Hans Köchler

Hans Köchler

Hans Köchler
Born (1948-10-18) 18 October 1948
Schwaz, Tyrol, Austria
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Phenomenology
Existential philosophy
Continental philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of law
Political philosophy
Philosophical anthropology
Notable ideas
Transcendental realism
Dialectic of power and law
Cultural self-comprehension

Hans Köchler (born 18 October 1948) is a retired professor of philosophy at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and president of the International Progress Organization, a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the United Nations. In his general philosophical outlook he is influenced by Husserl and Heidegger, his legal thinking has been shaped by the approach of Kelsen. Köchler has made contributions to phenomenology [1][2] and philosophical anthropology[3] and has developed a hermeneutics of trans-cultural understanding [4] that has influenced the discourse on the dialogue of civilizations,[5] particularly as regards the relations between Islam and the West.[6][7] His research in political and legal philosophy—combined with his involvement with the UN—has resulted in a fundamental critique of the state-centered international system and in specific proposals for the democratization of the United Nations Organization[8] and for a viable system of international criminal justice.[9]

Early life and academic career

In his student years, Hans Köchler was actively involved as a Board Member of the European Forum Alpbach and established contacts with leading European intellectuals and philosophers such as Manès Sperber, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Rudi Supek of the Praxis school who he invited to his lecture series that he organized from 1969 onwards.[10] At the beginning of the 1970s, he had joined the team around Otto Molden, the founder of the European Forum Alpbach. These were his formative philosophical years; he initially developed an interest in existential philosophy, transcendental philosophy and phenomenology. In particular, he undertook an epistemological critique of Husserl's transcendental idealism][11] and interpreted Heidegger's philosophy of Being in the sense of social critique,[12] opening up—in the Cold War era—a dialogue with humanist philosophers of the Praxis school in Yugoslavia and in Czechoslovakia.[13] As a doctoral student, he also had met in Alpbach with Ernst Bloch, Arthur Koestler and Karl Popper.

In 1972, Köchler graduated at the University of Innsbruck with a doctor degree in philosophy (Dr. phil.) with highest honours ("sub auspiciis praesidentis rei publicae"). In the years following his graduation he expanded his scholarly interest to philosophy of law and later political philosophy.[14] Since the early 1970s he has been promoting the idea of inter-cultural dialogue which—since the last decade—has become known under the slogan of dialogue of civilizations. Köchler first outlined his hermeneutical philosophy of dialogue and his concept of cultural self-comprehension in lectures at the University of Innsbruck (1972)[15] and at the Royal Scientific Society in Amman, Jordan, in March 1974 [16] and discussed that notion in a tour around the world (March–April 1974) for which he got support and encouragement from Austrian Foreign Minister Rudolf Kirchschläger (later to become President of Austria) and in the course of which he met with intellectuals and political leaders on all continents. Among his interlocutors were Yussef el-Sebai, Minister of Culture of Egypt,[17] Prof. S. Nurul Hasan, Minister of Education, Social Welfare and Culture of India, Prince Subhadradis Diskul of Thailand, Charoonphan Israngkul Na Ayudhya, Foreign Minister of Thailand, Prof. Ida Bagus Mantra, Director-General for Culture of Indonesia, and the President of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor.[18] In recognition of his contribution to the dialogue among civilizations he received an honorary doctor degree (Doctor of Humanities honoris causa) from the Mindanao State University (Philippines) (2004).[19] In 2012 he received an honorary doctor degree from the Armenian State Pedagogical University.

Hans Köchler, right, with French poet Jean Genet who was his guest in Vienna, Austria, for a reading from his text on Palestine in December 1983

In 1982 he was appointed as University Professor of Philosophy (with special emphasis on Political Philosophy and Philosophical Anthropology) at the University of Innsbruck. From 1990 until 2008 he has served as Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Innsbruck (Austria). At his University, Professor Köchler also has acted as Chairperson of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Wissenschaft und Politik (Working Group for Sciences and Politics) since 1971; he was a member of the Doctoral Grants Committee of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (2000–2006) and is Life Fellow—since 2010 Co-President—of the International Academy for Philosophy. Since 2010 he is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Indian Yearbook of International Law and Policy.

