The article sketches modern knowledge societies as characterized by academic systems, whose basic processes are ongoing differentiation, great expansion and the gradual disappearance of distinctions between academia and every day life ('Veralltaglichung', Max Weber). Under these circumstances the functions and legitimacy of humanities in general and of German Studies (German Philology, Germanistik) in particular can be seen in their capacity not to reduce but to unfold the world's complexity and that of its conceptions and interpretations. Thus the historic and hermeneutic disciplines are cultivating a sense of not what actually is but what - culturally, normatively or aesthetically - could be. This sense is a precondition of liberty. Unfolding the world's complexities and contingencies calls for a diversity of academic languages, with German being not the least important of them.