I’m an assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. My area of specialty is Kant and early modern philosophy, though I have further interests and teaching experience in ethics, political philosophy, metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and aesthetics. I earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Indiana University in September 2017. I wrote my dissertation entitled “Kant’s Theoretical Conception of God” under the direction of Allen Wood.
PhD in Philosophy, 2017
Indiana University Bloomington
M.A in Philosophy, 2006
The goal of this project is to develop an interpretation of Kant’s doctrine of regulative ideas as an account about the meaningfulness of certain metaphysical theories. The upshot of the proposed account is that certain metaphysical theories are meaningful not because they express beliefs about determinate facts, but rather because they express rational norms of how we ought to explain reality. I label this account Regulative Metaphysics. The project has both an exegetical objective in uncovering overlooked aspects in Kant’s doctrine of regulative ideas, as well as a philosophical objective in presenting a novel way to assess contemporary debates in metaphysics. Kant claims that human reason has an interest in ultimate explanations and possesses regulative principles directing progress towards such explanations. In his criticism of rationalistic metaphysics, Kant contends that these interests result in the illusory pretensions to attain knowledge of God, the world-whole and the soul. But those entities are appropriated to receive a new role as regulative ideas of reason. The role of the regulative principles of reason for scientific inquiry has been discussed in great lengths in the literature. But the relation between the regulative principles of reason and the specific metaphysical content of the ideas of reason is yet to be fully appreciated. In this project I aim to show that understanding this relation is central for a comprehensive explication of the doctrine of the regulative use of reason and for Kant’s view on metaphysics in general. The central claim is that those metaphysical conceptions are meaningful in virtue of their being an expression of the regulative principles. Therefore, the metaphysical content has a bearing on the correct interpretation of the principles. The project is divided into the following three sub-projects. In the first I will develop the account of regulative metaphysics from Kant’s doctrine of the ideas of reason. This includes both an exegetical thesis about the roots of the doctrine in the pre-critical period, as well as a reconstruction of the expressive nature of the use of regulative ideas in Kant’s critical works. In the second I will use this account to interpret other metaphysical issues in Kant’s later works, mainly in the philosophy of natural science and practical philosophy. In the third subproject I will apply my account to contemporary debates in analytic metaphysics related to truthmaking, grounding, and fundamentality, showing how controversies express differences in explanation norms. The main methodology of this project is a combination of historical contextualization and systematic reconstruction of the relevant historical texts. Additionally, parts of this project will make use of digital humanities methodologies and will involve developing tools for visualizations of cross references in the corpus and analysis of historical trends in Kant scholarship.
Should we take seriously Kant’s claim that his critical philosophy is the ‘true apology for Leibniz’? By exploring Kant’s attitude towards Leibniz’s doctrine of pre-established harmony, I argue that we should take it seriously because it sheds light on the development of Kant’s view about the role of teleology in science in general and in the life sciences in particular. I first present the general framework through which Kant appropriates Leibnizian doctrines as regulative ideals. I then address Kant’s pre-critical engagement with pre-established harmony. While he rejected it as an account of causal relations between substances, he made extensive references to harmony between laws of nature. I argue that the critical development of this type of harmony allows Kant to appreciate one of Leibniz’s motivations in arguing for pre-established harmony, the compatibility of mechanistic and teleological causal laws. Finally, I show how this affinity becomes explicit in the Critique of the Power of Judgment in Kant’s novel position on the legitimacy of teleological explanations of organisms. I demonstrate this by pointing to Kant’s complex attitude towards 18th century theories of epigenesis.
In his lectures on Logic and Metaphysics Kant distinguishes between logical and real essences. While the former are related to concepts and are knowable, the latter are related to things and are unknowable. In this paper, I argue that the unknowability is explained by the modal characteristic of real essences as a necessitating ground of which a priori knowledge is impossible. I also show how this claim is related to the unknowable necessity of particular laws of nature. Since laws of nature are conceived as grounded in real essences, the unknowability of the latter is equivalent to Kant’s other claim that there can be no knowledge of the necessity of particular laws of nature. Necessity can only be known a priori, and therefore, the necessity of particular laws is only assumed and conceived as grounded in something unknowable, a real essence. This conclusion will allow me to attribute to Kant a position I label as ‘regulative essentialism’, meaning that real essences have an indispensable role of in accordance with the rational interest to explain nature as a system of laws and natural kinds, combined with an epistemic humility about the correspondence of our empirical concepts to real essences.
