Leadership

Jonathan lear

Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society; John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor at the Committee on Social Thought and in the Department of Philosophy

Jonathan Lear (jlear@uchicago.edu) is the John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor at the Committee on Social Thought and in the Department of Philosophy. He trained in Philosophy at Cambridge University and The Rockefeller University where he received his Ph.D. in 1978. He works primarily on philosophical conceptions of the human psyche from Socrates to the present. He also trained as a psychoanalyst at the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis. His books include: Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (2006), Aristotle and Logical Theory (1980), Aristotle: The Desire to Understand (1988); Love and Its Place in Nature: A Philosophical Interpretation of Freudian Psychoanalysis (1990), Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul (1998), Happiness, Death and the Remainder of Life (2000), Therapeutic Action: An Earnest Plea for Irony (2003), Freud (2005), and A Case for Irony (Harvard University Press, 2011). His most recent book is Wisdom Won From Illness (Harvard University Press, 2017). He is a recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award and a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2014, he was appointed the Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society.

 

Curriculum Vitae

The following is a selected list of research articles by Jonathan Lear. For a complete list, please see his Curriculum Vitae or contact him at jlear@uchicago.edu.

  • “The Freudian Sabbath,” in Hegel on Philosophy in History (James Kreines and Rachel Zuckert eds., Cambridge University Press, 2017)

  • "The Fundamental Rule and the Fundamental Value of Psychoanalysis," Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association (June, 2015) 

  • "Waiting with Coetzee," Raritan, Vol. 34, no. 4 (2015)
  • "Rosalind's Pregnancy," Raritan, Vol. 34, no. 3 (2015)
  • "Integrating the Non-Rational Soul," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Vol. 114, (2014)
  • "The Ironic Creativity of Socratic Doubt," MLN: Modern Language Notes, (128:5, 2013) 1001-1018
  • "The Call of Another’s Words," in The Humanities and Public Life (ed. Peter Brooks, Fordham University Press,  2014)
  • "Wisdom Won From Illness: The Psychoanalytic Grasp of Human Being," International Journal of Psychoanalysis (2014)
  • "Mourning and Moral Psychology: The Work of Hans Loewald," Psychoanalytic Psychology (2014)
  • "The Illusion of a Future: The Rhetoric of Freud's Critique of Religious Belief."  In: On Freud's 'The Future of an Illusion (M.K. O'Neil and S. Akhtar eds., London: Karnac, 2009) (PDF)
  • "Technique and Final Cause in Psychoanalysis: Four Ways of Looking at One Moment," International Journal of Psychoanalysis (PDF)
  • Allegory and Myth in Plato's Republic (PDF)
  • Jumping from the Couch: An Essay on Phantasy and Emotional Structure (PDF)
  • Socratic Method and Psychoanalysis (PDF)
  • The Ethical Thought of J.M. Coetzee, Raritan (PDF)
  • Psychoanalysis and the idea of a moral psychology: memorial to Bernard Williams' philosophy, Inquiry, Volume 47, Issue 5 October 2004 , pages 515 – 522 (Link)
  • “Give Dora a Break!”, in Erotikon: Essays on Eros Ancient and Modern, ed. S. Bartsch and T. Bartscherer, University of Chicago Press, 2005 (PDF)
  • Avowal and Unfreedom. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Volume 69, Number 2, September 2004, pp. 448-454(7) (Link)
  • Inside and outside the Republic. Phronesis Volume 37, Number 2 / January, 1992 (Link)
  • On Reflection: the legacy of Wittgenstein’s later Philosophy, Ratio Volume 2 Issue 1 Page 19-45, June 1989 (Link)
  • The Disappearing 'We' (with B. Stroud). Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, Vol. 58 (1984), pp. 219-258 (Link)
  • Moral Objectivity. Objectivity and Cultural Divergence, Cambridge University Press, 1984 (PDF)
  • Ethics, Mathematics and Relativism. Mind, New Series, Vol. 92, No. 365 (Jan., 1983), pp. 38-60 (Link)
  • Aristotle's Philosophy of Mathematics. The Philosophical Review, Vol. 91, No. 2 (Apr., 1982), pp. 161-192 (Link)
  • Leaving the World Alone. The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 79, No. 7 (Jul., 1982), pp. 382-403 (Link)
  • Aristotelian Infinity, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, Vol. 80, (1979 - 1980), pp. 187-210 (PDF)
  • Aristotle's Compactness Proof. The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 76, No. 4 (Apr., 1979), pp. 198-215 (Link)
  • Sets and Semantics. The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 74, No. 2 (Feb., 1977), pp. 86-102 (Link)
  • The Introduction Of Eros: Reflections On The Work Of Hans Loewald. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:673-698 (Link)
  • Working Through the End of Civilization. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 88:291-308 (Link)
  • The idea of a moral psychology: The impact of psychoanalysis on philosophy in Britain. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 84:1351-1361 (Link)
  • "Philosophy and Bear Mace" (Link)

