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Winter Semester 2021/22

Wim Vanrie  (Ghent): Tautology in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus

Oct. 29, 2021 / 14:15 – 17:00 / GWZ H2. 1 16

Wittgenstein’s claim that all propositions of logic are tautologies is rightly seen as constituting one of the cornerstones of the Tractatus. Usually, readers take the crucial upshot of this claim to be that the propositions of logic make no assertion about the world, that they say nothing. According to the Tractatus, however, tautologies do not merely say nothing, they also show that they say nothing. My aim is to explore how properly taking into account this centrality of the notion of showing to Wittgenstein’s conception of tautology in the Tractatus stands to deepen our understanding of Wittgenstein’s conception of logic and his philosophical project in the Tractatus.

Wim Vanrie is a postdoctoral researcher in philosophy at Ghent University, Belgium, specializing in the history of analytical philosophy. He enjoys eating cakes.

Sanja Dembic  (HU Berlin): Mental disorder and the ability to respond to reasons

Nov. 5, 2021 / 14:15 – 17:00 / GWZ H2. 1 16

What is it to have a mental disorder? In this talk, I present and argue for the following view: an individual S has a mental disorder if and only if S is unable to respond adequately to some of her reasons in some of her thinking, feeling, or acting (in view of her  mental constitution), and is harmed by the condition that results from that inability. On this view, mental disorders are primarily deviations from the norms of reasons. I elaborate on the concepts of ability, reasons, and harm and illustrate the view with an  example: addictive disorder. I argue that the presented view is preferable to a biological dysfunction conception of mental  disorder, because it allows us to capture the fact that mental disorders are personal-level phenomena while remaining neutral with regards to questions of explanation.

Sanja Dembic is a postdoctoral researcher and the academic coordinator at Human Abilities – Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (a cooperation between Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin). She received her PhD at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (2020) and was a research associate at the Friedrich-Alexander- Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg  (2017 -2020). Her research focuses on topics in the philosophy of psychiatry and philosophy of action. In her dissertation, she developed an abilitybased approach to mental disorder. More recently, she has developed an interest in questions of moral and legal responsibility.


Thomas Khurana  (Potsdam): Living by recognition
The sociality of the human life form

Dec. 3, 2021 / 14:15 – 17:00 / To be held online. To receive the link to the session please email: martijn.wallage [at]

It is a common idea that human beings are social animals. The question I want to raise in this talk is how we shall understand the nexus between our life-form and our sociality expressed by this phrase. The most common understanding is this: sociality is one of the many characteristic features of the specific animal kind we belong to. In this lecture, I want to suggest that we need to consider a different way of understanding the connection of our life-form and our sociality, if we want to understand the sociality of human life. Sociality is not just an attribute predicated of us by virtue of the life-form we fall under. Rather, it characterizes the way in which we have and participate in this lifeform. Sociality is not one of the many attributes of the kind of animal we are, but determines the whole way in which we are an animal and actualize ourselves as members of our life-form. If the human life form is of this sort, membership in it is both more open and more precarious. The paper will consider some fundamental social institutions as responsive to this peculiar predicament.

Thomas Khurana is Professor of Philosophical Anthropology and Philosophy of Mind at the University of Potsdam. Among his recent publications are: Das Leben der Freiheit: Form und Wirklichkeit der Autonomie (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2017); Recognition and the Second Person, guest-edited Special Issue of the European Journal of Philosophy 29:3 (2021); “The Irony of Self- Consciousness,” in: Parallax, eds. D. Finkelde, Ch. Menke, S. Zizek (London: Bloomsbury, 2021).


Logi Gunnarsson  (Potsdam): Að hugsa á íslensku og útlensku /
Thinking in Icelandic and foreign tongues /
Auf Isländisch und in Fremdsprachen denken

Dec. 10, 2021 / 14:15 – 17:00 / To be held online. To receive the link to the session please email: martijn.wallage [at]

My paper is part of an introduction to a book I will write in three different languages: Icelandic, English and German. The writing of the book will be a performative experiment. In a sense, one never knows the outcome of a book until one has finished writing it. However, the writing of this book will be an experiment in a stronger sense: By writing it in three languages, I want to surrender  to the languages to find out what happens. The outcome is not simply unknown because I do not know where my pursuit of truth will lead me. It is unknown because I do not know what happens if I give up control in this way. This experiment is performative: In letting the languages lead me, I am also doing something. And nobody can do it for me. In my paper, I discuss the reasons for   undertaking such a performative experiment. The book has not yet been written though drafts of parts exist. In this case, I decided to write the introduction before writing the book. I need to find out for myself whether this experiment is worth undertaking.

Logi Gunnarsson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Potsdam. His most recent larger publication is Vernunft und Temperament: Eine Philosophie der Philosophie (Mentis / Brill 2020). It is the work of two fictional authors, Headstrong and Kornblum, who are convinced that William James was a good philosopher because he was a real human being. They set out to write a book about the true meaning of philosophy, but it becomes clear that they have very different interpretations of their shared beliefs. Vernunft und Temperament consists in their heated correspondence and respective chapters of the book.


Winter Semester 2020/21

Alexander Douglas (St. Andrews): Spinoza and Wittich on Ideas of Non-Existent Substances

Dec. 2, 2020 / 16:00 – 18:00 / Location/Format TBA

I examine an obscure claim in Spinoza’s Ethics (Part 1, Proposition 8, Scholium 2): If we form a clear and distinct idea of a substance, then we are logically compelled to affirm that the substance exists. 

This seems to entail that we cannot conceive of a non-existent or merely possible substance. One of Spinoza’s Cartesian critics, Christoph Wittich, pointed out the implausibility of this consequence, accusing Spinoza of misunderstanding what it means to conceive of a substance. 

