Anja Jauernig



    About Me


    NYU Philo

      Research Interests

My main interests in philosophy lie in an area that one might call 'historically informed and inspired philosophy' by which I mean a kind of philosophy that is grounded in the ideas and questions of philosophers of the past but also contributes to the contemporary philosophical debate. My motivation to engage in a dialogue with these historical figures is not mere historical curiosity but primarily the belief that such a dialogue is an invaluable tool for gaining a better understanding of central philosophical problems that are as gripping and difficult today as they were back then. Philosophy does not happen in a vacuum, it is a discipline with a rich history. To my mind, the presuppositions and implicit assumptions that are built into many philosophical questions and problems can only be adequately understood if their historical lineage is sufficiently appreciated. And since understanding the presuppositions of a problem is a necessary condition for understanding the problem itself, and since understanding a problem is a necessary condition for solving it, I take a certain amount of historical work to be an essential component of any kind of responsible philosophical research.

The historical period that I feel most at home in ranges from the mid-17th to the early 20th century. Within this period I am especially interested in all things rationalist and idealist. My favorite dead interlocutors are Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Immanuel Kant. Eventually, I am hoping to develop and defend a modernized version of transcendental idealism modeled on, but also going beyond Kant's transcendental idealism. This larger project includes several sub-projects that I have been working on and expect to be working on in the foreseeable future. One of these sub-projects is to get clearer on Kant's philosophy by investigating its relationship to Leibniz's philosophical system (yes, I do think that there is such a thing as Leibniz's philosophical system). In my view (and Kant's view), Leibniz's philosophy is much closer to Kant's critical philosophy than is commonly recognized. More precisely, there is more Kant in Leibniz than Leibniz is commonly given credit for, and there is more Leibniz in Kant than is commonly acknowledged. In order to be able to make an informed comparison between Leibniz and Kant, I had to spend a good deal of time (and nerves) on trying to understand Leibniz. My dissertation "Leibniz freed from every flaw: a Kantian reads Leibnizian metaphysics" (the part that I handed in and the part that I had to cut out in order to appease the higher powers at my graduate institution who do not like long books) and my published papers on Leibniz contain some of the fruits of this labor (for what it is worth). Other sub-projects are the examination of the transformation of Leibniz's thought in Germany in the 18th century by such philosophers as Wolff and Baumgarten and Kant's reaction to this transformed Leibnizianism in his so-called precritical period, and the evaluation of Kant's transcendental idealism from the perspective of such early critics as Schulze, Jacobi, Hegel, and Schopenhauer, from the point of view of such neo-Kantians as Cohen, Reichenbach, and Cassirer, and against the background of such loosely neo-Kantian thinkers as Husserl and Heidegger. Within Kant's philosophy itself, I am particularly interested in his theory of space and time, his philosophy of mathematics and physics, his metaphysics of the supersensible, and his theory of cognition.

My other philosophical interests include the history of the philosophy of science, aesthetics, existentialism, and animal ethics.



Thought and Cognition according to Kant—Our Cognitive Access to Things in Themselves and Appearances in Kant’s Critical Philosophy, Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press (forthcoming). 

The World according to Kant —Things in Themselves and Appearances in Kant’s Critical Idealism, Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press (forthcoming).

These two books used to be two parts of one book that eventually grew to be too long for its own good. At a high level of generality, the topic of the earlier, overly long book can be described as the question of how to think about things in themselves. This question can be understood in two ways. First, it can be taken as a question about how to interpret Kant's conception of things in themselves: What are things in themselves, according to Kant? Second, it can be taken as a question about Kant's theory of thinking as applied to things in themselves: How can we think about things in themselves (if we can think about them at all), according to Kant? The World according to Kant deals with the former question; Thought and Cognition according to Kant deals with the latter question. More specifically, the first book presents a comprehensive interpretation of Kant's critical idealism, understood as an ontological theory, including a detailed account of his conception of things in themselves and their relation to appearances. The second book offers a comprehensive interpretation of Kant's epistemology, including a detailed account of his theory of thought and cognition as applied to things in themselves and appearances.

Articles and Chapters

“Kant on the (alleged) Leibnizian misconception of the difference between sensible and intellectual representations,” in Brandon Look (editor), Leibniz and Kant, Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press (forthcoming).