PHIL 53501. Special Topics in Philosophy of Mind: Imagination. What is imagination, and what functions does our power of imagination have in our lives? The seminar will approach these general questions via more specific ones such as the following: What are the relations between imagining, perceiving, remembering, and dreaming? Does our capacity for imagination play a role in enabling us to perceive? Does imagining something involve forming a mental image or picture of that thing? If not, how should we conceive of the objects of imagination? What is the nature of our engagement with what we imagine, and how does this engagement explain our ability to feel emotions such as fear, pity, and sympathy for imaginary beings? What is the role of imagination or fantasy in structuring our understanding of ourselves and our relations to other persons? Is there such a thing as the virtuous state of the power of imagination? Readings will be drawn from various classic discussions of imagination - e.g., Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Freud, Wittgenstein, Sartre - and from some contemporary sources. Graduate students in Philosophy & Social Thought only, except with permission of instructor. Co-taught with Matthew Boyle, Autumn 2017.

PHIL 23415. The Being of Human Beings: Heidegger's Letter on Humanism. Co-taught with Irad Kimhi. Spring 2015.

PHIL 21720. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. This seminar will offer a close reading of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, one of the great works of ethics.  Among the topics to be considered are: What is a good life? What is ethics? What is the relation between ethics and having a good life?  What is it for reason to be practical? What is human excellence? What is the non-rational part of the human psyche like?  How does it ever come to listen to reason? What is human happiness?  What is the place of thought and of action in the happy life? We shall use the new translation by C.D.C. Reeve (Hackett Publishers). Autumn 2014.

51412. “I-Thou and the Subject of Psychoanalysis". An attempt to locate psychoanalytic theory and practice within the philosophical and religious contexts of "I-Thou" relationships. Readings from psychoanalytic thinking on the nature of the psychoanalytic relationship (for example, Loewald, Stone, Freud, Lacan) as well as contemporary philosophical work on second-person relations (Michael Thompson, Sebastian Rödl, Stephen Darwall), and on certain Jewish philosophers (Rosenzweig, Levinas). With M. Stone. Spring 2014.

51411. Freedom and Love in Psychoanalsyis (and Life). This seminar will take up the idea -- developed after Freud, but influenced by him -- that freedom and love are fundamental values in psychoanalysis.  And they are fundamental values of psychoanalysis because they are constitutive of flourishing human life.  We shall read carefully articles by Hans Loewald, Paul Gray and Heinz Kohut (as well as articles by Lear and Levenson) that try to show how freedom and love show up in the details of human life, often hidden as such, and how psychoanalytic treatment facilitates their development.  We shall concentrate on theory and technique: giving clinical vignettes that give concrete realization to these ideals.  Students should have previous acquaintance with the writings of Freud as well as Plato's Symposium.  The seminar is open to graduate students in Philosophy and Social Thought as well as to undergraduate majors in Philosophy and Fundamentals.  All others require permission of the instructors. Taught Jointly with Clinical Prof. L. Levenson (Yale), Visiting Kohut Professor in the Committee on Social Thought. Spring 2013.

51409. Self-Conscious / UnconsciousOpen to Ph.D. students in Philosophy and Social Thought. Otherwise by permission of instructors. It is arguable (and Rödl argues in Self-Consciousness) that self-consciousness is the form of rational life and as such the form of human life. However, it is a traditional idea (an ancient idea) that the human soul has parts, and that alongside reason its parts are thumos and epithumia, the strive for honor and recognition, and sensory desire. This division of the human soul is revealed in the fact that, for men, self-knowledge is difficult (perhaps impossible), for it requires, or, rather, is the actuality of, the unity of the human soul.
     We want to think about reason, thumos and epithumia as parts of the soul (we are not implying that these are parts in the same way) and about the frailty and difficulty that attends self-knowledge as an achievement in human life insofar as the human soul has these parts. We shall read selections from Plato and Aristotle, Freud, Lear and Rödl. with M. Boyle (Social Thought). Winter 2012.