Spinoza’s claim is strikingly similar to one made by the French Cartesian Robert Desgabets, who argued that ‘if one thinks of a substance, then it really exists’. A crucial premise in Desgabet’s argument is that every coherent idea must have a real object – what logic texts from the time call a thema. This arises from a theory, generally accepted in Cartesian circles, that an idea simply is its object existing ‘objectively’ in the mind.

I present a hypothesis about what really distinguishes Wittich and Spinoza: For Wittich, an idea of a substance can have for its object a thema that, while real, does not exist in the sense of possessing concrete actuality. For Spinoza (and Desgabets) there can be no real but non-actual objects: all themata must be concrete and actual. Ideas of non-existing modes are possible, since these have for their objects powers in substances, which actually exist. But ideas of non-existing substances are not legitimate. With nothing to be the object, there can be no idea.

Alex Douglas is a lecturer in philosophy in the School of Philosophical, Anthropological, and Film Studies at the University of St. Andrews. He specialises in the history of philosophy, specialising in Cartesianism and early modern rationalism, especially the thought of Benedict de Spinoza. He also has an interest in the philosophy – often the critique – of political economy. He is currently writing a book about the concept of beatitude in Spinoza.


Jessica Leech (King’s College London): Logical Necessity and the Unity of Thought

Dec. 16, 2020 / 16:00 – 18:00 / Location/Format TBA

What, if any, is the function of our capacity to make judgments of logical necessity and possibility? Inspired by Kant, I argue that it contributes to our ability to think and reason at all. I shall argue that logical reasoning plays an important role in the unity of thinkers and the unity of thought. In short: thoughts are unities. The unity of thought in some way or another requires the unity of a thinking subject. The best account of the unity of the thinking subject is a unity formed via actual inferential connections between mental states. Such connections are formed by logical reasoning. Hence, our capacity for thought depends upon our capacity to engage in logical reasoning.

Jessica Leech is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King’s College London. She has previously been a lecturer at the University of Sheffield, and a Junior Research Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge. She did her doctorate jointly at the University of Sheffield and the University of Geneva (as part of the “Theory of Essence” research project based at the Eidos Centre for Metaphysics at the University of Geneva), supervised by Fabrice Correia and Bob Hale. Her primary research interests centre around mo-dality, including issues in contem-porary metaphysics, philosophical logic, and the history of philosophy (particularly Kant).


Katharina Nieswandt (Concordia University, Montreal): Do Consequentialism and Rational Choice Theory Presuppose the Humean Picture of Practical Rationality?

Jan. 27, 2021 / 16:00 – 18:00 / Location/Format TBA

Common sense morality, academic philosophers and social scientists alike largely understand practical rationality as the ability to conduct sound means-end reasoning.  There is some end to be achieved, such as a good state of the world or the realization of a personal preference, and a rational action is one that takes the best means to that end.  A rational agent, on this picture, is one whose actions combined maximize the total (expected) achievement of their ends.  Some call this the “Humean picture of practical rationality,” crediting David Hume (Treatise, sections 3.1.1 and 2.3.3) as an important historical source of it.

Since the 1980ies, a growing number of philosophers have objected to this picture—including Anscombe, Foot, Quinn, Korsgaard, and Nagel.  Strangely, a wider implication of these objections went almost unnoticed in the literature:  Many of them apply to all theories that identify practical rationality with instrumental rationality.  I shall argue that this is true of consequentialism and of rational choice theory.  In particular, I argue that neither can make sense of motives such as revenge, gratitude, justice, kinship or solidarity.  My argument also offers a new take on two important but largely forgotten ideas: Anscombe’s backward-looking and interpretative motives and Nagel’s logical ghosts.

Katharina Nieswandt is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Concordia University in Montreal, specializing in moral and political philosophy.  She is currently writing a book, tentatively entitled The Good Life and the Good State, which offers an Aristotelian justification of government and the design of political institutions.  In addition, she is leading a multiple-year, quantitative study on the underrepresentation of women in philosophy.


Clinton Tolley (University of California, San Diego): Edith Stein and the Phenomenology of Objective Spirit

Feb. 3, 2021 / 16:00 – 18:00 / Location/Format TBA

Abstract will follow

Clinton Tolley is a Professor of Philosophy at University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on the legacy of idealism in modern philosophy, with a special emphasis on German Idealism and its influence in European and American philosophy.  He is the co-editor and co-translator (with Sandra Lapointe) of The New Anti-Kant (Palgrave, 2014), and is at work on a book on Kant’s philosophy of mind.


Winter Semester 2019/20

Elise Marrou: Realismus und Paradigma des Theaters bei Wittgenstein

Oct. 16, 2019 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

In einer faszinierenden Bemerkung von 1931, lädt Wittgenstein uns zu einem Gedankenexperiment ein: ein Mann, allein auf der Bühne, ist von seinen alltäglichen Beschäftigungen aufgesogen und weiß nicht, daß er beobachtet wird. Diese Bemerkung wurde von Michael Fried (“Jeff Wall, Wittgenstein et le quotidien”, Cahiers du Mnam, 2005) und Eli Friedländer (“Wittgenstein, Benjamin and Pure Realism”, 2017) kommentiert. In einem ersten Schritt werden deren Interpretationen untersucht und diskutiert. Von der theatralischen Szene ausgehend, werden dann in einem zweiten Schritt Vorschläge zum Verständnis von Sprachspiel und Kontext bei Wittgenstein angeboten: 1. der Vorrang der Expressivität, 2. die Vollständigkeit der Regeln, die sowohl das Spiel   als auch die heuristische und erfinderische Dimension der Sprachspiele definieren. In einem dritten und letzten Schritt wird dann die Plastizität des Verhältnisses von Innen und Außen herausgestellt.

