My research interests are mainly within history of philosophy, aesthetics, and philosophy of culture. I concentrate on three areas:
I. Moses Mendelssohn’s Rational Anthropology
II. Ernst Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms
III. Self-Formation of Female Intellectuals in 18/19C

I. Moses Mendelssohn’s Rational Anthropology and its Legacy

I read Mendelssohn’s Anthropology as a Philosophy of Culture, which expands the discussion of his position in regard to its reception and impact. My central point is that Mendelssohn’s version of a rational anthropology concentrates on the symbolic capacity of humankind. Whether in art, metaphysics, moral theory, or culture and politics (the major focus of Enlightenment philosophy), what matters most for Mendelssohn is that human beings find meaningful ways of interaction that not only entertain the “whole human being”—a common battle cry of the Late Enlightenment—but are also reflective of their cultural heritage and social existence.

I published papers on Mendelssohn’s theory of immortality, aesthetics, and the influence of his philosophy on Schiller and Herder, among others.

Related publications:

Facetten des Menschen. Zu Moses Mendelssohns Anthropologie. [Facets of Humankind. On Moses Mendelssohn’s Anthropology] Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 2010 (= Studien zum 18. Jahrhundert 32), pp. 630.

Review by Cord-Friedrich Berghahn, in: Arbitrium 29.2 (2011), pp. 184-86.

Moses Mendelssohn: Phädon und einige Texte zur Bestimmung des Menschen. [Phaedon and a selection of texts on the vocation of man] With an Introduction and Commentary ed. Anne Pollok. Hamburg: Meiner, 2013. Introduction: 44pp., main text: 260 pp., commentary and bibliography: 47 pp.

Review by Otto Kallscheuer, Neue Zürcher Zeitung Nr. 231, October 5, 2013, 88-89.
Review by Monika Fick,
Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschrift 64 (2014), 499-504.

Moses Mendelssohn: Ästhetische Schriften. [Aesthetical Writings] With an Introduction and Commentary ed. Anne Pollok. Hamburg: Meiner, 2006. Introduction: 53 pp., main text: 291 pp., commentary and bibliography: 60 pp.

Review by Cord-Friedrich Berghahn, Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschrift 60.2 (2010), 241-45.
Review by Ernst Stöckmann,
Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert 32 (2008), 131-33.

Refereed Journal Articles
“Beautiful Perception and its Object. Mendelssohn’s theory of mixed sentiments reconsidered”, Kant-Studien 109.2 (2018), 270-285.

“The Power of Rituals. Mendelssohn and Cassirer on the Religious Dimension of Bildung”, Religious Studies 50/4 (2014), 445-464.
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Refereed Book Chapter
“How to dry our tears? Abbt, Mendelssohn, and Herder on the Immortality of the Soul”, Interdisziplinäres Jahrbuch Aufklärung. Ed. Martin Mulsow, Gideon Stiening und Friedrich Vollhardt. Hamburg: Meiner, 2018, 67-81.

Invited Book chapters

“Schiller as a Complicated Kantian”, Kantian Legacies in German Idealism. Ed. Gerad Gentry. London: Routledge (in print, 2020)

“Mensch oder Nation. Zu Mendels­sohns anthropo­zen­trischer Theorie des Fortschritts und Kants Einreden (TP, AA 8, 307.01–310.29)”, Immanuel Kant: Über den Gemeinspruch. Reihe Klassiker Auslegen. Ed. Stefan Klingner, Dieter Hüning. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter 2021. [under review]

“Is there a Middle Way? Mendelssohn on the Faculty of Approbation”, Beyond Autonomy in Eighteenth-Century British and German Aesthetics. Ed. Matthias Pirholt, Karl Axelsson, Camilla Flodin. London: Routlege, 2020 (in print).

“Gazing upwards to the stage – the notion of admiration in the 18th Century”, The Moral Psychology of Admiration. Ed. André Grahle, Alfred Archer. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019, 79-94.

„Die schöne Seele. Ansätze zu einer ganzheitlichen Anthropologie bei Mendelssohn, Garve und Schiller“, Christian Garve (1742–1798). Philosoph und Philologe der Aufklärung. Ed. Udo Roth, Gideon Stiening. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2020 (in print).

“A Further Mediation and the Setting of Limits: The Concept of Aesthetic Semblance and the Aesthetic State (Letters 26 and 27)”, Friedrich Schillers Briefe über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen. Klassiker Auslegen Series. Ed. Gideon Stiening. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter 2019, 219-35.