58200. Ethics and Psychoanalysis. Admission requires consent of instructors. This research seminar begins from a point about the power of moral and ethical considerations in our lives: if you convince people that they are unethical or otherwise morally bad, you have done them a kind of damage much worse than you do if you take their money or break their bones, and much worse than if you convince them that they are ugly, or dim, or irrational.  People can adjust to being unattractive.  They can adjust to being less than reasonable or smart.  But once they think that they are bad, it becomes very difficult for them to so much as take in any positive messages you have to give them about themselves.  They can grow mean.  They can become so abject that they lack even capacity to want more for themselves than what they have got so far.  This in turn suggests that the varieties of personal inadequacy marked by winding up on the wrong side of a good/bad divide in the assessment of human beings, human action, and human life more generally are crucial to understanding human flourishing.  In this seminar, we will turn to psychoanalytic work to account for this aspect of the place of ethical or moral assessment in human life.  Although Sigmund Freud notoriously distanced psychoanalytic work from specific concern with morality, in working from and against Freud, both Jacques Lacan and Melanie Klein developed accounts of mental life that turn on how the mind copes with anxiety triggered in brushes against the good/bad divide.  We will explore psychoanalytic work with an eye toward developing a philosophical moral psychology centered on the role of ethical or moral assessment of human beings, human life, and human conduct in mental functioning.  We hope thereby to provide theoretical underpinnings for our starting observation about the power of moral and ethical considerations. With C. Vogler. Spring 2012.

21691. Plato in Paris. Open to college students. It has been said that all of western philosophy is a footnote to Plato. This course will be an introduction to contemporary French philosophy via a study of the influence Plato has had on the major French philosophers of our time. We shall read crucial Platonic texts- among them, Symposium, Phaedrus, Laches, Apology - and at the same time read the interpretations that Foucault, Pierre Hadot, Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan have given to them. We shall concentrate on the following philosophical questions: What is it to have free speech? How can philosophy itself be a way of life? How can philosophy change one's soul? What is the nature of love? How does philosophy fit into a great city, like ancient Athens and contemporary Paris? No previous knowledge is required of Plato or of French philosophy.*Special note: To be taught at The University of Chicago's Paris Center. Spring 2007.

24101. Kierkegaard: Either/Or. Open to college students. This seminar will be a careful reading of Kierkegaard's classic text. Among the topics we shall consider are: the ethical life and its relation to the aesthetic life; the relation of both to the religious; the nature of pseudonymous authors. This course is restricted to majors in Fundamentals and Philosophy. (Others should register only with permission of the instructor). Autumn 2006.

25400/35400. A Philosophical Introduction to Freud and Psychoanalysis. Open to college and grad students. This course is an introduction to Freud and to the basic ideas of psychoanalytic theory. But the course will approach these ideas from the perspective of certain philosophical concerns: for example, what is human freedom and why does it matter?, what is the nature of human desire, of practical reason, what is happiness and can humans be happy? The central readings will be Freud's texts, but there will also be selections from philosophical works. Winter 2004.

25704. Plato's Republic. Open to college students. This course will guide students through a careful reading of Plato's Republic. Among questions we shall consider: What is justice and why think of it as a human excellence? What is the relation between politics, human psychology and metaphysics? Why does Plato write in dialogue form and why does he use myths, allegories and images in the course of his argument? What are the problems with democracy as Plato understood it? Autumn 2007.

26401. The Philosophy of Socrates. Open to college students. We shall read selected texts by Plato to gain a sense of Socrates' method of argument and his conception of philosophy. Autumn 2005.

27209. Soren Kierkegaard/Johannes Climacus: Concluding Unscientific PostscriptOpen to students who are majoring in Fundamentals or Philosophy, or with consent of instructor. This seminar is a careful reading of Concluding Unscientific Postscript. This difficult text was written by Johannes Climacus, who was one of Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous authors. Discussion questions include: What is subjectivity? What is irony? What is commitment? Winter 2010.

33201. Kierkegaard: Stages on Life's Way. Open to grad students and college students with consent of instructor. Prerequisites: Open to advanced undergraduates with permission of instructor. A close reading of the text. Co-taught with James Conant. Winter 2004. Syllabus

33510. Kierkegaard: The Sickness Unto Death. Open to grad students and college students with consent of instructor. PQ: Open to advanced undergraduates with permission of instructor. A close reading of the text, with an emphasis on understanding the nature of despair. Autumn 2003.

