Theories (Seel)

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Theories by Martin Seel is a 2009 book on elementary questions of philosophy, consisting of 517 aphorisms.


Aspects especially of recent philosophy of language, analytic philosophy, epistemology, philosophy of mind, aesthetics, moral philosophy, and virtue theory are treated. Seel makes suggestions as to what is to be understood by a meaningful or senseless proposition, what is meant by the holism of the mental, what the concept of perception can involve, why one can speak of truth or falsity of appearances, what can determine a human being, what thoughts actually are, as what they appear and in what form, and how they can be communicated intersubjectively, what drives human beings to action and what freedom of action conditions in human existence, what forms the will can take, and what the beautiful has to do with the good.
Seel tries on the one hand to meet the scientific requirements of the subject, and on the other hand to weave in biographical, i.e. examples from his own experience. He takes further examples mainly from the fields of cinema, jazz music and contemporary art.


The 517 aphorisms do not stand or speak individually for themselves; rather, they are linked by the subject they each discuss.[1] In recurring variations of the same subfields and aspects of philosophy, the author engages in a game with thoughts and thus a game with thought movements and thus also a game with the reader.


Theories was shortlisted for the Tractatus Essay Prize of the Philosophicum Lech in 2010.[2]


“Theories are beliefs. Their number defies counting. Those who make theories are engaged in a kind of war of the roses with science.”

from Aph. 2, S. 5

“The word “theory” once stood for the capacity to see everything in one and everything in one.”

from Aph. 4, S. 5

“Contemplation demands distraction.”

from Aph. 6, p. 6

“The painter On Kawara undergoes, time and again, the exercise of painting, in different places of the world, on one day at a time, with the utmost care, a picture that merely shows, in anonymous writing, the date of the day in question. These paintings refer to nothing else and thereby to everything that was real and possible on that day.”

from Aph. 26, S. 11

“Variation, a fortiori the more fluid plural, is one of those beautiful words that shows what it says.”

from Aph. 50, p. 18

“Keeping yourself in one motion, that’s almost all that matters.”

from Aph. 52, p. 47

“Among the roots of morality is an aesthetic experience that is usually overlooked or hastily theologized.”

from Aph. 110, p. 47

“Philosophy is millimeter work. No room for Giant Steps. Millimeter by millimeter-word by word, line by line, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, text by text-writers work their way toward an overthrow of their thinking that consists in nothing but tiny shifts. Those who take no pleasure in this kind of infinity may till coarser fields.”

Aph. 511, p. 251

“Why do writers write? In the hope of fortune, glory, fame? Certainly. But that sends itself away, if it comes to that at all. They write not to have written, but to be able to write. They don’t want their workload to be fulfilled. They never want to come to the end, but to the beginning; here, in this limbo, they are at home.”

from Aph. 515, p. 254


Text output

  • Martin Seel: Theories. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-10-071010-9.

Individual references

  1. Cf. Ralf Schulte: Zen und die Kunst, Diskurse warten. In: Onlinerezension. at