Beatrix Himmelmann: Love and Law: Sources of Morality in Kant

Oct. 30, 2019 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Kant’s ethics, arguing that the source of morality is a self-imposed law in accordance with which we ought to act, has met with criticism right from the beginning. Kant’s critics call for love to play a rolein grounding and exercising morality. They see the problem of separating human beings into two parts, reason and sensibility, if we follow Kant’s account. While reason is the author of the moral law, human sensibility regularly fails to comply with the demands of this law. The law is a “curse”, as St. Paul put it; we should abandon it, and trust in love and grace instead.   

For Kant, the law commands “respect” (Achtung), exerting influence on our sensibility in the guise of “coercion” (Nötigung). No room seems left for love. Nonetheless, Kant discusses love, which is a “matter of feeling”, as a possible source of morality. He rejects the idea that moral agency arises “from love”. The late Kant, though, acknowledges that human beings inescapably “seek something that they can love” even when dealing with requirements presented to them by mere reason. For them, it is not enough to nurture their capacity for freedom as autonomy. Their sensible dispositions can and need be cultivated in line with their rational faculties. Hence, Kant envisages “love of the law”, understanding that humanity would ultimately “dissolve” into mere animality (Tierheit) if the “moral vital force” (die sittliche Lebenskraft) were not able to involve and “excite” human feeling.

Beatrix Himmelmann is Professor of Philosophy at The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø. Her research interests focus on issues in practical philosophy, and on themes in Kant and Nietzsche. She has held visiting positions at Zurich University, Humboldt University of Berlin, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and at Brown University. Her book publications include Kants Begriff des Glücks (2003, reprint 2011); (ed.) Kant und Nietzsche im Widerstreit (2005, reprint 2012); Nietzsche (2006, reprint 2011); (ed.) On Meaning in Life(2013); (co-ed.) Why Be Moral? (2015). Her articles include the chapters on Kant’s moral philosophy, aesthetics, and teleology for the new edition of Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie, founded by F. Ueberweg and published by Schwabe/Basel (2014).

Jonathan Beere: Being-in-energeia and being-in-capacity in Aristotle’s Metaphysics

Nov. 13, 2019 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

In this paper, I solve a problem about energeia(and capacity) in Aristotle’s Metaphysics. The problem is that energeiasometimes seems to be actuality and sometimes to be activity, and yet “energeia” is not ambiguous. Interpreters have been unable to explain what energeiais because they have thought that Aristotle explains the expression “to be in energeia” (and the corresponding expression “to be in capacity”) by first explaining a special sense of energeia(and of “capacity”) and then explaining the whole expression “to be in energeia” in terms of that special sense. But this is wrong. Aristotle explains “to be in energeia” (and “to be in capacity”) as a whole, not in terms of a special sense of “energeia” (or of “capacity”). This insight enables me to explain how “energeia” is sometimes best translated “activity” and sometimes “actuality” and yet is not ambiguous. Moreover, I raise and answer the question of when there is an energeiacorresponding to a true statement that contains the expression “to be in energeia”. And I elucidate in some detail how energeiadiffers from actuality (even in contexts when it is aptly translated “actuality”). My talk focuses on MetaphysicsΘ.3 (especially 1047a30-b2) and Θ.6 (especially 1048a25-b17);Θ.1and Δ.7,Δ.12are also useful background.

Jonathan Beere is the author of Doing & Being: An Interpretation of Aristotle’s Metaphysics Theta. He was Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago, before joining the faculty at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, where he is now Professor für antike Philosophie und Wissensgeschichte and director of the graduate program in ancient philosophy and the Research Training Group, “Philosophy, Science and the Sciences.” His primary interests are in ancient philosophy, especially issues about rationality, substance, psychology, language, and reasoning, but also a burgeoning interest in ancient political philosophy. He has a great interest in Greek mathematical texts. He also has a long-standing secret interest in Wittgenstein.

Michael Beany: Seeing Comparative Philosophy from a Zhuangensteinian Perspective

Dec. 4, 2019 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Comparative philosophy, like history of philosophy, is often seen as having a lower status within the discipline of philosophy than such ‘central’ areas as logic, epistemology, and metaphysics. Yet there is increasing recognition of the need to broaden the canon and diversify the curriculum in philosophy, and what goes on under the heading of ‘comparative philosophy’ can certainly contribute to achieving this. So what exactly is comparative philosophy, and what kind of rationale can be provided for it? Should it be renamed or reconceptualized to do better justice to what it does or could do? How might one respond to some of the objections that are raised to it? In this talk I want to address these and related questions by drawing on both Zhuangzi’s conception of perspectives ‘opening out’ into one another in the qíwùlùn chapter of the Zhuangzi and Wittgenstein’s remarks on aspect perception. Seeing some of Zhuangzi’s ideas from a Wittgensteinian perspective, and some of Wittgenstein’s ideas from a Zhuangzian perspective, will itself provide an illustration of the fruitfulness of comparative philosophy.

Professor Michael Beaney currently holds two posts, one at King’s College London, and another at the Humboldt University in Berlin as Professor of History of Analytic Philosophy. Before taking up these jobs he was Reader (2005–09) and then Professor of Philosophy (2009–15) at the University of York. Professor Beaney has also worked at the Open University (2000–05), University of Manchester (1998–99), University of Leeds (1992–98), Birkbeck College, London (1990–92) and University of Sheffield (1986–88). He has held Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowships in Germany at the University of Jena (2006–07) and University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (1999–2000), and was Visiting Professor at Beijing Normal University in 2013 and 2014 and Peking University in 2011. Professor Beaney originally studied PPE at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, where he also did his B.Phil. and D.Phil. in Philosophy. Besides the history of analytic philosophy, Professor Beaney has research interests in: Chinese philosophy, philosophical methodology, philosophical translation (especially German-English and English-Chinese), and historiography of philosophy.