34400. Kierkegaard: Either/Or. Open to grad students and college students with consent of instructor. PQ: Consent of instructor. Class limited to twenty students. James Conant is co-instructor of this course. The course is devoted to a close reading of selected portions of Either/Or, the first and one of the most difficult of Kierkegaard's pseudonymous writings. Our attention is divided equally between Volumes One and Two of Either/OrAutumn 2002Syllabus

34400. Søren Kierkegaard: Concluding Unscientific Postscript Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments. After selected introductory readings to acquaint students with the idea of a pseudonymous author, we engage in a careful reading of this text. J. Lear, J. Conant. Autumn 2001. Syllabus

35400. A Philosophical Introduction to Freud and Psychoanalysis. Open to grad students and college students with consent of instructor. Winter 2004.

36700. Plato's Phaedrus. Open to grad students and college students with consent of instructor. A careful reading of Plato's text. Co-taught with John Coetzee. Autumn 2003.

38209. Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. Open to students who are majoring in philosophy with advanced standing. We work with Freud and Lacan, and pay special attention to questions about the status of the unconscious, the role of fantasy in lending shape to some aspects of life, material on the interpretation of dreams and on the senses in which questions about human life and normative authority inform neuroses. Co-taught with C. Vogler. Spring 2010.

51409. Self-Conscious / UnconsciousOpen to Ph.D. students in Philosophy and Social Thought. Otherwise by permission of instructors. It is arguable (and Rödl argues in Self-Consciousness) that self-consciousness is the form of rational life and as such the form of human life. However, it is a traditional idea (an ancient idea) that the human soul has parts, and that alongside reason its parts are thumos and epithumia, the strive for honor and recognition, and sensory desire. This division of the human soul is revealed in the fact that, for men, self-knowledge is difficult (perhaps impossible), for it requires, or, rather, is the actuality of, the unity of the human soul.
We want to think about reason, thumos and epithumia as parts of the soul (we are not implying that these are parts in the same way) and about the frailty and difficulty that attends self-knowledge as an achievement in human life insofar as the human soul has these parts. We shall read selections from Plato and Aristotle, Freud, Lear and Rödl. Co-taught with S. Rödl. Winter 2010.

53200. Jacques Lacan (=SCTH 37500). PQ: Permission of instructor. Theory of Psychoanalytic Process. This seminar concentrates on Lacan's theory of technique, his understanding of the concept of transference, and of what is supposed to happen in psychoanalytic treatment.

53801. Kierkegaard's Socrates. Open to grad students. .This will be an inquiry into the philosophical significance the figure of Socrates had for Kierkegaard. We shall read the relevant sections of The concept of irony, Philosophical Fragments, Concluding Unscientific Postscript and The Sickness Unto Death. We shall also read relevant sections from Plato, Xenophon and Aristophanes. Autumn 2005.

55405. Parts of the Soul. Open to grad students. This seminar will investigate the idea that the soul has parts. What does it mean to claim that there are different parts to the soul? Why is such a notion invoked? What does that imply about the prospects for human happiness or freedom? Reading: relevant sections from Plato's Republic, Freud The Ego and the id, and other relevant works on the structural theory; other later psychoanalytic writers. Winter 2006.

55500. Plato's Republic I. Open to grad students. PQ: this is a graduate seminar designed for Ph.D. students in Philosophy and the Committee on Social Thought. (Others require permission of instructor for enrollment). We shall read the Republic carefully over two quarters, along with a plethora of contemporary essays on issues raised in the text. Among the topics we shall consider are: the formulation of human psychology in the Republic and its relation to the metaphysics. The aim of philosophy. The aim of constructing a city in thought and conversation. Autumn 2006.

55501. Plato's Republic II. Open to grad students. PQ: this is a graduate seminar designed for Ph.D. students in Philosophy and the Committee on Social Thought. (Others require permission of instructor for enrollment). We shall read the Republic carefully over two quarters, along with a plethora of contemporary essays on issues raised in the text. Among the topics we shall consider are: the formulation of human psychology in the Republic and its relation to the metaphysics. The aim of philosophy. The aim of constructing a city in thought and conversation. Winter 2007.