Additional professorships:

Köchler is the recipient of numerous honours and awards such as the History Medal of the Austrian College Society; the award "Apostle of International Understanding" (Unity International Foundation, India); the Honorary Medal of the International Peace Bureau (Geneva); the Honorary Medal of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines; the Royal Datoship of the Sultanate of Marawi (Muslim Mindanao); the Medal of David the Invincible by the Armenian Philosophical Academy; the Gusi Peace Prize (2014). On 18 October 2003 the Hans Koechler Political and Philosophical Society was established in the Philippines.[21]


Hans Köchler, left, and Polish philosopher Adam Schaff at the European Forum Alpbach, August 1980

During the 1970s, he co-operated with Cardinal Karol Wojtyła of Kraków, later to become Pope John Paul II, within the framework of the International Society for Phenomenology.[22] He published the first comment articles on the future Pope's anthropological conception.[23] During the 1980s he engaged in a critique of legal positivism (Philosophie—Recht—Politik, 1985) and developed a theory according to which human rights are the basis of the validity of international law (Die Prinzipien des Völkerrechts und die Menschenrechte, 1981). He also dealt with the applicability of democracy in inter-state relations (Democracy in International Relations, 1986). Legal theory led him to questions of political philosophy, and in particular a critique of the representative paradigm of democracy. During the 1990s Köchler got increasingly involved in questions of world order—including the role and philosophical foundations of civilizational dialogue—and in what he has called the dialectic relationship between power and law. On the basis of these reflections, he made major proposals for the reform of the United Nations Organization, in particular the Security Council, and for a comprehensive system of international criminal justice.

Köchler's bibliography contains more than 600 books, reports and scholarly articles in several languages (Albanian, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Spanish, Serbo-Croat, Turkish). His publications deal with issues of phenomenology, existential philosophy, anthropology, human rights, philosophy of law, theory of international law, international criminal law, United Nations reform, theory of democracy, etc. He acts as editor of the series Studies in International Relations (Vienna), Veröffentlichungen der Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Wissenschaft und Politik (Innsbruck), and as member of the Editorial Board of the international academic journal Hekmat va Falsafeh (Wisdom and Philosophy), published by the Philosophy Department of Allameh Tabatabaii University, Iran.

Köchler has served in several committees and expert groups dealing with issues of international democracy, human rights and development such as the Research Network on Transnational Democracy sponsored by the European Commission; the Council of Europe's Expert Group on Democratic Citizenship (1998–2000); and the Asia-Europe Foundation’s expert meeting on Cultural, Religious and Social Conceptions of Justice in Asia & Europe (Singapore, 2004).

Köchler calls in his research paper "The “Global War on Terror” and its Implications for Muslim-Western Relations " presented during the International Roundtable Conference at the University of Sains Malaysia, Centre for Policy Research and International Studies (CenPRIS) Penang, Malaysia, during 13–14 December 2007, the "official narrative" of 9/11, told by the American authorities, an "official conspiracy theory".[24] Moreover, he claims that the Western establishment refuses to investigate what really happened on 9/11 and this is part of a collective denial process.[25]

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

Köchler is the Founder and President (since 1972) of the International Progress Organization (I.P.O.), an international non-governmental organization (NGO) in consultative status with the United Nations and with a membership in over 70 countries, representing all continents. He was the founder and Secretary-General (1973-1977) of Euregio Alpina (Study Group for the Alpine Region), a transnational planning structure for the Alpine region and predecessor of the new concept of the "Euro Regions" in the framework of the European Union. During the 1970s and 1980s Köchler participated in the international phenomenological movement and organized several conferences and colloquia on the phenomenology of the life-world; he was the organizer of the Eighth International Phenomenological Conference in Salzburg (1980) and is the co-founder of the Austrian Society of Phenomenology. Other activities or functions:[26]

International impact

Köchler has been the organizer of major international conferences in the fields of transnational co-operation, democracy, human rights, terrorism, and conflict resolution, among them the "International Conference on the European Vocation of the Alpine Region" in Innsbruck (1971), which initiated transborder co-operation in Europe and the development towards the "Euro Regions" within the EU; the "International Conference on the Question of Terrorism" in Geneva (1987); and the "Second International Conference On A More Democratic United Nations" (CAMDUN-2) at the Vienna headquarters of the United Nations (1991). In 1996 he acted as Chairman of the final session and co-ordinator of the Drafting Committee of the "International Conference on Democracy and Terrorism" in New Delhi. In March 2002 he delivered the 14th Centenary Lecture at the Supreme Court of the Philippines on "The United Nations, the International Rule of Law and Terrorism." On 1 September 2004 he delivered the Foundation Day Speech at Mindanao State University, Islamic City of Marawi, on "The Dialogue of Civilizations and the Future of World Order."

