Thimo Heisenberg

Title | Organization: 
Graduate Student | Ph.D. program in Philosophy
Student Year: 
5th Year PhD Student (Dissertation Phase)
Areas of Specialization: 

 German Idealism, Kant, Ethics

Areas of Competence: 

 Social/Political Philosophy, 20th century European Philosophy


My dissertation investigates one of the foundations of Hegel’s ethics: namely his conception of the Good. I ask three central questions: (1) What does the Good consist in, for Hegel ? (2) Why does Hegel think that all agents should pursue it? and (3) What account of moral obligation follows from all this?

In reply to these questions, I argue not only that (1) the content of Hegel’s conception of the Good is much more complex and interesting than previous interpreters have thought, but also that (2) Hegel has a surprising, widely overlooked account of why we should pursue this Good: anticipating some contemporary ‘constitutivist’ views, Hegel argues that trying to actualize the Good is an essential element of agency itself. On such a view, then, we are always already committed to the pursuit of the Good whenever we act, simply because pursuing the Good is part of what it means to act. As a consequence, Hegel argues that we cannot consistently fail to aim at the Good in our actions – and that we involve ourselves in a self-contradiction when we try. This, in turn, (3) yields an interesting account of our moral obligations as agents – an account, in fact, that we have reason to take seriously even today.

Beyond my work on Hegel, I have written on Kant and Schelling. My work has appeared or is scheduled to appear in the Philosophisches Jahrbuch, in two anthologies on Schelling and in the Cambridge Kant Lexicon. At Columbia, I have taught Ethics (as sole instructor) and have been a Teaching Assistant for courses in ethical theory and the history of philosophy.