In his 1785 book Morning hours, Moses Mendelssohn presents a proof for the existence of God from the grounding of possibility. Although Mendelssohn claims that this proof is original, it has not received much attention in the secondary literature. In this paper, I will analyze this proof and present its historical context. I will show that although it resembles Leibniz’s proof from eternal truths and Kant’s pre-critical possibility proof, it has unique characteristics which can be regarded as responses to deficiencies Mendelssohn identified in these earlier proofs. I argue that by analyzing the semantics of judgments about dispositions, Mendelssohn provides a novel explanation for the basic premise shared by these proofs, namely that possibility is grounded in actuality. Additionally, this analysis simplifies the inference to a unique infinite mind grounding all possibility. Thus, the proof is worth studying both for historical reasons and for its original account of modal concepts.
The nature of Kant’s criticism of his pre-Critical ‘possibility proof’ for the existence of God, implicit in the account of the Transcendental Ideal in the Critique of Pure Reason, is still under dispute. Two issues are at stake: the error in the proof and diagnosis of the reason for committing it. I offer a new way to connect these issues. In contrast with accounts that locate the motivation for the error in reason’s interest in an unconditioned causal ground of all contingent existence, I argue that it lies in reason’s interest in another kind of unconditioned ground, collective unity. Unlike the conception of the former, that of the latter directly explains the problematic ontological assumption of the possibility proof, the existence of intelligible objects as the ground of possibility. I argue that such Platonic entities are assumed because they are amenable to the kind of unity prescribed by reason. However, since the interest in collective unity has a legitimate regulative use when applied to the systematic unity of nature, the conception of God entailed by the possibility proof is retained as a regulative idea of reason.
In the “Appendix to the Transcendental Dialectic” of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant contends that the idea of God has a positive regulative role in the systematization of empirical knowledge. But why is this regulative role assigned to this specific idea? Kant’s account is rather opaque, and this question has also not received much attention in the literature. In this article, I argue that an adequate understanding of the regulative role of the idea of God depends on the specific metaphysical content Kant attributes to it in the Critique and other writings. I show that neither a heuristic principle of conceptual systematicity, nor conceiving God as a hypothesis of an intelligent designer, can satisfy the demands of reason to make the unity and necessity of the laws of nature intelligible. Regarding the positive account about the metaphysical content of the idea of God, I support my argument by referring to Kant’s pre-critical discussion of the usefulness of the conception of God for the project of science, and by expounding Kant’s critical account of the necessity of the laws of nature. Thus, my account sheds light on the continuity of Kant’s conception of God and his appropriation of his own rationalistic metaphysics.
Andrew Chignell and Omri Boehm have recently argued that Kant’s pre-Critical proof for the existence of God entails a Spinozistic conception of God and hence substance monism. The basis for this reading is the assumption common in the literature that God grounds possibilities by exemplifying them. In this article I take issue with this assumption and argue for an alternative Leibnizian reading, according to which possibilities are grounded in essences united in God’s mind (later also described as Platonic ideas intuited by God). I show that this view about the distinction between God’s cognition of essences as the ground of possibility and the actual world is not only explicitly stated by Kant, but is also consistent with his metaphysical picture of teleology in nature and causality during the pre-Critical period. Finally, I suggest that the distinction between the conceptual order of essences embodied in the idea of God and the order of the objects of experience plays a role in the transition into the Critical system, where it is transformed into the distinction between the intelligible and the sensible worlds.