“Kant’s defeated counterpart. Moses Mendelssohn on the beauty, mechanics, and death of the human soul”, Kant’s Philosophy of the Unconscious. Ed. Riccardo Pozzo, Marco Sgarbi. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter 2012, 103-130.

“Schillers Erziehungsideal im Lichte der Ästhetik Moses Mendelssohns” [Schiller’s Ideal of Education in the Light of Mendelssohn’s Aesthetics], Bildung als Kunst Ed. Jürgen Stolzenberg, Lars-Thade Ulrichs (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2010), 87-100.

“Mendelssohns Theorie des Trauerspiels. Eine Position gegen Gottsched und Wolff?” [Mendelssohn’s theory of tragedy. A stance against Gottsched and Wolff?], Akten des 1. Internationalen Christian Wolff Kongresses. Christian Wolff und die europäische Aufklärung. Vol 4. Ed. Jürgen Stolzenberg, Pierre-Oliver Rudolph. Hildesheim, Zürich, New York: Olms, 2008, 361-76.

Invited Articles

“How the Better Reason Wins: Mendelssohn on Enlightenment”, in: Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie (in print).

“Engel oder Vieh? Schillers sentimentalische Erziehung im Lichte Mendelssohns rationaler Anthropologie“, Mendelssohn Studien 21 (2019), 71-92.

“Schmiedet keine Hypothesen! Mendelssohn und Lessing diskutieren den Fortschritt”[Feign no hypotheses! How Mendelssohn and Lessing discuss progress], Moses Mendelssohn. Special Edition of Text + Kritik. Ed. Heinz-Ludwig Arnold (München: Edition Text + Kritik, 2011), 64-75.
Review by Wolfgang Albrecht:

“Wenn der Begriff den Geist aufgibt. Anthropologische Implikationen in Moses Mendelssohns Sprachtheorie” [When a concept loses its spirit. Anthropological Implications of Mendelssohn’s theory of language], Mendelssohn-Studien 16 (2009), 413-37.

Thomas Abbt and Moses Mendelssohn: Doubts and Oracle regarding the vocation of humankind, as well as letters between 1756 and 1764. Letters between Herder and Mendelssohn in 1765 on the Vocation of Man. London: Bloomsbury Studies in Early Modern Philosophy. [in preparation]

Thomas Abbt and Moses Mendelssohn: Doubts and Oracle regarding the vocation of man. Invited contribution to the Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, published by the New School of Social Research, NY, vol. 39.1 (2018), 229-235 (introduction), 237-261 (text).

Articles in preparation
“An Exercise in Humanity. Abbt and Mendelssohn on Baumgarten’s notion of ‘aesthetic training’ and its relation to the vocation of man”, in: The Philosophy of Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten. Ed. Colin McQuillan. London: Bloomsbury, 2020.

“Encapsulating Worlds: Mendelssohn, Moritz, and Goethe reflect on the Monadic Structure of Art”, in: Leibniz’ Legacy in Modern European Thought and Philosophy. Ed. Audrey Borowski. Oxford: OUP (2020).

“Necessity and Beauty. Schiller’s Essay On the Necessary Limits of Beautiful Forms”, Palgrave Handbook on the Philosophy of Friedrich Schiller. Ed. Tim Mehigan, Antonio Falduto. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave (2021)

II. Cassirer’s Philosophy of Culture

I read Ernst Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms as a normative approach to Cultural Studies as an heir of 18th Century Philosophical Anthropology. His philosophy is a critical enrichment of the aforementioned fields of discussion, combining a grand view on Leibnizianism and beyond with a particularly normative take on Kant’s Critical Philosophy in a theory of symbolic human intersubjectivity. In my recent work I am dealing with Cassirer’s account of symbolic expression as a human activity of culture-formation, as well as with the philosophical results of his outreach towards the arts. I follow Cassirer’s conception of the symbol as the condition of the possibility of artistic meaning further to his ingenious student, Susanne Langer, who to my mind developed a richer outlook onto the function of art than the more famous, analytically oriented Nelson Goodman. I am interested in the notion of the aesthetic object that functions as the symbol in art, fusing both material and intelligible aspects into one work.

Refereed Journal Article
“The Power of Rituals. Mendelssohn and Cassirer on the Religious Dimension of Bildung”, Religious Studies 50/4 (2014), 445-464.
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Invited Book chapters

“Being in Time. History as an expression and interpretation of human culture”, Interpreting Cassirer. Ed. Simon Truwant. Cambridge: CUP, 2020 (in print).