Kant attacks the Leibnizians on various fronts but the objection that occurs most frequently in his writings is that they are committed to an untenable conception of the relation between sensible and intellectual representations. They regard the difference between intellectual and sensible representations as a merely ‘logical’ difference that concerns their form, namely, their different degrees of distinctness, while in truth it is a difference in kind that concerns their nature, origin, and content. In the first part of this essay, I provide a detailed reconstruction of what exactly this objection amounts to, and show why Kant takes this misconception to be so significant that he keeps coming back to it over and over again. The misconception is so significant because virtually all of the other mistaken doctrines of the Leibnizians can be traced back to it. Several commentators have argued that Leibniz is not guilty of the confusion of sensible and intellectual representations that Kant accuses him of. But this does not automatically clear him from all the other errors that Kant takes to be closely connected with this confusion. In the second part of this essay, I take a look at Leibniz's theory of confused perceptions and examine whether he is committed to one of these errors, namely,
the view that we could learn something about things in themselves by experience if our senses were acute enough or our powers of 'disfusing' perceptions were strong enough.

“The synthetic nature of geometry, and the role of construction in intuition,” in Stefano Bacin, Alfredo Ferrarin, Claudio La Rocca, and Margit Ruffing (eds.), Akten des XI. Internationalen Kant Kongresses 2010 in Pisa, Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter Verlag (forthcoming), 89–100.

Most commentators agree that (part of what) Kant means by characterizing the propositions of geometry as synthetic is that they are not true merely in virtue of logic or meaning, and that this characterization has something to do with his views about the construction of geometrical concepts in intuition. Many commentators regard construction in intuition as an essential part of geometrical proofs on Kant’s view. On this reading, the propositions of geometry are synthetic because the geometrical theorems cannot be proved in purely conceptual or logical terms. Other commentators see the main role of pure intuition and the figures constructed in pure intuition in that they provide a model for Euclidean geometry. On views of this kind, the propositions of geometry are synthetic because the geometrical axioms are substantive truths about one of our forms of intuition. On the interpretation proposed in this essay, what Kant means by claiming that the propositions of geometry are synthetic is not only that the Euclidean axioms and theorems cannot be reduced to tautologies or logical truths, but also that they apply to really possible objects. Construction in intuition plays no essential role in (what we now call) ‘pure’ geometry on Kant’s view. But the fact that the concepts of geometry can be constructed in intuition is of crucial importance in the context of Kant’s transcendental philosophy of geometry, because, among other things, it allows him to explain how Euclidean geometry is possible as an a priori synthetic science in the sense just indicated.

“Kant, the Leibnizians, and Leibniz,” in Brandon Look (editor), The Continuum Companion to Leibniz, London/New York: Thoemmes Continuum Press (2011), 289–309.

A popular story about Kant's relation to Leibniz presents Kant as a Leibniz-Wolffian by education who, inspired by his encounter with the teachings of Newton and Hume, took on the project of reconciling Leibniz-Wolffian metaphysics with Newtonian science and of responding to epistemological skepticism, a project that led him further and further away from his Leibniz-Wolffian roots and culminated in the total rejection of the Leibniz-Wolffian philosophy in the Critique of Pure Reason. In this essay, four shortcomings of the popular story are identified and several suggestions are made about how to amend and expand the story in order to overcome these shortcomings. Furthermore, some of the most important Leibnizian doctrines that influenced Kant are collected and their role in Kant's philosophy is discussed.

“Disentangling Leibniz’s views on relations and extrinsic denominations,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 48.2 (2010): 171–205. Download!
Most commentators agree that Leibniz advocates some version of a doctrine of the ideality or reducibility of relations, but there is considerable disagreement about what exactly this doctrine means. I argue that Leibniz’s views on relations are more complex than has been previously appreciated, and that, despite some ‘reductionist’ strands in Leibniz’s position, it is seriously misleading to describe him as a reductionist about relations without adding some important qualifications. The complexity of Leibniz’s views on relations tends to be obscured by the common assumption that they can be captured in one unified thesis, or a small number of closely related theses, and by the widespread neglect to take Leibniz’s division of reality into several ontological levels into consideration. I disentangle ten Leibnizian theses about relations, extrinsic denominations, and their relation to intrinsic denominations. Some of these theses express a kind of dependence of extrinsic denominations on intrinsic ones, and some of them can even be counted as articulations of a form of reductionism. But, overall, the general tenor of Leibniz’s position on extrinsic denominations remains non-reductionist.