Angela Breitenbach: One Imagination in Experiences of Beauty and Achievements of Understanding

Dec. 11, 2019 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

I argue for the unity of imagination in two prima facie diverse contexts: experiences of beauty and achievements of understanding. I develop my argument in three steps. First, I begin by describing a type of aesthetic experience that is grounded in a set of imaginative activities on the part of the person having the experience. Second, I argue that the same set of imaginative activities that grounds this type of aesthetic experience also contributes to achievements of understanding. Third, I show that my unified account of imagination sheds light on two puzzling phenomena, the aesthetic value of science and the cognitive value of art.

Angela Breitenbach is University Lecturer in philosophy and Fellow of King’s College at the University of Cambridge. She has published widely on themes in the philosophy of Kant, the philosophy of science, and aesthetics, with a particular focus on their intersection. She has held research fellowships by the Leverhulme Trust and at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study to pursue projects on the aesthetics of science and on Kantian conceptions of the unity of science. She is co-editor of volumes on Aesthetics in Mathematics (with Rizza, 2018), Kant and the Laws of Nature (with Massimi, 2017), and Laws of Nature: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives (with Massimi, 2017). In Die Analogie von Vernunft und Natur (2009) she develops an interpretation of Kant’s philosophy of biology and argues for its continued relevance for contemporary philosophy of science and environmental philosophy.

Winter Semester 2018/19

Silver Bronzo: Propositional Complexity and the Frege-Geach Point

Oct. 10, 2018 / 11:15 – 13:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

It is almost universally accepted that the Frege-Geach Point is necessary for explaining the inferential relations and compositional structure of truth-functionally complex propositions. I argue that this claim rests on a disputable view of propositional structure, which models truth-functionally complex propositions on atomic propositions. I propose an alternative view of propositional structure, based on the notion of simulation, which accounts for the relevant phenomena without accepting the Frege-Geach Point. The view makes room for the idea that there is no such thing as the forceless expression of propositional contents and is attractive because it provides the resources for avoiding a fundamental problem generated by the Frege-Geach Point concerning the relation between forceless and forceful expressions of propositional contents. The view I propose is also made plausible by independent considerations about the behavior of truth-functional connectives. I further argue that the acceptance of the Frege-Geach Point mars Peter Hanks’ and François Recanati’s recent attempts to resist the widespread idea that assertoric force is extrinsic to the expression of propositional contents. Rejecting this idea, I maintain, requires a deeper break with the tradition than Hanks and Recanati have allowed for.

Peter Sullivan: Russell and Ramsey: On Truth

Oct. 10, 2018 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

What is truth? The difficulty of this question, Ramsey said, ‘may be judged from the fact that in the years 1904-25 Mr Bertrand Russell has adopted in succession five different solutions of it’.  By contrast the essential structure of Ramsey’s own approach to the question is remarkably stable.  It is set down in a paper he wrote in 1921, when not yet half-way through his undergraduate degree, and persists into the unpublished book manuscript, On Truth, that he worked on in his last years.  The talk will (1) expound this structure, (2) explain how it determines Ramsey’s assessment of Russell’s various theories, and (3) consider in its light the recently popular suggestion that in his late work Ramsey adopted a kind pragmatism.


Peter Sullivan studied at the universities of Leeds and Oxford.  After teaching for several years in Oxford he moved in 1993 to a lectureship the University of Stirling.  He has been Professor of Philosophy in Stirling since 2003.  His main interests are in issues in the philosophy of logic raised in the work of the early analytic philosophers, and he has published essays on Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Ramsey.

Handout (PDF)

Tyke Nunez: Kant and the vicious circle: Kant’s account of particular causal cognition

Nov. 7, 2018 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

When I experience, e.g., water’s freezing or sunlight’s warming a particular stone, I seem to have cognition of a causal connection. Hume rightly claims that much of our purported cognition of the world is either like this or builds on this kind of causal cognition. Kant would count his critical philosophy a failure if he cannot present a view on which particular causal cognition is commonplace. Yet, according to his interpreters, if we can have this cognition at all, it is only in very rare cases. In this essay, I develop a reading of Kant on particular causal cognition where this kind of cognition can be a ubiquitous aspect of our everyday cognitive lives, and I argue that Kant’s account radically breaks with how philosophers tend to think of this cognition.


I received my PhD in April 2015 from the University of Pittsburgh and am a visiting postdoctoral fellow for the coming year at Universität Leipzig. My research centers on how commitments in the philosophy of mind and logic shape epistemological, metaphysical, and scientific ones. Specifically, I am interested in how this happens in the work of various figures in early modern and early analytic philosophy, especially Kant.

Christian Martin: The Force of Thinking

Nov. 14, 2018 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

 The judgment that p, the judgment that not p, and the judgment that p, if q, all involve thought of one and the same state of affairs. What does it mean for one and the same thought p to be part of those judgments? While the force/content distinction as drawn by Frege (as well as its Neo-Fregean variations) might appear to provide for an answer to this question, it has often been observed that it leaves the relation between force and content unintelligible. 

In this paper I argue that the right answer to this observation does not consist in ,avoiding‘ or ,abandonding‘ the force/content distinction (for it will necessarily reemerge in one guise or other), but to draw it in a non-dualistic way. I attempt to show that this can be achieved by starting with a minimal Fregean notion of a thought (i. e. as that with regard to which it makes sense to ask whether it is true or false) and exhibiting this notion as a pluraliatantum, i. e. showing that it is not by chance that there is more than one thought. If, in face of that, we go on to ask how thoughts as such are related, we can show that any occurrence of a determinate thought must come along with one out of a variety of systematically interrelated ways of logically binding oneself. Accordingly, we can and need to distinguish between ways of binding oneself in thinking and the determinacy of what one is thereby bound to. It will emerge from this way of redrawing the force/content distinction that thought, in virtue of its form, presupposes expression.

