Matthias Haase

Matthias Haase
Associate Professor
Rosenwald Hall, Room 218-B
Office Hours: Autumn Quarter:
Universität Potsdam PhD (2007)
Teaching at UChicago since 2017
Research Interests: Ethics, Moral Psychology, Philosophy of Action, German Idealism

Matthias Haase is Associate Professor of Philosophy. His research is focused on foundational topics at the intersection of ethics and philosophy of mind. A central historical interest is the tradition of German Idealism, especially the aspects that are tied to Aristotle. He has also written on Wittgenstein and Frege. His current research project is devoted to the question whether there are specifically practical species of knowledge, reason and truth--and what this means for the philosophical account of our fundamental concepts of ethics like good, ought, justice as well as action, character and will.

Haase's previous appointments were at the Philosophisches Seminar at Universitat Basel and Institut fur Philosophie at Universitat Leipzig, with a two-year visiting fellowship at Harvard between them. His graduate studies were conducted at Freie Universitat Berlin, Humboldt Universitat Berlin, and finally Universitat Potsdam, and he spent several years at the University of Pittsburgh as a visiting scholar before completing his doctoral degree.

Selected Publications


- “Anscombe on the Dignity of the Human Being”, in: Adrian Haddock and Rachael Wiseman (eds.), The Anscombian Mind, Routledge 2022, 496-491.

- “Agency, Events, and Processes”, in: Luca Ferrero (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Philosophy Agency, Routledge 2022, 47-58.

- “Action, Knowledge, and Will by John Hyman”, review, Mind, October 2021.

- “Philosophie des Pöbels”, with Wolfram Gobsch, in: Wolfram Gobsch and Jonas Held, Orientierung durch Kritik, Meiner 2021, 225-246.

- “Life and Recognition: Michael Thompson’s Practical Naturalism”, in: Martin Hähnel (ed.), Aristotelian Naturalism, Springer International Publishing 2020, 247-263.

- “Knowing What I Have Done”, Manuscrito41(4), 2018, 195-253.

- “Practically Self-Conscious Life”, in: John Hacker-Wright (ed.), Philippa Foot on Goodness and Virtue, London: Palgrave MacMillan 2018, 85-126.

- “The Representation of Language”, in: Christian Martin (ed.), Language, Form of Life, and Logic: Investigations after Wittgenstein (On Wittgenstein, Vol. 4). Berlin: de Gruyter 2018, 219-250.

- “Geist und Gewohnheit: Hegels Begriff der anthropologischen Differenz”, in: Andrea Kern, Christian Kietzmann (eds.), Selbstbewusstes Leben, Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt a.M., 2017, 389-426.

- “For Oneself and Toward Another: The Puzzle About Recognition”, Philosophical Topics, Vol. 42, Issue 1, Spring 2014 (appeared Fall 2016), 113-152.

- “Am I You?”, Philosophical Explorations, 2014, 358-371. (Reprinted in: Naomi Eilan (ed.), The Second Person: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives, Routledge 2016, 94-107.

- “Three Forms of the First Person Plural”, in: Günter Abel, James Conant (eds.), Rethinking Epistemology, Walter de Grutyer, Berlin 2012, 229-256.

- “The Laws of Thought and the Power of Thinking”, in: Canadian Journal of Philosophy, supplementary volume 35, Belief and Agency, ed. by David Hunter, 2011, 249-297.


Edited special issue of journal

- Varieties of Constitutivism, with Erasmus Mayr, Philosophical Explorations, Vol. 22 (2), 2019


Recent Courses

PHIL 28203/38203 Hegel's Philosophy of Right

(FNDL 28204)

We will study Hegel’s Elements of Philosophy of Right. The book is an absolute classic of practical philosophy. Its ambition is nothing less than to provide a systematic treatment of the unity of action theory, ethics and political philosophy. Hegel’s theory is considered by many as the highpoint and completion of practical philosophy in the post-Kantian German Idealism. And it is essential for the development Marxism and Critical Theory. It is a crucial treatise to study – not only for those interested of the history of ethics and political theory, but for anyone reflecting on the logic and origins of the kind of society we live in. At the same time, the book is hardy an easy read. For one, the genre of text is quite peculiar: it was written for as a condensed “Leitfaden”  for the students listening Hegel’s lectures. Moreover, the range of topics discussed under the heading of the Philosophy of Right – as well the order in which they are presented – seems quite from a contemporary perspective.

