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Die Doktorarbeit. Erinnerungen aus der Steinzeit der Orientalistik

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In this article, Josef van Ess describes the supervision process of his doctoral thesis, which was presented in Bonn in 1958 and subsequently published as Die Gedankenwelt des Hārit al-Muhāsibī in 1961. His supervisor was Hellmut Ritter (d.1971), at that time based in Frankfurt and Istanbul, who had suggested this focus on the writings of one of the eminent figures of the religious scene in the early Abbasid period. By making ample use of his correspondence with Ritter— related both to his doctoral thesis and to an article on al-Muhāsibī which he wrote for İslam Ansiklopedisi —van Ess highlights the specific ways in which Ritter engaged with the problems of philological analysis, scientific style and the authenticity of sources in the course of this study of al-Muhāsibī's life and works. The article sheds light on the changing attitudes expressed by Ritter towards the dissertation and its author—moving from reservation, outright rejection and critique towards gradual acceptance and well-meant advice. The article concludes with a discussion of the relevance of philology as a “handcraft” (Handwerk) rather than a “method” (Methode), and reflects on the path which university education has taken over the last fifty years.

Affiliations: 1: Tübingen


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