In light of the considerations just sketched I go on to deal with some current attempts to clarify what it is for a proposition (i. e. that which expresses a thought) to occur in another. I will not attempt to exhibit specific answers to this question as mistaken but to exhibit their shared way of asking the question as confused: There is no single answer to this question, because if there were, the occurrence of a determinate thought would not as such be tied to a determinate way of binding oneself in thinking. – We can, however, rephrase the question as follows such as to avoid the confusion: What it is for a certain act of logically binding oneself in a specific way to involve dependent acts of thinking which do neither come along with a force of their own nor lack in force altogether but participate in the force of the overall act of thinking which they are part of? 


Christian Martin received his PhD in 2010 from LMU Munich where he worked as a non-tenured assistant professor until recently. He is currently a visiting research fellow at the University of Leipzig. Historically, his philosophical work has been focused on Hegel and Wittgenstein. During the last years he gradually came to realize that in order to remain true to what he has learnt from both of these thinkers he has to quit interpreting or ,reconstructing‘ and to start working systematically. His habilitation thesis Die Einheit des Sinns. Untersuchungen zur Form des Denkens und Sprechens is a first stab at doing so. He will present some main ideas from that book in an intensive seminar in Leipzig during the summer semester 2019.

David Wellbery: Was heisst es, Literatur zu interpretieren?

Nov. 21, 2018 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

 An einem kurzen Text Kafkas soll erfahrungsnah demonstriert werden, dass die Interpretation literarischer Texte als Erfassung von Form zu begreifen ist. Form wird mit Hegel als „sich herausgestaltende Form“ und mit Goethe als „Tätigkeit“ verstanden.


 DAVID E. WELLBERY, LeRoy T. and Margaret Deffenbaugh Carlson University Professor im Department of Germanic Studies, Department of Comparative Literature und am Committee on Social Thought der University of Chicago. Dort Direktor des Center for Interdisciplinary Research on German Literature and Culture. 

Ausgewählte Buchveröffentlichungen: Lessing’s ‘Laocoon’: Semiotics and Aesthetics in the Age of Reason (Cambridge 2009); The Specular Moment: Goethe’s Early Lyric and the Beginnings of Romanticism (Stanford 1996); Schopenhauers Bedeutung für die moderne Literatur (München 1998); Goethes Faust I. Reflexion der tragischen Form (München 2016); Goethes ‚Pandora’: Dramatisierung einer Urgeschichte der Moderne (München 2017).

Wolfram Groddeck: “Ecce Homo”: Nietzsche liest Nietzsche

Nov. 28, 2018 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

 Nietzsches letztes Buch „Ecce homo“ ist nur fragmentarisch überliefert, es polarisiert dank des pointierten Stils und des exorbitanten Pathos seine Leserschaft und bereitet auch der Nietzsche-Exegese nach wie vor Kopfzerbrechen. Der Vortrag möchte – über die philologische Analyse einiger Textstellen – die irritierende Dynamik dieses späten Werks von Nietzsche aufzeigen. Die These ist, dass „Ecce homo“ von einer immanenten Lektüre geprägt ist, welche scheinbar nur noch sich selbst zum Gegenstand hat und die zugleich die Grenze von Werk und Wirkung konfiguriert. 


 Wolfram Groddeck is Professor for German Literature at the University of Basel and a Visiting Professor at the Johns Hopkins University. He wrote books about Friedrich Nietzsche, „Dionysos-Dithyramben“, Bedeutung und Entstehung von Nietzsches letztem Werk (1991) and Reden über Rhetorik. Zu einer Stilistik des Lesens (1995/2008); Hölderlins Elegie “Brod und Wein” oder “Die Nacht” (2012/2016); he published many articles mainly on Hölderlin, Nietzsche, Heine, Rilke, Robert Walser and on contemporary literature as well as about theorie of Editing Literature

Maria van der Schaar: Frege and the Knowing Agent

Dec. 5, 2018 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

 Frege’s logicist project demands that we can know the basic laws of arithmetic by conceptual means alone. We have to know these laws purely on the basis of our understanding the content; they have to be self-evident. As Wittgenstein pointed out in the Tractatus, self-evidence gives us not guarantee of the truth of a proposition. Is Frege’s notion of self-evidence infected by psychologism, as is often thought?

Whereas philosophers in the analytic tradition generally understand knowledge from a third-person point of view, I will argue that epistemic notions in Frege, such as justification and self-evidence, are rather to be understood from a first-person point of view. Knowing the laws of logic is understanding why they are true, and such a form of knowledge is essentially first person. I will argue that this reading of Frege’s epistemological notions does not imply a form of psychologism.


 Maria van der Schaar is University Lecturer in philosophy of logic at the Institute of Philosophy, Leiden University. Her historical research concerns early phenomenology, the origins of analytic philosophy, and early modern philosophy. Her philosophical work stands in the tradition of intuitionism and Swedish proof-theory, especially the work of Per Martin-Löf, and she has proposed accounts of judgement, assertion, knowledge and meaning from this perspective. Her aim is to bring problems in analytic philosophy to a deeper level of understanding by introducing ideas coming from phenomenology and the Kantian tradition.

Keren Gorodeisky & Eric Marcus: Aesthetic Rationality

Dec. 12, 2018 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

 We argue that the aesthetic domain falls inside the scope of rationality, but does so in its own way. Aesthetic judgment is a stance neither on whether a proposition is to be believed nor on whether an action is to be done, but on whether an object is to be appreciated. Aesthetic judgment is simply appreciation. Correlatively, reasons supporting theoretical, practical and aesthetic judgments operate in fundamentally different ways. The irreducibility of the aesthetic domain is due to the fact that aesthetic judgment is a sensory-affective disclosure of, and responsiveness to, merit: it is a feeling that presents an object, and is responsive to it, as worthy of being liked. Aesthetic judgment is thus shown to be, on the hand, first personal and non-transferable; and, on the other hand, a presentation of reality. We thereby capture what is right in both subjectivist and objectivist conceptions of aesthetic judgment.


