Avner Steinmetz

Avner Steinmetz
Research Interests: Ethics, Epistemology, Aesthetics, Kant, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein

Previous Education

BA and MA, Philosophy, Tel-Aviv University


Ethics, Epistemology, Aesthetics, Kant, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein

Recent Courses

PHIL 29200-03/29300-03 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: Self-Knowledge and Self-Alienation

From its inception, Western philosophy has been concerned with self-knowledge. Socrates urged his interlocutors to adopt the Delphic imperative “Know Thyself” and famously claimed that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. Nowadays, we tend to take the importance of self-knowledge for granted, but what really is self-knowledge? We are ordinarily able to ascribe mental states to ourselves (such as: I’m in pain, I believe you’ll come, I love him, I intend to leave, etc.) and we seem to do so without having to rely on evidence. As is often claimed, we seem to have a privileged access to, and a special kind of authority while speaking about, our own minds. Does that make self-knowledge a distinct form of knowledge? Is it different from the way we know worldly objects or other people’s psychological states of mind? If so, does the difference lie in the objects of self-knowledge, or rather in the manner in which we know them? Can we fail to know our own states of mind, or become alienated from them? If so, what do such failures amount to, and should we be blamed or held responsible for them? What could motivate us to be out of touch with our own mental states? We shall address these questions by examining selections from historical figures such as Descartes, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Sartre. The main text of this class, however, is Richard Moran’s Authority and Estrangement – An Essay on Self-Knowledge, and we shall read it closely and consider different ways in which contemporary philosophers have responded to it.


Meets with Jr/Sr section. Prerequisite: Open only to philosophy majors. Intensive-Track Majors should reach out to the instructor to be enrolled manually. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2019-2020 Autumn