Jonathan Lear

lear photo

Jonathan Lear 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), and Freud (2005). His most recent books is A Case for Irony (Harvard University Press, 2011). He is a recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award.

CV (DOC)


Contact

office: Foster 503
office hours Winter quarter: Mondays 3.30-5PM
office phone: 773/702-8407
email: jlear@uchicago.edu
web: http://home.uchicago.edu/~jlear/

Note: on leave academic year 2014-2015

 

Recent News

  • Jonathan Lear gave a talk at the University of Aarhus, Denmark: Conference in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Søren Kierkegaard: Invited Speaker, "Kierkegaard's Negativity About His Own Negativity", August 28-30th, 2012. 
  • Jonathan Lear gave a talk at Columbia University: Psychoanalytic Institute: "Bad Feelings", Conference in Honor of Roy Schafer, October 19-20, 2012.
  • At the University of Zurich (Switzerland), Jonathan Lear was the Keynote Speaker: "Cultural Conflicts: Conflictual Cultures": "What is a crisis of intelligibility?" and gave a presentation on Radical Hope, November 9-11, 2012.
  • At the University of Aarhaus, (Denmark), Jonathan Lear gave the Justus Hartnack Lecture: "The ethical significance of irony", November 12, 2012
  • At the Nordic Network for Philosophical Anthropology, Jonathan Lear gave the Keynote Lecture:  “The Individual in Culture”, November 13, 2012
  • On January 16, 2013, Jonathan Lear spoke at the American Psychoanalytic Association: Commentator: Discussion Group on Cultural Trauma, January 16, 2013 and was Chair: Discussion Group: The Critics of Psychoanalysis: Session 1: J-P Sartre
  • Jonathan Lear gave a talk at Yale University: "Erotic Self-Consciousness”, Seminar on Psychoanalysis, Science and the Humanties, January 30, 2013
  • Jonathan Lear gave a talk at the Michigan Psychoanalytic Society: "Envy",
  • On February 9, 2013, Jonathan Lear was the Keynote Speaker at the American Association of Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work: "The ethics of the psychoanalytic situation"
  • Jonathan Lear gave a talk on March 15, 2013 at the Psychoanalytic Institute of New England: (PINE): March 30, 2012
  • Jonathan Lear gave a talk at the Dusquene University: Philosophy Department on April 12, 2013
  • Jonathan Lear gave a talk at Oakland University, Michigan April 18-19, 2012
  • Jonathan Lear gave a talk at the American Psychological Association: Division 39: Annual Meeting: Boston: Spirituality and Psychoanalysis: April 25-26, 2013.
  • Jonathan Lear gave a talk at Brown University, “The Art of Living”, April 26-27, 2012
  • Jonathan Lear gave a talk at the International Psychoanalytic Association: Biannual Meetings: Chair, session on Reparation, Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1, 2013
  • At the Athens Greece: World Congress of Philosophy: Philosophy as Inquiry and Way of Life, Jonathan Lear was an Invited Speaker: Plato's Symposium, August 4-10, 2013
  • In April, a few University of Chicago institutions collaborated to host a dialogue between Jonathan Lear and Alasdair MacIntyre about Jonathan Lear's Fall 2011 Harvard University Press book A Case for Irony. An edited version of that conversation as a companion to the book and is available here: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/features/irony-and-humanity/index.html
  • On Point, an NPR show run by Tom Ashbrook, December 5, 2011 - Link
  • Salon.com interviews Jonathan Lear in "What Happened to Irony?", November 2011 - Link
  • Jonathan Lear, "Truth to Tell: What would the Greek philosophers make of P.J. Crowley?" in The New Republic, May 5, 2011 - Link
  • Stephen Junger reviews Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation, by Jonathan Lear inTime Magazine, July 12, 2010 - PDF
  • "Mellon Award to fund Lear’s ongoing work on human imagination" March 26, 2010, University of Chicago Press Release Link
  • Jonathan Lear feature, "Irony and identity: Tanner Lectures explore the difficulty of becoming human", Harvard Gazette, Nov. 2009 - Link
  • Jonathan Lear has received a 2009 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, March 2010, to fund his ongoing work on human imagination.
  • Jonathan Lear feature, "The Aims of Education Address" in UChicago News, September 24, 2009 - Link
  • Additional past news and announcements can be found on our "News" and "Announcements" pages here.

Books

Selected Publications

  • "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 in 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)

Please see my CV (DOC) for a complete list of publications.