“Leibniz on motion—Reply to Slowik,” The Leibniz Review XIX (2009): 139–147. Download!

This essay is a reply to Edward Slowik's critical discussion of my paper "Leibniz on Motion and the Equivalence of Hypotheses."

“Leibniz on motion and the equivalence of hypotheses,” The Leibniz Review XVIII (2008): 1–40.

I argue that,
contrary to popular belief, Leibniz is not hopelessly confused about motion. Leibniz is indeed both a relativist and an absolutist about motion, as suggested by the textual evidence, but, appearances to the contrary, this is not a problem; Leibniz’s infamous doctrine of the equivalence of hypotheses is well supported and well integrated in his physical theory; Leibniz’s assertion that the simplest hypothesis of several equivalent hypotheses can be held to be true can be explicated in such a way that it makes good sense; the mere Galilean invariance of Leibniz’s conservation law does not compromise his relativism about motion; and Leibniz has a straightforward response to Newton’s challenge that the observable effects of the inertial forces of rotational motions allow us to empirically distinguish absolute from relative motions.

“The modal strength of Leibniz’s principle of the identity of indiscernibles,” in Dan Garber and Steven Nadler (editors), Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, Oxford/New York City: Oxford University Press (2008), 191–225. Download! (Requires a subscription to ebrary by you or your academic institution.)

It is surprisingly difficult to determine what modal strength Leibniz wants to ascribe to his principle of the identity of indiscernibles (PII). I consider this question by examining (i) some direct textual evidence, (ii) Leibniz's main arguments for PII, (iii) Leibniz's presumable response to a prominent contemporary defense of the necessity of PII against Max Black style counterexamples, and (iv) Leibniz's views about the possibility of primitive haecceities. I conclude that Leibniz probably takes PII to be necessary.

“Kant’s critique of the Leibnizian philosophy: contra the Leibnizians, but pro Leibniz,” in Dan Garber and Béatrice Longuenesse (editors), Kant and the Early Moderns, Princeton: Princeton University Press (2008), 41–63 (and 214–223 notes). Download! (Requires a subscription to ebrary by you or your academic institution.)

I argue that the popular story that portrays Kant's philosophical development as a gradual emancipation from his Leibniz-Wolffian roots that culminates in a total rejection of Leibniz's philosophy by 1781 is not accurate. Kant's many objections against the Leibnizian philosophy in the critical period are not directed against Leibniz himself but against the Leibniz-Wolffians. Kant considers Leibniz's philosophy to be very close to his own, calling the Critique of Pure Reason the "true apology" of Leibniz. I submit that this assessment is correct, and illustrate the closeness of Kant and Leibniz by identifying several important similarities in their theories of space.

“Must Empiricism Be a Stance, and Could it Be One? How to Be an Empiricist and a Philosopher at the Same Time,” in Bradley Monton (editor), Images of Empiricism: Essays on Science and Stances, with a Reply from Bas van Fraassen, Oxford/New York City: Oxford University Press (2007), 271–318.

In his recent book, The Empirical Stance, Bas van Fraassen raises the question of what a philosophical position can or should be. He mainly examines this question with respect to empiricism but his discussion makes it clear that he takes his proposed answer to be generalizable: not only empiricism but philosophical positions in general should be understood as stances rather than dogmata. The first part of this essay is devoted to an examination of van Fraassen’s critique of ‘naïve’ or dogmatic empiricism, which represents an integral part of his argument for stance empiricism. I argue that not all versions of naïve empiricism run into the problems identified by him. In the second part of the paper, I go on to show that,
contrary to what van Fraassen claims, the stance empiricist is in no better position to provide a radical critique of metaphysics than the naïve empiricist. The third part concerns van Fraassen’s general proposal. I examine the question of whether a philosophical position can possibly consist in a stance and suggest that the answer is no. With respect to empiricism, this has the implication that if one wants to be a philosopher and an empiricist at the same time one needs to subscribe to a form of naïve empiricism. Moreover, as a philosopher-empiricist one should want, or at least allow, some form of metaphysical theorizing to be part of philosophy after all.