Hans Köchler, left, and Austrian Federal Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, right, at the Federal Chancellery in Vienna, November 1980

Through his research and civil society initiatives, Professor Köchler made major contributions to the debate on international democracy and United Nations reform, in particular reform of the Security Council. This was acknowledged by international figures such as the German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel in 1993. In 1985, he organized the first colloquium on "Democracy in International Relations" on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the United Nations in New York. With Irish Nobel Laureate Seán MacBride he initiated the Appeal by Lawyers against Nuclear War, which set in motion an international campaign that eventually led to a General Assembly resolution and the issuing of an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice. As President of the I.P.O. he dealt with the humanitarian issues of the exchange of prisoners of war between Iran and Iraq and with the issue of Kuwaiti POWs and missing people in Iraq. Since 1972, UN Secretaries-General in their statements subsequently acknowledged Professor Köchler's contribution to international peace.

Hans Köchler with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican, February 1979

In the framework of his activities as President of the International Progress Organization, he co-operated with numerous international figures such as the Founder President of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor, on the issue of civilizational dialogue; Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan and Cardinal Franz König of Austria on Islamic-Christian understanding;[27] Leo Mates, Secretary-General of the first Non-Aligned summit in Belgrade in 1961, on the principles and future of the non-aligned movement (NAM);[28] Field Marshal Abdul Rahman Sowar el-Dahab, former Head of State of Sudan, on matters of POW exchange and international humanitarian law; Indian President Gyani Zail Singh on issues of international peace; and Sir Thomas Dalyell, former British MP and "Father of the House of Commons," in the case of the criminal investigation into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

During the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy, he wrote in a commentary: "In his lecture preaching the compatibility of reason and faith, Benedict XVI, the scholar, deliberately overlooks the fact that the insights of Greek philosophy – its commitment to the λόγος – have been brought to medieval Christian Europe by the great Muslim thinkers of the Middle Ages. What he calls the 'encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought' ... was, to a large extent, the result of the influence of Muslim philosophers – at a time when European Christians were totally ignorant of classical Greek philosophy."."[29]

Köchler is also an outspoken critic of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and has condemned its inception and practice by citing provisions of international law.[30]

He came to prominence in the world of international politics when he was nominated, on 25 April 2000, by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as an observer at the Pan Am Flight 103 (Lockerbie) bombing trial. His critical reports on the trial and appeal proceedings contributed to a global debate on the politicization of international criminal justice.