“Kant’s Religion and the Reflective Judgment” In Margit Ruffing, Claudio La Rocca, Alfredo Ferrarin & Stefano Bacin (eds.), Kant Und Die Philosophie in Weltbürgerlicher Absicht: Akten des Xi. Kant-Kongresses 2010. De Gruyter. (2013)
Title: Kant’s Theoretical Conception of God
My dissertation argues for the conceptual unity and historical continuity of Kant’s theoretical conception of God. It shows both the importance of the conception of God for understanding the development of Kant’s thought from the pre-critical onto the critical philosophy, and its significant role in the Kantian account of theoretical rationality. I maintain that there is a single idea that guided Kant in construing the metaphysical conception of God traceable early on from the pre-critical philosophy, that of grounding the unity and necessity of the laws of nature. I examine how Kant’s critical adaptation of this prevalent early modern rationalistic position enables him to transform the conception of God from an object of metaphysical inquiry into a regulative idea of reason. My interpretation thus explains the connection, mostly ignored in the literature, between the rationalist metaphysical conception of God and the regulative role it affords in the critical system.
Extending my work on Kant’s philosophy of religion, I am planning to work on the following papers. One is a paper about the role of God in the Critique of the Power of Judgment. I explain why the faculty of reflective judgment is introduced as an addition to the faculty of reason by relating it to the notion of God as an intuitive intellect. A second paper is about the relation between Kant’s moral and theoretical conceptions of God. While acknowledging Kant’s repeated claims about the superiority of the moral conception over the theoretical one, I argue that the latter informs in a significant way the former regarding its content and its epistemic status.
In addition to Kant, I am interested in working on less-researched figures in late 18th and early 19th century German philosophy. One article under review is about Moses Mendelssohn’s proof for the existence of God in the Morning Hours (see above). In another paper, I plan to explore the theological position of Lessing’s Christianity of Reason and Mendelssohn’s charitable appropriation of it in the Morning Hours. I suggest that these texts present an interesting theological alternative vis-à-vis Kant on the one hand and rationalism on the other hand.
In one project inspired by Kant’s account of hope, I wish to investigate the role of hope in political activism. While there is a growing body of philosophical literature exploring the nature of hope, an account of the social-political dimensions of hope is still lacking. I suggest that hope figures not only in the attitudes of individuals involved in political activity, but that it is also required for characterizing the collective nature of activism and its ends. A standard account of hope analyzes it to include the belief that a desired outcome is possible though not certain. While hope does not depend on a judgment of probability, it can be responsive to evidence, increasing in light of ‘signs for hope’. Thus by utilizing Kant’s account of reflective judgment, I maintain that hope also involves a second-order disposition to look for and be receptive to such signs. Therefore, I augment the account of hope with a collective element which is the act of creating signs of hope in the public sphere. In the context of political action, this means creating signs for the possibility of social change. Taking a cue from Kant’s principle of the purposiveness of nature, I suggest transposing it to signs of hope in the social realm in the following ways. One type of sign is the formation of solidarity between disadvantaged groups which have seemingly unrelated interests. That would be a sign that a shared vision of justice is realizable through collective political action. A second type is the emergence of internal organization, for example in unionization or local grassroots campaigns. In addition to the immediate causes, such activities are signs for the very possibility of collective political agency. Thus the outcomes of solidarity and agency are valued not only instrumentally for specific policy changes but also because they foster in the agents of change and their intended audience the hope that political action can make a difference.
Using my 15 years of experience in software engineering I started to develop new research projects in Digital Humanities.
Data visualization and research tools: My extensive use of the online version of Kant’s gesammelte Schriften archive led me to design various tools to improve its functionality. For example, I plan to build a database of Kant’s handwritten notes (Reflexionen) adding visualizations of date ranges and cross-references to the location of the notes inside the books Kant owned (for example Baumgarten’s Metaphysics). I intend to make the tool publicly available through a web interface.
Historical research using computational methods: A planned project applies the categorization of the PhilPapers database with textual topic modeling to analyze historical trends in Kant and early modern scholarship. By tracking the evolution of topics and their fluctuating significance over time in journal articles, I will be able to assess presumed trends, for example the rise of metaphysical readings of transcendental idealism, Kant’s philosophy of empirical sciences and his social-political philosophy.
Philosophical Perspectives in Education / mandatory undergraduate, Fall 2019, Spring - Summer 2020
Research Workshop of the Israel Science Foundation
13-15 June 2023, Bar-Ilan University and Tel-Aviv University
Organizers: Noam Hoffer, Moran Godess-Riccitelli, Eli Friedlander