, Frankfurt a.M., 2003.

- Striden om sanningen [The Fight about Truth], ed., Gothenburg, 2004.

- Den filosofiske uroa [The philosophical restlessness], Oslo, 2005.

- Religion, Modernity, and Rationality, Bergen, 2006.

- Timely Thoughts. Modern Challenges and Philosophical Responses: Contributions to Inter-Cultural Dialogues, Lanham, 2007; in Chinese, Shi Dai Zhi Si, Shanghai, 2007.

- Rasjonalitet og modernitet, Oslo, 2009.

- Une histoire de la philosophie occidentale, together with Nils Gilje, Paris, 2010.

- Norsk og moderne, Oslo, 2010.

- Multiple Modernities. A Tale of Scandinavian Experiences, Hong Kong, 2011; in Chinese 2013.

- Herausforderungen der Moderne aus wissenschaftsphilosophischer Sicht, Berlin, 2012. 

- Notes in retrospect, Bergen, 2013.

- Ideen om ein velferdsstat under vanskelege vilkår [The idea of a welfarestate under difficult conditions], Bergen, 2015.

- Diskusjonsvegring og maktarroganse [Discussion refusal and arrogance of power], Bergen, 2015.

- Krise og medansvar. Politiske småskrifter [Crisis and co-responsibility], Oslo, 2016.

- Philosophie der Moderne, Weilerswist, 2017.

- Three Lectures, Bergen, 2018.

- Epistemic Challenges in a Modern World, Zürich 2019

Articles: home page.

Other activities: home page: links: cristin.

Norske artiklar: Norart

Information (in Norwegian):

Gunnar Skirbekk. En kronologisk bibliografi over forfatterskapet 1957-2003, ved Svein Sundbø.

Nasjonalbibliotekets bibliografier nr. 8, Oslo, 2003.

”Universalpragmatikeren. Om Gunnar Skirbekks 50-årige forfatterskap”, ved Svein Sundbø, Prosa 4/2007.

Gunnar Skirbekk – utdypning, ved Nils Gilje, Norsk biografisk leksikon.

Gunnar Skirbekk - Notes in retrospect (artikkel)

Marco Polo

Ad Meltzerprisen

Project: Multiple modernities: how to conceptualize processes of modernization.

              Crises in modern societies

Last update February 2nd 2020