“The First and Second Person Perspective in History. Or: Why History is ‘Culture Fiction’”, The Philosophy of Ernst Cassirer. A Novel Assessment. Ed. Sebastian Luft, Tyler Friedman. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2015, 341-60.
Volume reviewed by Francesca Biagioli, The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 6.1 (2016), 164-67.

Invited Articles
“Significant Formation. An Intersubjective Approach to Aesthetic Experience by Cassirer and Langer”, Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, published by the New School for Social Research, NY, 37/1 (2016), 71-95.

“Cassirer’s Kant: From the ‘Animal Morale’ to the ‘Animal Symbolicum’” (co-authored with Konstantin Pollok), International Yearbook of German Idealism, ed. J. Stolzenberg, F. Rush, vol. 8. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2012, 282-315.

in preparation:
“Music as Interplay. On the connection of work and audience in Langer’s theory of music” (journal article)

“A Call for Artistic Rituals: Langer’s Theory of History as a Process of Self-Liberation,” (under review)

III. Female Philosophers and Intellectuals in 18/19th Century

During the last years, I became interested in the contributions of female intellectuals to the notion of aesthetics and a philosophy of culture.
The philosophical world of the German Enlightenment and, to an even higher degree, German Romanticism certainly benefited from the contributions by female intellectuals. But almost as certainly, these intellectuals struggled to be accepted as thinkers in their own rights – mostly because the exact outline of such a role was unclear. The invention of the salon as an intellectual meeting place, the sentimental circles such as the “Tugendbund”, publications under either pseudonyms or hidden behind a male editorship may count as the first attempts to form such a role as salient members of an enlightened community. In the same vein, these attempts also mark the pitfalls of gender role demarcation by highlighting the difficulties that arise when we go beyond simple gender binaries: how can we mark the distinctive character of female intellectuals without either aligning them with their male counterparts (and hence masculinizing their contribution), or limiting them to common “female” attributes as the caring or the cunning?

Invited book chapters:
“Femininity and the Salon”, in: Palgrave Handbook for German Romanticism. Ed. Elizabeth Millan. Basingstonke: Palgrave [in print, fall 2019]

““On Self-Formation through Writing and Sociability (Henriette Herz, Rahel Levin Varnhagen, Dorothea Schlegel, Bettina von Arnim)”, Women and Philosophy in 18th Century Germany. Ed. Corey Dyck. Oxford: OUP, 2020 (in print).

In preparation

“Poertry, Power, and Life. Bettina von Arnim”, in: Oxford Handbook of Nineteenth Century Women Philosophers in the German Tradition. Ed. Dalia Nassar, Kristin Gjesdal. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.


Refereed Presentations

  1. 2019-3/9: “Bettina von Arnim: How to craft a transformative character”, Annual Meeting of the South Carolina Society of Philosophy. Columbia, March 8-9, 2019.
  2. 2018-10/6: “Bettina von Arnim: How to craft a transformative character”, German Woman Intellectuals 1700-1830. International workshop at the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists, organized by Ruth Hagengruber and Rodney Parker. Paderborn University, Germany, 4.-6. October, 2018
  3. 2018-5-17/19: “The salon as a way of emancipation”, 6th Annual Conference and General Meeting of SWIP Ireland. Society for Women in Philosophy. University College Dublin, Ireland, May 17-19, 2018.
  4. 2016-11-3: “To feel is not to say: Immediacy at the center of Langer’s theory of music as ‘living form’”, interdisciplinary panel: “Suzanne Langer Reconsidered” at the Annual Meeting of AMS/SMT in Vancouver, Canada, Nov 3–6, 2016.
  5. 2016-3-5: “What is an artwork? Ernst Cassirer’s dialogical philosophy of art”, APA Central Division Meeting. Chicago, March 2-5, 2016.
  6. 2012-03-27: “Surprisingly Human. Herder on Palingenesis”; panel of the Herder Society: Narratives of Time, Progress and Surprise, at the annual meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. San Antonio, TX, March 26-29, 2012.
  7. 2012-02-25: “The Anthropological Turn of Perfection. Mendelssohn and Abbt on the Destiny of Humankind”. At the Joint Biennial Meeting of the South and North Carolina Societies of Philosophy. Feb 24-25 at Elon University in Elon, NC.
  8. 2011-05-13: “Creating Persona. Moses Mendelssohn and the Unconscious”. The 18th Century and the Unconscious. 10th Annual Bloomington 18th Century Studies Workshop. Indiana University, May 11-13, 2011.
  9. 2009-01-07: “A Hermeneutics of Authenticity. On Self-Formation in Mendelssohn’s Philosophy of Culture” – on the annual conference of the British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, Oxford, UK, January 6-8, 2009.
  10. 2008-02-29: “Becoming Fully Human – About the Concept of Bildung in 18th Century Philosophy.” Joint 2008 Conference der South Carolina Society for Philosophy and North Carolina Philosophical Society, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2/29–3/01, 2008.