Keren Gorodeisky works on the rational nature of aesthetic judgment and aesthetic feelings, and on the nature of aesthetic value and agency. She is currently completing a book on the logical form and sui generis type of rationality of Kant’s notion of aesthetic judgment. In her second book project, she articulates and defends a neglected alternative between contemporary aesthetic hedonism and its non-affective cognitive denial. Gorodeisky is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Auburn University

 Eric Marcus works chiefly in the philosophy of mind and action, but also has active research interests in epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics and the philosophy of language. He is the author of numerous articles and a book, Rational Causation (Harvard University Press). He is currently working on a second book, tentatively entitled Belief, Inference and the Self-Conscious Mind. He is a Professor of Philosophy at Auburn University.

Rebekka Gersbach: Die Begrenzte Wirklichkeit des Instrumentalismus

Jan. 9, 2019 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Die Debatte um den Instrumentalismus nimmt viel Raum ein in der Metaethik. Dabei ist eine zentrale Frage, wie die beiden Seiten dieser Entweder-Oder-Debatte zu verstehen sind. Denn die Frage, ob wir Menschen über ein Vermögen verfügen, nicht nur die Mittel, sondern auch unsere Zwecke vernünftig zu bestimmen, kann nur entschieden werden, wenn wir die beiden Seiten richtig charakterisieren. In meinem Vortrag will ich allerdings eine andere, grundlegendere Frage stellen: handelt es sich überhaupt um eine Entweder-Oder-Frage?  Instrumentalismus oder Nicht-Instrumentalismus? Kant oder Hume? Kognitivismus oder Non-Kognitivismus? Ich werde argumentieren, dass die gesamte Debatte um den Instrumentalismus von einem ‘isolationistischen’ Individualismus geprägt ist, dem gemäß es ausreicht, Fälle individuellen Entscheidens und Handelns zu betrachten. Daraus folgt, dass die Interaktion als bloßer Spezialfall betrachtet wird, in dem das Individuum mit einer besonderen Situation konfrontiert wird. Darauf aufbauend werde ich zeigen, dass, wenn wir diese Form des Individualismus hinter uns lassen und die Interaktion als zentralen Fall des praktischen Überlegens verstehen, wir zwei Formen der Interaktion unterscheiden können – die eine geprägt von bloß instrumenteller praktischer Rationalität, die andere von praktischer Vernunft. Um nun aber verstehen zu können, wie beide Formen praktischer Rationalität nebeneinander existieren können, ohne dass die eine Form auf die andere reduzierbar wäre, müssen wir die Metaethik von ihrem apolitischen und ahistorischen Selbstverständnis befreien. Genauso wie vielfach argumentiert wird, dass Handlungstheorie nicht unabhängig von Metaethik, d.h. moralphilosophisch neutral betrieben werden kann, will ich argumentieren, dass Metaethik nicht unabhängig von politischer Philosophie und Sozialphilosophie gedacht werden darf. Die begrenzte Wirklichkeit des Instrumentalismus wird also sichtbar neben der Wirklichkeit der praktischen Vernunft, wenn wir die praktische Rationalität in ihren historischen und politischen Rahmenbedingungen  betrachten.


Rebekka Gersbach ist seit 2012 wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin an der Universität Leipzig am Lehrstuhl für Geschichte der Philosophie. Sie hat in Basel und London Philosophie, Ökonomie und Nachhaltigkeitsstudien studiert. 2013 hat sie in Leipzig promoviert, ihre Dissertation ist 2016 erschienen unter dem Titel: Pratical Resoning, its Elements, Practicality and Validity beim mentis Verlag. Zurzeit arbeitet sie an ihrer Habilitation zur Frage nach dem Verhältnis von ökonomischer Rationalität und praktischer Vernunft

2018 PostDoc Job Talks

Alec Hinshelwood: Thought in motion

Mar. 2, 2018 / 11:15 – 13:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

When acting intentionally, we represent the kind of action that we are doing—walk across the street, for example—as a goal: something which we aim to achieve. I label this sort of representation ‘practical thought’. But how does it relate to the actual, temporally-extended changes which our intentional actions are? In this paper I defend the Identity View, which says that our intentional actions are identical with the practical thoughts they require; and that, by the same token, those actions are identical with our first-personal knowledge of them. Whilst this is, I think, an ancient idea with many contemporary adherents, I present a simple albeit under-emphasized argument in support of it: I suggest that the Identity View is consequence of the fact that practical thought is a species of thought. If I am right, then by denying the Identity View, we jeopardize our grip on the very idea of a distinctively practical, or goal-oriented, form of thought. I consider a number of objections to this argument, but try to show that they fail.


Alec Hinshelwood attended University College London (PhD, 2017) and the University of Oxford (BPhil, 2011). He is currently a Teaching Fellow at UCL, lecturing on Marxism.
His main interests are in the philosophy of mind and action, and in ethics–especially moral psychology.
His current research focuses on practical reason, and the knowledge of self and other our possession of it affords.
In general, his work is informed by Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Marx and psychoanalysis.

Vanessa Carr: The Importance of Being Creative

Mar. 1, 2018 / 11:15 – 13:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

My concern, in this talk, is with a range of creative acts, and a problem that they pose for certain accounts of action. The creative acts in question are those with non-physical results, such as: writing a poem, composing a piece of music, editing a film, and developing a website. After outlining the relevant notions of a physical, and a non-physical, result of an act, I argue that the non-physical results of creative acts cannot be caused by agents. This presents a problem for any account that holds that action is essentially a matter of the agent causing the results of their acts. These accounts cannot handle the range of creative acts with non-physical results, even if they are adequate for the range of acts that are more usually considered, such as: raising one’s arm, flipping a light switch, baking a cake, and crossing a street. For, these acts are alike in having only physical results. An appropriate account of action as such must accommodate the full range of acts, with all their varying results.