Major works


Köchler on


Dialogue of civilizations

International terrorism

United Nations reform

Commentaries on Köchler's works

Publications about Hans Köchler

Köchler's major international conferences



See also


  1. Die Subjekt-Objekt-Dialektik in der transzendentalen Phänomenologie. Das Seinsproblem zwischen Idealismus und Realismus. Meisenheim a. G.: Anton Hain, 1974. ISBN 3-445-01125-7
  2. Phenomenological Realism. Frankfurt a. M./Bern: Peter Lang, 1986. ISBN 3-8204-8794-8
  3. Der innere Bezug von Anthropologie und Ontologie. Das Problem der Anthropologie im Denken Martin Heideggers. Meisenheim a. G.: Anton Hain, 1974. ISBN 3-445-01072-2
  4. "Kulturelles Selbstverständnis und Koexistenz: Voraussetzungen für einen fundamentalen Dialog" (1972), in: Philosophie und Politik: Dokumentation eines interdisziplinären Seminars. Innsbruck: Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Wissenschaft und Politik, 1973, pp. 75-78.
  5. Letter, dated 26 September 1972, addressed to the Director of the Division of Philosophy of UNESCO, Ms. Marie-Pierre Herzog, in which Köchler suggested the holding of an international conference to study the problems of a dialogue between different civilizations ("dialogue entre les différentes civilisations"). Subsequently, in 1974, he organized an international conference on "The Cultural self-comprehension of Nations".
  6. "The Dialogue of Civilizations: Philosophical Basis, Current State and Prospects," in: Asia Europe Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3 (August 2003), pp. 315-320.
  7. Civilization as Instrument of World Order? Future Islam, New Delhi, July/August 2006
  8. Democracy and the International Rule of Law. Propositions for an Alternative World Order. Selected Papers Published on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations. Vienna/New York: Springer, 1995. ISBN 3-211-82764-1
  9. Global Justice or Global Revenge? International Criminal Justice at the Crossroads. SpringerScience. Vienna/New York: Springer, 2003. ISBN 3-211-00795-4
  10. Innsbruck Lectures 1969-1989
  11. "The 'A priori' Moment of the Subject-Object-Dialectic in Transcendental Phenomenology: The Relationship between 'A priori' and 'Ideality'," in: Analecta Husserliana, Vol. 3 (1974), pp. 183-198.
  12. Skepsis und Gesellschaftskritik im Denken Martin Heideggers. Meisenheim a. G.: Anton Hain, 1978. ISBN 3-445-01381-0
  13. See correspondence with Rudi Supek in the archive of Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Wissenschaft und Politik, University of Innsbruck, Austria.
  14. Philosophie - Recht - Politik. Vienna/New York: Springer, 1985. ISBN 0-387-81899-5
  15. Kulturelles Selbstverständnis und Koexistenz: Voraussetzungen für einen fundamentalen Dialog (Cultural Self-comprehension and Co-existence: Preconditions of Fundamental Dialogue), in: Philosophie und Politik. Dokumentation eines interdisziplinären Seminars. Innsbruck: Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Wissenschaft und Politik, 1973, pp. 75-78. In this text he coined the term "dialogue of cultures".
  16. Text of the lecture: Cultural-Philosophical Aspects of International Cooperation. Studies in International Cultural Relations, II. Vienna: International Progress Organization, 1978.
  17. Al Ahram, Cairo, 15 March 1974.
  18. See the article published in Le Soleil, Dakar, 27 April 1974: "L'Europe a beaucoup à apprendre ..."
  19. "MSU confers award on Austrian Professor," Manila Bulletin, Manila, Philippines, 28 September 2004.
  20. Star Gazete, Istanbul, Turkey, 16 October 2008.
  21. "Society for Promotion of Global Understanding and Peace in International Relations and Rule of Law launched," Manila Bulletin, Manila, Philippines, 23 November 2004.
  22. See Nancy Mardas Billias and Agnes B. Curry in: Karol Wojtyla's Philosophical Legacy. Washington, DC: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2008, pp. 6-7.
  23. E.g. "The Dialectical Conception of Self-determination. Reflections on the Systematic Approach of Karol Wojtyla," in: Analecta Husserliana, Vol. 6 (1977), pp. 75-80.
  24. The “Global War on Terror” and its Implications for Muslim-Western Relations", p.21
  25. The “Global War on Terror” and its Implications for Muslim-Western Relations", p.6
  26. Source: Hans Köchler Bibliography and Reader. Manila, 2007. ISBN 978-971-93698-0-6
  27. See "Message by His Eminence Cardinal Franz König, Archbishop of Vienna," in: Hans Köchler, ed., The Concept of Monotheism in Islam and Christianity. Vienna: Braumüller, 1982. ISBN 3-7003-0339-4, pp. 3ff. See also "Inaugural lecture on behalf of H.R.H.Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan," op. cit., pp. 22ff.
  28. Hans Köchler, Chairman of the International Conference on the Principles of Non-alignment, with General Rapporteur Leo Mates, first from right, at the conference's opening session in Baghdad, 4 May 1982.
  29. Religion, Reason and Violence: Pope Benedict XVI and Islam - Hans Köchler, Statement for the International Progress Organization. 16 September 2006
  30. http://i-p-o.org/yu-tribunal.htm

External links

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