Invited Presentations

  1. 2020-2/27: “Layers of Meaning, Layers of Telling: How to Construct Female Identity in 18th Century Publications”, APA Symposium: Women in Enlightenment – Enlightened Women. Organized by Katharina Kraus, together with Corey Dyck and Patricia Sheridan. American Philosophical Association Central meeting, Chicago 2020.
  2. 2019-6/12: “Mensch oder Nation: Zu Mendelssohns anthropozentrischer Theorie des Fortschritts – und Kants grundlosen Einreden“, Workshop on Kant’s Essay On the Common Saying, Trierer Kant-Kolloquium, organized by Dieter Hüning and Stefan Klingner, Trier June 11-13. 2019.
  3. 2019-2-20: “Zwischen Erkennen und Begehren. Das Billigungsvermögen in Moses Mendelssohns Theorie der Sinnlichkeit” International Conference Aesthetica Practica. Organized by Oliver Bach, Gideon Stiening, Fritz Vollhardt. Wolfenbüttel, January 19-21, 2019.
  4. 2019-1-9: “Humankind’s Process of Self-Liberation. Ernst Cassirer’s Dialogical Philosophy of History”, APA Session of the Ernst Cassirer Society, organized by Simon Truwant. New York, January 7-11, 2019.
  5. 2018-9-14: “Dreaming up persons and worlds. Bettina von Arnim and the lure of the imagination” Women Philosophers in the Long 19th Century, workshop organized by Kristin Gjesdal and Dalia Nassar. Temple University, Philadelphia, September 14-15, 2018.
  6. 2018-6-27: “Feminizing the Public Sphere. The Role of the Salon in Early 19th Century”. Berlin Summer Colloquium in Philosophy. Organized by Dina Emunds, Katharina Kaiser, Samantha Matherne, Karin Nisenbaum, Kristin Primus. Humboldt and Freie Univsersität, Berlin, June 25-29, 2018.
  7. 2018-3-29: “Understanding, Normativity, and Interaction. Comments on Gjesdal: Herder’s Hermeneutics”. Author Meets Critics Session on Kristin Gjesdal’s Herder’s Hermeneutics. History, Poetry, Enlightenment (CUP 2017), SGiR Session, APA Pacific San Diego, March 26-30, 2018.
  8. 2018-1-21: “Mendelssohn’s Anthropology”, Bestimmung des Menschen / Bilder des Juden in Berlin. International Mendelssohn Symposium. Berlin, January 21-22, 2018.
  9. 2017-10-21: “On Self-formation without Model: Attempt at a Typology (Henriette Herz, Dorothea Schlegel, Bettina von Arnim)”. Women Intellectuals in 18th Century Germany, international workshop at the Western University of London Ontario, Canada, organized by Corey W. Dyck, October 20-21, 2017.
  10. 2017-9-13: “The History of the Upward Gaze in the Enlightenment. The role of admiration in Shaftesbury, Mendelssohn, Garve, and Schiller.” International Workshop on the Moral Psychology of Admiration, organized by Andre Grahle and Alfred Archer, Munich, Germany, September 12-14, 2017.
  11. 2017-5-24: “Forward with a backwards glance. Mendelssohn on admiration, progress, and the vocation of man”. International Workshop on the Philosophy of Moses Mendelssohn. Organized by Heiner F. Klemme and Corey Dyck, Halle, May 23-24, 2017, Halle, Germany.
  12. 2017-4-15: Comment on Sebastian Luft: The Sphere of Culture. Author meets Critics Session, organized by Clinton Tolley and Samantha Matherne. APA pacific meeting, Seattle, April 12-15, 2017.
  13. 2017-3-18: „Die schöne Seele. Ansätze zu einer ganzheitlichen Anthropologie bei Mendelssohn, Garve und Schiller“, Christian Garve Conference, University of Munich, March 16-18, 2017.
  14. 2016-12-5: “Motion and Rest. Lessing and Mendelssohn discuss the Laocoon” Invited presentation at the International Workshop Principles of Composition. Towards a Laocoon for Works of Technological Art. Technical University of Darmstadt and University of Padua, Padua, December 5-7, 2016.
  15. 2016-10-7: “To feel is not to say: Langer’s theory of music as ‘living form’”, Colloquium Series School of Music, USC (rescheduled due to inclement weather for 10/28)
  16. 2016-10-1: “Imagining Wholeness or Wholeness through Imagination? Schiller’s Letters Concerning Aesthetic Education”. Invited Presentation on the first annual conference of the Society for German Idealism and Romanticism at the University of Chicago, October 1-2, 2016.
  17. 2016-4-3: “Das Versprechen von Vollkommenheit. Der Streit zwischen Mendelssohn und Abbt über die Unsterblichkeit der Seele“ (The Promise of Perfection. On the Argument Concerning Immortality of the Soul between Mendelssohn and Abbt). Invited contribution to Begriff und Funktion der Unsterblichkeit im 18. Jahrhundert. (Concept and Function of Immortality in 18th Century), conference organized by Gideon Stiening, Dieter Hüning, and Stefan Klingner. University of Trier, Germany, 3-31 to 4/4, 2016.
  18. 2016-3-2: “An Intricate Relation: The (inter)subjectivity of aesthetic response in Cassirer and Langer” Invited talk for the North American Neo-Kantian Society on the APA Central Division Meeting, Chicago, March 2-5, 2016.
  19. 2015-11/12: “What are we looking at? Mendelssohn’s theory of mixed sentiments reconsidered” Panel on Moses Mendelssohn at the Annual Conference of the American Society of Aesthetics, Savannah, Georgia, November 12-15, 2015.
  20. 2014-12-17: “Limits of the Expressive. Ernst Cassirer’s Philosophy of Culture as a Laocoon of Culture”. Invited Presentation at the University of Darmstadt, Germany.
  21. 2014-11-14/15: “Diversity in the Late Enlightenment”. Presentation and workshop on the Annual Meeting of Fellows – German National Academic Foundation, at San Francisco, CA (together with Lanier Anderson, Stanford).
  22. 2014-06-21: “The First and Second Person Perspective in Cassirer’s Philosophy of History. Or, Why the History of Philosophy is ‘Culture Fiction’”; invited talk at The Philosophy of Ernst Cassirer. A Novel Assessment, conference at Marquette University, organized by Sebastian Luft, June 19-22, 2014.
    Discussion of presentation/conference:
  23. 2011-10-14: “’These Dark Alleys!’ 18th Century Answers to the Puzzle of the Unconscious”, Colloquium Series, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
  24. 2009-01-30: “A Hermeneutics of the Self. On Spinoza’s, Mendelssohn’s and Cassirer’s view of the cultural force of faith.” – Colloquium-Series of the Department of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina, co-sponsored by Jewish Studies Program, Columbia, SC, USA.
  25. 2005-02-12: Schillers sentimentalische Erziehung und die Popularphilosophie, Nur als ästhetisches Phänomen noch gerechtfertigt? Aufklärungs- und Bildungskonzepte bei Schiller, Fichte und Nietzsche; conference at Schulpforta/Naumburg, organized by Jürgen Stolzenberg, February 2-4,


