About this Project

Recent public responses to “the crisis in the humanities” have emphasized the cultural value and liberating effects of humanistic education. This is well and good, but it must be supplemented by a rigorous theoretical interrogation of just what the humanistic disciplines claim to know and teach. The Idealism Project seeks to excavate and systematically rethink what is perhaps the most ambitious attempt to understand humanistic study as a distinct and autonomous form of knowledge: the movement of idealism in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century German thought and letters. The idealist tradition constitutes, in our view, the most compelling theoretical resource for explicating such fundamental issues of humanistic inquiry as the nature of embodied meaning and value. Our specific object of inquiry is the unique type of formal universality to which any claim to humanistic knowledge must, if it is to count as knowledge at all, refer. Our wager is that this universality is anchored in the concept of form properly understood. It is this concept upon which the distinctive unity and thus intelligibility of the plastic arts, literature, and human action itself rests. The notion of form has a rich philosophical history that reaches back to Plato and Aristotle and extends forward to Goethe, Kant, Hegel, and to many contemporary philosophers. An understanding of this history is indispensible to the systematic articulation of the idealist notion of “self-determining form,” and in the first year of our project we will attempt to understand better that notion and its presuppositions and implications.


Neubauer Collegium celebrates opening of new home at 5701 S. Woodlawn

April 21, 2015

In a milestone for the ambitious research initiative, the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society celebrated the opening of its permanent home at 5701 S. Woodlawn Ave. on April 20 with remarks by University of Chicago leaders and a panel discussion featuring Neubauer Collegium Faculty Fellows.

Visiting Fellows bring expertise, energy to the Neubauer Collegium

March 8, 2015

The robust Neubauer Collegium Visiting Fellows Program supports both short and long-term visits from guest scholars, facilitating an exchange of ideas that enriches the Neubauer Collegium’s projects.

Project Updates

The Activity of Being
July 1 & 3, 2016

Leipzig University, Institute for Philosophy


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