Mathis Koschel

Postdoctoral Scholar - Teaching Fellow
Mathis Koschel
Email koschel@usc.edu Office STO 116

Education

  • Ph.D. Philosophy, University of Chicago, 2023
  • B.A. Philosophy, Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    I work on Kant and Hegel, with a focus on the project of a priori philosophy. So far, my work revolves around theoretical cognition, especially knowledge of objects of nature and the concept of nature itself. A result of my work so far is that, their differences notwithstanding, both Kant and Hegel ultimately defend a non-dualistic, commonsensical account of nature and of the place of human beings in it. That is, Kant and Hegel have more sensible and more similar positions than interpreters—including Hegel himself—tend to hold.

    In my interpretation of Kant, I focus on his claim that the concept of nature is an “idea of reason”, i.e., a concept which guides us in our empirical cognition, but which does not have the “objective reality” (roughly: determinacy) of empirical concepts. Taking this claim seriously allows us to read Kant in a non-dualistic way, for example, regarding the problem of free will and determinism: nature is at bottom governed by event-event-causation yet human actions—events in nature—can have a conception of the good as their determining ground. Another example is Kant’s conception of organisms. According to the standard account, the purposiveness of organisms (e.g., that organs play a functional role within the larger unit of the organism) is extraneous to nature, because nature is at bottom a mechanical system. I argue that the conception of nature as a mechanical system is an idea of reason and that acknowledging this fact leads to a reading of Kant where organisms are genuinely—with their purposive structure—in nature. (Papers on these issues are currently under submission.)
    The core of Hegel’s philosophy lies in his philosophical method, I believe. In my “The Freedom of Solar Systems” (Hegel Bulletin, forthcoming), I discuss the “mechanism” chapter of Hegel’s Science of Logic in order to give a concrete account of this method, according to which we “think through” one philosophical position and thus arrive at a successor position. For example, a metaphysics of nothing but wholly individual objects (Leibniz’ monads) cannot explain why the objects have the properties they have; it thus gives rise to a successor position in which this can be explained. I show how, using this method, Hegel takes up Kant’s argument against causal determinism but goes beyond Kant by arguing in the following way: even solar systems do not fit the mould of a standard mechanical determinism, because they are governed by an internal principle. Hence, one can consider solar systems to exhibit a very rudimentary form of freedom.

    Currently, I am working on Kant’s account of laws of nature. There is a recent debate concerning the question how empirical laws of nature can come with causal necessity. I argue that this question is fruitfully addressed by paying attention to the hylomorphic nature of Kant’s account of cognition, according to which causal necessity is a formal necessity and thus never occurs on its own but always in unity with empirically given matter. After that, I will begin a book project about my interpretation of Kant, which centers on Kant’s claim that, in theoretical cognition, “objective reality” must be given through the senses.