Seminars by Professors Visiting the University of Chicago

Below you will find a list of seminars on topics in German Philosophy on offer during the coming academic year that will be taught by visiting professors at the University of Chicago.

Academic Year 2023-24

Autumn Quarter 2023

PHIL 25712/35712 Showing and Saying in the History of Philosophy

Wittgenstein describes the theory of what cannot be said by means of propositions but is only shown as ‘the cardinal problem of philosophy.’ We shall ask how can the notion of showing, which is not familiar from tradition, can be regarded as the cardinal concern of philosophy. We shall discuss traditional accounts of philosophical understanding (e.g., Plato’s theory of form of the Good, Aristotle’s account of the Nous of simples, Absolute Idealism) in light of ‘the theory of what cannot be said but shown.’ I. Kimhi

Winter Quarter 2024

PHIL 21702/31702 Moral Evil in German Idealism

In this class we explore the debate about moral evil in German Idealism. Kant teaches that the moral law is the law of freedom while also holding that immoral activity is entirely imputable to the subject and therefore free. How are the two claims compatible? We will reconstruct Kant’s own answer to this question as well as its discussion in Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. And we will trace connections between the debate among the German Idealists and certain developments in contemporary moral constitutivism. Special attention will be given to Kant’s doctrine of radical evil, according to which actual immorality is a condition of human freedom, our capacity for moral goodness. We will examine Kant’s case for this doctrine and its role in the moral philosophies of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel.’

Wolfram Gobsch

PHIL 25713/35713 Wittgenstein’s Lecture on Ethics

This course will be devoted to Wittgenstein’s ‘Lecture on Ethics’ (1929) We shall study the lecture in the context of Wittgenstein’s work on logic and the history of ethics.

Irad Kimhi

Spring Quarter 2024

PHIL 20114/30114 Dialectics: Kant and Hegel

Traditionally, contradiction is taken to be possible only as the disagreement between two judgments at least one of which is false. In the Transcendental Dialectic of the Critique of Pure Reason Kant claims to have discovered in us an ineliminable proclivity for holding contradictory metaphysical views. Hegel praises Kant for this discovery but criticizes him for locating the origin of this proclivity merely in us and not also in the things as they are in themselves. Breaking with tradition, Hegel thus holds that there are contradictions that are not merely subjectively, but also objectively necessary. In this class we reconstruct and discuss the arguments for each view. For both Kant and Hegel, the dialectic implies a certain conception of the unity of theoretical and practical reason; special attention will be given to this implication and to the difference between the Kantian and the Hegelian conception of this unity.

Wolfram Gobsch

Academic Year 2019-20

Autumn Quarter 2019

PHIL 25705/35705 (SCTH 35707) On ‘Thinking and Being’

The class will be devoted to the themes and lines of philosophical thought set forth in the instructor’s recent book ‘Thinking and Being’ (HUP, 2018). We shall work through the Parmendian puzzles concerning falsehood and negation in trying to find what are the bearers of truth and falsehood, and what is philosophical logic. Readings will include texts by Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Frege, Russell, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein. I. Kimhi

Winter Quarter 2020

PHIL 35707 (SCTH 35706) The Different Senses of Being

Aristotle states that “being is said in many ways,” we shall seek to understand this statement and to study the history of its interpretations. Among the modern authors we shall discuss are Franz Brentano, Ernst Tugendhat, Charles Kahn, Aryeh Kosman, Stephen Menn, David Charles. I. Kimhi

Undergrads by permission of instructor only.

Spring Quarter 2020

PHIL 37322 (FNDL 27322, SCTH 37322, PLSC 37322) “Jerusalem and Athens” – on the Conflict between Revelation and Philosophy

This course will be taught the first five weeks of the quarter.

I shall discuss the subject on the basis of 4 lectures Leo Strauss gave on “Jerusalem and Athens” and “Reason and Revelation” in the period 1946-1967. H. Meier

Open to undergrads by consent only. 

Academic Year 2018-19

Spring Quarter 2019

PHIL 55606. The Concept of Anxiety.

Anxiety is discussed in modern philosophy as a mood or feeling which reveals ‘nothing’. The class will be devoted to the modern philosophical discourse on “anxiety” and “nothing”. Among the texts that we shall study are: Kierkegaard’s ‘The concept of Anxiety’, Heidegger’s ‘Introduction to Metaphysics’, and Sartre’s ‘Being and Nothingness’. We shall also compare the philosophical concern with anxiety/nothing with the discussion of anxiety in psychoanalysis, especially in Lacan’s Seminar ‘Anxiety’ i.e., seminar 10. I. Kimhi


SCTH 37321.  Leo Strauss: Natural Right and History.

This seminar will be taught during the first five weeks of the term (April 1-May1, 2019)

Natural Right and History (1953) has been the most widely received among the works of Leo Strauss. Originally presented as the Charles R. Walgreen lectures that Strauss delivered shortly after he had joined the University of Chicago in 1949, Natural Right and History became the book for the school Strauss founded. In order to come to an adequate understanding of philosophy, of its right and its necessity, Strauss confronts the critique of natural right and responds to the challenge to philosophy put forward by historicism. The question of the right life is the guiding thread of an investigation that reaches from Heidegger back to the beginning of philosophy in the discovery of nature.

I shall present a new reading of Natural Right and History, focusing on the first 4 chapters, discussing the philosophical intention and the political impact of this seminal book that laid the foundation of the “Straussian School.” H. Meier


Winter Quarter 2019

PHIL 51830. Topics in Moral, Political and Legal Philosophy: Nietzsche on Morality, Suffering, and the Value of Life.

Nietzsche objects to Judeo-Christian morality (and its ‘ascetic’ analogues in non-Western traditions) because he argues it is a fatal obstacle to certain kinds of human flourishing and cultural excellence. This is closely connected to his opposition to Schopenhauer’s pessimistic view that the inescapable fact of suffering renders life without value (a life without human excellence would, on Nietzsche’s view, lack value). These issues (and others, e.g., the nature of philosophy and tragedy, the conception of Dionysus) have antecedents in his early work as a scholar of antiquity and the influence of his Basel colleague, the important historian Jacob Burckhardt. Roughly the first five sessions will be devoted to reconstructing the “mature” Nietzsche’s view, as represented by the Genealogy, but also excerpts from Daybreak, Beyond Good and Evil, Twilight of the Idols, and Ecce Homo. The remaining four sessions of the seminar will explore the historical background, in Greek literature and philosophy, the reception of Greek culture in German philosophy, and in the seminal work of his colleague Burckhardt. The ultimate goal is to reconstruct Nietzsche’s view from a philosophical point of view and, as importantly, in light of the historical context. Open to philosophy PhD students without permission and to others with permission; those seeking permission should e-mail Leiter with a resume and a detailed description of their background in philosophy (not necessarily in the study of Nietzsche). In the event of demand, preference will be given to J.D. students with the requisite philosophy background. M. Forster; B. Leiter

Autumn Quarter 2018

Social Thought 50212. Expressivism/Historicism/Hermeneutics. 

Since the second half of the 18th century and in opposition to utilitarian or moral forms of rationalism mostly German thinkers developed an understanding a human action as expression (names “expressivism” by Charles Taylor). This became the basis both for a specific understanding of language, texts, and symbols in general (“hermeneutics”) and of human history (“historicism”). In this class crucial texts from this tradition will be read and discussed: from Herder, Kleist and Schleiermacher via Dilthey and Troeltsch to Gadamer and the present. H. Joas