Anat Schechtman

Anat Schechtman is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy. Her main research interests are in Descartes and early modern philosophy, especially theories of substance, essence, dependence, infinity, and representation. She also has interests in Kant and the Kantian tradition (in particular, transcendental arguments), and the history of philosophy more
broadly, as well as in contemporary metaphysics, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophy of religion. Her current research investigates epistemological and metaphysical relations between the finite and the infinite in the Meditations and other Cartesian texts, arguing that the notion of infinity has a central place in Descartes' philosophy. In her dissertation, she offered a new reading of the (in)famous proof for the existence of God in the Third Meditation, proposing that Descartes there argues, in transcendental fashion, that grasping the infinite is a condition for the possibility of grasping the finite. Her present research on Descartes builds on this work. She is a graduate of Tel Aviv University, where she received a bachelor's degree in philosophy and mathematics. She received the PhD from Yale University in May 2011.



office: Walker Museum 202
office hours: T, R from 8 to 9am and by appointment
phone: 773/702-4168

Selected Publications

  • "Descartes's Argument for the Existence of the Idea of an Infinite Being", forthcoming in the Journal of the History of Philosophy. PDF

Selected Work in Progress

  • "Some Thoughts on Causation, Dependence, and Spinoza's Substance Monism"
  • "Descartes on Ontological Dependence"


  • Anat Schechtman won an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship for 2014-2015, for her project Infinity in Modern Thought.
  • "In the Engine Room of Reality: Philosophy’s junior faculty members discuss their work, inspiration, and teaching" by Courtney C. W. Guerra, AB’05 Tableau, Spring 2012 - Link

Selected Courses

26006/37303. The Early Modern Mind. This course will study topics in philosophy of mind in the writings of various figures from the early modern period. Topics to be discussed may include: theories of ideas, representation, consciousness, and affects (or passions). (V) Spring 2014.

56802. Spinozistic Metaphysics. This seminar will focus on Spinoza’s and subsequent Spinozistic metaphysics, and in particular on substance monism. We will examine the arguments that lead to such a position, its implications, as well as objections and alternatives to it. (V) Winter 2014.

26000. History of Philosophy II: Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. (=HIPS 26000) PQ: Completion of the general education requirement in humanities required; PHIL 25000 recommended. A survey of the thought of some of the most important figures of this period, including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Winter 2014.

20640/30640. Ontological Dependence.  This course will examine historical and contemporary approaches to the relation of ontological dependence, focusing on Aristotle, Descartes, and among more recent authors, Kit Fine. Questions to be discussed will include: What is ontological dependence and how does it differ from other dependence relations, e.g., causation or priority in definition? How does this relation bear on notions such as substance and essence, and vice versa? What is the historical trajectory from Aristotle onwards concerning these questions? (B) (III) (IV) (V) with M. Malink. Spring 2013.  

56710. Descartes and First Philosophy. The title of Descartes' most celebrated work is Meditations on First Philosophy. This course will explore how and in what sense, according to Descartes, a given philosophy can be said to come first. We will also want to know what is this first philosophy: is it, for example, the kind of philosophy which engages the skeptical challenge and shows that we can know some things with certainty? Or is it rather that which answers ontological questions such as what exists or which entities are most fundamental? We will read from the Meditations, The Objections and Replies, and The Principles of Philosophy, as well as from lesser known works such as Rules for the Direction of the Mind and various letters.(V) Autumn 2011.

29601. Intensive Track Seminar: Descartes' Meditations.  PQ: Open only to third-year students who have been admitted to the intensive track program. This course will consist in a close reading and discussion of Descartes' Meditations. Our main aims will be to understand what Descartes attempts to achieve in this work, and to consider how successful he is in doing so. Topics to be discussed are doubt and certainty, the nature and existence of external objects, truth and error, and the alleged Cartesian circle. We will also study proofs for God's existence and veracity, the real distinction between mind and body, and the notion of mind-body union. Autumn 2011, Autumn 2012.

27302/37302. Infinity in Early Modern Philosophy. This course will focus on the notion of infinity in early modern philosophy. Whereas for us this is primarily a mathematical notion, in that period it figured not only in mathematical innovations (such as the calculus) but also in metaphysical and theological theories and debates. We will examine various such approaches to infinity with an eye to what contemporary philosophical debates might learn from them; in particular, we will be interested in the question of whether there was a distinctly philosophical, rather than mathematical, notion of infinity salient to early modern thinkers. We will concentrate on Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Hume, but will also look briefly at other figures such as Hobbes, Gassendi, and Locke. (V)  (B) Spring 2012.