Vanessa Carr studied philosophy at University College London (PhD 2018, MPhilStud 2014), with her doctoral thesis on the relationship between activity and causation (Movers and Makers).
Before this, she obtained a BA in Philosophy, Psychology and Physiology from the University of Oxford.
Her research interests are mainly in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind and action.

Bianca Ancillotti: The Impossibility of Chaos

Kant’s Argument in the Second Analogy

Feb. 28, 2018 / 11:15 – 13:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

In the Second Analogy, Kant gives a transcendental proof of the principle: “All alterations occur in accordance with the law of the connection of cause and effect” (B232). This proof turns upon the claim that the truth of this principle is a necessary condition of the possibility of experiencing objective time- sequences. In this talk, using Kant’s argument in the Second Analogy as case study, I propose a novel interpretation of Kant’s method of proof. According to this interpretation, we can know that a principle is a necessary condition of the possibility of experience by using conceivability and experimenting in thought to reveal and correct modal illusions. In the Second Analogy, this is done through an argument which says that, even if it seems intuitively possible that there could be an alteration without a cause, it turns out, upon further reflection, that all attempts to conceive of situations in which there is an alternation but not a cause, systematically fail.


Bianca Ancillotti studied Philosophy at the Humboldt University of Berlin (M.A. 2012) and King’s College London (visiting, 2016-7).
She is currently writing her Dissertation on the method of Kant’s transcendental proof (HU Berlin).
Besides Kant’s theoretical philosophy, and its relation to early modern rationalism, empiricism, and scepticism, her research interests lie mainly in contemporary meta-philosophy, analytic Kantianism, and the epistemology of modal claims.

Sabrina Bauer: Realism or Anti-Realism?

Epistemological objections to a metaphysical dispute and a Kantian proposal for its reconciliation

Feb. 27, 2018 / 11:15 – 13:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Michael Dummett drew attention to the systematic link that ties the alternative of realism and its counter position anti-realism to the question of accepting or rejecting the principle of bivalence. Looking at Dummett’s opposition, it can be demonstrated that the theory of truth and metaphysics are in danger of becoming involved in an antinomic interplay, which has to be criticized from an epistemological perspective. I argue that this metaphysical alternative is based on assumptions considering the notion of truth. These theses are rejected as inappropriate from the standpoint of an epistemologically clarified theory of truth, as the one developed by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason.

In terms of methodology, a fruitful relationship between the Analytical philosophy and the interpretation of Kant’s philosophy is attempted by identifying the legitimate insights of both sides, realism and anti-realism, and understanding them as requirements that guide the development of an adequate solution with the resources offered by Kant.


Sabrina Bauer (Universität Heidelberg) studied philosophy in Tübingen and Munich (MA, 2012).
Her research interests lie mainly within epistemology and metaphysics, which she approaches through the history of philosophy, especially Kant.
She holds a scholarship of the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes and works on a dissertation concerning the notion of truth in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

Rory O’Connell: An Argument Against the Possibility of an Instrumental Being

Feb. 26, 2018 / 11:15 – 13:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Is the concept of an instrumental being, a being possessing instrumental reason but lacking a rational comprehension of its ends, an intelligible one? I argue that a proper account of the logical character of instrumental reasoning—an account I give in this paper—reveals that it is not. The significance of this is twofold. Firstly, it directly undermines the Humean contention that we are such beings. Secondly, it has ramifications for our conception of human agency: Many philosophers trenchantly opposed to Humeanism have, I argue, failed to liberate themselves from an impoverished conception of instrumental reason, in virtue of retaining the very assumptions that render the concept of an instrumental being apparently intelligible. Moreover, in jettisoning these assumptions, we can better illuminate the relation between, on the one hand, pleasure and sensible desire, and, on the other hand, practical reason.


2005-2008, B.A. (Hons) Philosophy, King’s College London.
2008-2010, M.Phil in Philosophy, King’s College London.
2011-Present, PhD in Philosophy, University of Chicago
Ethics, Philosophy of Action, Philosophy of Mind.

Winter Semester 2017/18

Jean-Philippe NarbouxSelf-Consciousness in Sartre and Anscombe

Jan 10, 2018 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

The conceptual equivalence between self-consciousness and consciousness of oneís self has been taken for granted ever since its terms became available with the advent of modern philosophy. In this lecture, I propose to show that Sartreís contention that there is no “I” lying behind consciousness (in The Transcendence of the Ego) and Anscombeís claim that “I” is not a referring expression (in her essay “The First Person”) articulate a single negative insight into the spuriousness of the canonical equivalence. I shall contend that doing justice to self-consciousness, far from requiring us to embrace this equivalence, requires us to forsake it in even its most innocent-seeming version.

The presentation will be based on Narboux’s paper, “Is Self-Consciousness Consciousness of One’s Self?”

Further reading on the topic:

Anscombe, “The First Person

Sartre, “Transcendence of the Ego” (2004 Translation) / “Transcendence of the Ego” (1960 Translation); 

Further reading by the author:

“Pensées en première personne et Cogitationes cartésiennes” (“I-thoughts and Cartesian Cogitationes”).


Handout: Link



Jean-Philippe Narboux graduated from Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. Currently he is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bordeaux and Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.


Irad Kimhi: “Like a Child begging for ‘Both'”

Gigantomachia and Non-Being in Plato’s Sophist

Dec 6, 2017 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Usually the Gigantomachia in Plato’s Sophist is read separately from the discussion of falsehood, negation and non-being in the dialogue. I will propose that the passage plays a crucial role in Plato’s treatment of the Parmendian difficulties.