Other Presentations

  1. 2016-9-9: Reading Group on Early Modern Philosophy at USC, organized by Matt Kisner, discussion of Goethe’s Faust
  2. 2015-12-3: The Puzzle of Aesthetic Objects. Talk at the Queen Street Symposium, organized by Christopher Tollefsen.
  3. 2012-12-05: “Mendelssohn’s Anthropology in its context”; presentation at the Center for the Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University.
  4. 2011-07-25: “Editing Mendelssohn’s Phaedon”. At the International Summer School, Marbach, Germany.
  5. 2010-01-20: „Eternity, an Abyss! The Aesthetical-Anthropological Perspective on Immortality in 18th Century Germany”. – Colloquium at Marbach Archive of Literature. Marbach am Neckar, Germany.
  6. 2008-11-24: “Thus we are both humans – on the Renaissance of Mendelssohn’s Anthropology in Cassirer’s Philosophy of Culture”. Workshop of the Leo Baeck Fellowship Programme at the University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.
  7. 2006-05-12: Mendelssohns Theorie vom Menschen (Doktorandenforum Rothenfels)
  8. 2005-10-20: Schillers Begriffsdichtung (Kant-Gesellschaft Minden)
  9. 2004-04-08: Mendelssohns Theorie des Dramas. Eine Position gegen Wolff und Gottsched? (Martin Luther Universität, Halle-Wittenberg, First International Christian-Wolff-Conference „Christian Wolff und die Europäische Aufklärung“)
  10. 2004-01-27: Die Schaubühne hat ihre besondere Sittlichkeit. Überlegungen zu Mendelssohns Poetik (Philipps Universität, Marburg: „VorSicht“-Lectures).