Selected Reviews by Jonathan Lear

  • Can the virtuous person exist in the modern world? Reviewed works: The Tasks of Philosophy: Selected Essays, Vol. I and Ethics and Politics: Selected Essays, Vol. II by Alasdair MacIntyre. London Review of Books, Vol. 28 No. 21 · 2 ( November 2006) - Link
  • Reviewed Work(s): Irrationality and the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis by Sebastian Gardner. Mind, New Series, Vol. 104, No. 416 (Oct., 1995), pp. 863-879 - Link
  • Reviewed Work(s): Human Morality by Samuel Scheffler. The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 90, No. 4 (Apr., 1993), pp. 205-211 - Link
  • Reviewed Work(s): The Memory Wars: Freud's Legacyin Dispute by Frederick Crews Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:580-587. Link
  • Shame. Reviewed works: Human Agency and Language. Philosophical Papers: Vol I and Philosophy and the Human Science. Philosophical Papers: Vol II by Charles Taylor London Reivew of Books, Vol. 7 No. 16 · 19 (September 1985) Link

Selected Reviews of Jonathan Lear's Work

  • Stephen Junger reviews Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation, by Jonathan Lear in Time Magazine, July 12, 2010 - PDF
  • Charles Taylor - A Different Kind of Courage, review of Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation in the New York Review of Books, Volume 54, Number 7 · April 26, 2007 - Link
  • Mark Kingwell - When your world collapses. Review of Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation in The Globe and the Mail, October 14, 2006 (PDF)
  • Gregg M. Horowitz - Reviewed Work(s): Therapeutic Action, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2004) Link
  • Grant Gillett - Reviewed Work(s): Therapeutic Action, Mind, Vol. 113, No. 452 (Oct., 2004), pp. 769-771 Link
  • Sebastian Gardner, Reviewed Work(s): Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul, The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 203 (Apr., 2001), pp. 254-257 Link
  • Elijah Millgram, Reviewed Work(s): Love and Its Place in Nature. Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul by Jonathan Lear
    Mind, Vol. 110, No. 440 (Oct., 2001), pp. 1087-1092 Link
  • Andrew Stark, review of Happiness, Death and the Remainder of Life in TLS 22 December 2000
  • Ilham Dilman (1999), Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul. Philosophical Investigations 22 (3) , 285–294 Link
  • Marcia Cavell - Reviewed Work(s): Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul. The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 96, No. 5 (May, 1999), pp. 263-269 Link
  • Adam Phillips - Reasons for Living -Reviewd work: Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul. London Review of Books, Vol 20 No 22, (November 1998) - Link
  • Richard Kraut - Reviewed Work(s): Aristotle: The Desire to Understand.
    The Philosophical Review, Vol. 100, No. 3 (Jul., 1991), pp. 522-524 Link
  • Ian Mueller - Reviewed Work(s): Aristotle and Logical Theory. The Philosophical Review, Vol. 91, No. 4 (Oct., 1982), pp. 625-628 Link
  • Reviewed Work(s): Aristotle: The Desire to Understand, Philosophy, Vol. 64, No. 248 (Apr., 1989), pp. 261-266 Link
  • A. W. Price, Reviewed Work(s): Aristotle and Logical Theory. Mind, New Series, Vol. 92, No. 365 (Jan., 1983), pp. 126-128 Link
  • John Corcoran; Michael Scanlan - Reviewed Work(s): Aristotle and Logical Theory. The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 126 (Jan., 1982), pp. 76-86 Link

Recent & Upcoming Courses

51412. “I-Thou and the Subject of Psychoanalysis". (=SCTH xxxxx) 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). (=SCTHXXXX). 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 / Unconscious.(= SCTH 43280) Open 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). (A) 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 Postscript. (=FNDL 22616) PQ: Open 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.Prerequisites: Open to advanced undergraduates with permission of instructor. A close reading of the text, with am emphasis on understanding the nature of despair. Autumn 2003.

34400. Kierkegaard:Either/Or Open to grad students and college students with consent of instructor.Prerequisites: 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/Or. Autumn 2002. Syllabus

34400. Søren Kierkegaard: Concluding Unscientific Postscript (=SCTH 39400, FNDL 265). 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 PsychoanalysisOpen 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. (=HIPS 28101) PQ: 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. (A) Spring 2010.

51409. Self-Conscious / Unconscious. Open 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. (III) 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.Prerequisites: his 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. 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.) Autumn 2006.

55501. Plato's Republic II Open to grad students.Prerequisites: his 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. 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.) Winter 2007.