Handout: Link


Further reading on the topic:

Further reading by the author: Document


Irad Kimhi’s interest and expertise range across various aspects of literature, theology, psychoanalysis, mysticism, and aesthetics. Recognized for his originality and depth of thought, he trained in philosophy and previously taught at Yale University and at Bezalel Academy of Art Graduate Program in Jerusalem, Israel. His manuscript, Being and Thinking: The Two Way Capacity, has been completed and accepted for publication by Harvard University Press. This book will offer a reflection on the history of logic and the relation between logic and metaphysics.

Kimhi has been a fellow at the Rozenzweig Center in Jerusalem and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. He received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and his BA in mathematics and philosophy from Tel-Aviv University in Israel. Kimhi joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2012. During Winter Semster 2017-2018, Prof. Kimhi was Humboldt Guest Professor at the University of Leipzig.


Carla Bagnoli: Hard Times

Nov 29, 2017 / 15:00 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Some perplexing cases of choice are perplexing because agents think and act under temporal constraints. To think rationally under temporal constraints seems to require us to form reasons by adapting to the circumstances of action. Reasons for action provide us with the stability that is required to engage in meaningful activities. Yet they may lose their grip on us if they are not time sensitive. It frequently happens that what seemed a good reason to p at time t1, it is not a good reason to do it at t2. Sometimes temporal shifts parallel shifts in the axiological or deontic status of action. A goal that was previously considered valuable at t1 does not have value at a later time time t2. What seemed right, or even morally required, at one time t1, at a later time t2 may seem plainly wrong. In this sense, reasons for action exhibit what we might call normative fragility. I will argue that Kantian constructivism offers resources to adequately characterize and address this problem, by shifting focus from finite to temporally structured rational agency.



Further reading on the topic:

Further reading by the author: Document


I am professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Modena since 2010. Before that I was tenured full professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I taught since 1998. I have also held Visiting Professorships at the Université de Paris 1- Panthéon Sorbonne, and at the University of Siena 2005-09, a Visiting Fellowship at Harvard University, and a Post-doctoral Fellowship in Practical Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. I obtained a Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Milan in 1996.
My main research interests are in practical reasoning, moral epistemology and Kantian ethics. In particular, I deal with issues about the objectivity of rational justification, the standards of rational agency and related accounts of practical knowledge. I have argued for a distinctive form of Kantian constructivism, which is designed to vindicate both the objective and subjective aspects of practical reason. Current projects concern the impact of subjective vulnerabilities and constitutive constraints on rational deliberation and practical thought, as well as the status and role of retrospective attitudes of moral assessment.


Dawa Ometto: Practical Knowledge and Freedom

8. 11. 2017 / 15:00 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16


Recordings: Talk; Discussion

Further reading on the topic:

Further reading by the author: Document


In this talk, I aim to show that Anscombe‘s account of intentional action as characterized by practical knowledge allows us to understand how intentional action can (and must) be understood as essentially free action. The self-consciousness of practical thought, I argue, constitutes a form of causality that is (in a sense to be explained) self-determining. As a consequence, intentional action requires a certain openness of the future: exercises of the power to act cannot be causally determined in advance. This contrasts with a conception of the freedom or spontaneity of practical thought which remains altogether oblivious to the topic of causality and determinism, e.g. the idea that such spontaneity consists merely in bringing oneself under certain norms.


Dawa Ometto (Universität Leipzig) studied philosophy at Utrecht University (the Netherlands). He obtained his PhD in 2016, with a dissertation on action and freedom (Freedom & Self- Knowledge). His research interests lie mainly within the philosophy of action and philosophy of mind, but also in ethics and metaphysics. Since Wintersemster 2017/2018, Dawa is a postdoctoral fellow of the Humboldt Professur in Leipzig.

Martijn Wallage: How all things are in all respects

1. 11. 2017 / 15:00 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16


Recordings: Talk; Discussion

Further reading on the topic:

Further reading by the author: Document


“The world is everything that is the case… the totality of facts, not of things.” These lines, familiar as the opening lines of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, have engendered much discussion about the relation between thinking and being. They describe the world as in a certain way thinkable, since a fact has the form of a thought. But it would be mistaken to understand this as meaning that the world is made up of thinkable things, as the identity theory of truth has it. A better understanding takes “not of things” more seriously. Reflecting on this will also lead us to the issue of the place of the thinking subject in the world.


Martijn Wallage (Universität Leipzig) studied Philosophy most recently at King’s College London (PhD, 2017) and the University of Chicago (visiting, 2013-4, 2015-6). His research is concerned with self-consciousness and self-determination, which he approaches through reflection on the history of philosophy, especially Aristotle and Wittgenstein. Since Winter of 2017/2018 Martijn is a postdoctoral fellow of the Humboldt Professur at the University of Leipzig.

Gilly Nir: Wittgenstein’s Third Man Argument

25. 10. 2017 / 15:00 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16


Recordings: Talk; Discussion


In the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Wittgenstein draws the notorious distinction between what can be said in language and what can only be shown, but cannot be said. I draw an analogy between the argument through which Wittgenstein introduces this distinction and the Platonic Third-Man Argument. In Plato’s theory, an infinite hierarchy of ideas seems to be required in order to account for the relation between universals and particulars. The threat of a similar regress arises in Wittgenstein’s theory of representation, and this leads Wittgenstein to the conclusion that there cannot be such a thing as a representation of the logical form of representation. Logical form shows itself, but it cannot be said. My aim is to clarify the meaning of this dark saying, and to reevaluate the conception of logic that underlies it.


Gilly Nir studied Philosophy at the University of Chicago (PhD, 2017) and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (MA, 2008). His main interests lie in the history of analytic philosophy, from Kant to Wittgenstein. His dissertation concerns the nature of inference and the debate, in early analytic philosophy, concerning the idea that in inferring we are following rules. Since Wintersemster 2017/2018, Gilly is a postdoctoral fellow of the Humboldt Professur in Leipzig.