Hegel’s guiding thought is that the power of practical reason and freedom can only be understood through its actuality. What stands at center of his treatise is thus the idea of practical reality, encapsulated in his famous slogan that “the rational is actual and the actual is rational.” Hegel’s point is that the domain of the practical is a stratum of being that is not a reality given to the mind, but one that reason apprehends as its own work in virtue of bringing it into being. This thesis has two sides: On the one hand, it means that there are aspects of reality whose very existence depends on our understanding of them as rational. On the other hand, it means that the norms of rationality cannot be understood independently of their realization in practice. Various features of our contemporary intellectual climate make it difficult for us to grasp this idea. Hegel’s slogan is often taken as a peculiar excess of Absolute Idealism that just reflects a conservative attitude towards the status quo. However, the central topics for a Marxist critique of right and western liberalism – such as alienation, exploitation and imperialism – can already be found in Hegel’s account on bourgeois society.


G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of Philosophy of Right, ed. by A.W. Wood,, trans. by H.B. Nisbet, Cambridge University Press

2023-2024 Spring

PHIL 51408 Philosophy of Action

The following claim will stand at the center of this seminar: Human action is the realization of thought in the world: the actualization of a conception of what is to be. This will lead us to consider answers to the following questions:  In what sense does thought come to be “actual” or “real” in the world? What role does such actualization play in our understanding of the world and of ourselves? And how does one have to conceive of judgment, inference, knowledge, and truth such that one can speak of realizing thought in the world? Against the background of these questions, we will study contemporary action theory, especially debates on practical inference and practical knowledge.

The seminar will be concerned critically to engage with certain influential approaches at the center of contemporary analytic action theory, especially those drawing inspiration from Elizabeth Anscombe and Gilbert Ryle. At the heart of the reception of Anscombe’s thought stands a dispute about what it is for an action to be intentional. The underlying assumption is that the word marks what is distinctive of human agency: we “act” in a different way than chemical substances, plants, or mere animals. When sub-rational animals are thought to belong within the domain of intentional agents, contemporary interest tends to move to a question that Ryle’s work made urgent: what it is for an action to be intelligent? The seminar will explore the consequences of the following thought: a crucial decision has already been made when one approaches the concept of human agency through the investigation of these two terms—intentionally or intelligently. While a lot of attention has been paid to how those adverbs are used in ordinary language, the verbs to which they are attached figure in the discussion as mere material for illustration to be ultimately replaced with the generic action concept variable “f.” The seminar will be concerned to advance the following criticism: contemporary philosophy of action thereby becomes meta-action theory. The differences in the kinds of things people do throughout the day turn out not really to matter to this form of theory. The seminar will explore the thought that understanding such differences – such as between moving somewhere, eating something, and making a thing – are crucial to a proper understanding of why practical knowledge is not just knowledge of action, but of the world and ourselves through action.

2023-2024 Spring
Philosophy of Action

PHIL 21218/31218 Being and Goodness: Varieties of Constitutivism

In contemporary meta-ethics, Constitutivism figures as an alternative to the familiar opposition between Realism and Non-Cognitivism. The fundamental norms to which we are subject in acting are not independent of our agency. Yet they are the objects of knowledge. They are internal to what we are. We will look at the recent debate on how such a view is to be spelled out and whether it provides viable alternative to Realism and Non-Cognitivism. Which characterization of us allows the derivation of substantive normative principles: the abstract concept of an agent or the concrete concept of a human being? What is the logical grammar of the relevant sortal concept? And how does our knowledge of our kind enter into its characterization? Readings will include texts by David Enoch, Christine Korsgaard, David Velleman, Phillippa Foot, Michael Smith, Judy Thompson and Michael Thompson.

2023-2024 Winter

PHIL 27000 History of Philosophy III: Kant and the 19th Century

The philosophical ideas and methods of Immanuel Kant's “critical” philosophy set off a revolution that reverberated through 19th-century philosophy. We will trace its effects and the responses to it, focusing on the changing conception of philosophical ethics. Kant’s famous Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals rejects any appeal to nature or religious authority grounding all ethical obligations in the very notion of freedom conceived as something that is for everyone. We will study how these ideas are taken up and transformed in the works of philosophers like J.G. Fichte, G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg and W.E.B. Du Bois.

Completion of the general education requirement in humanities.

2022-2023 Spring
Early Modern Philosophy (including Kant)
German Idealism

PHIL 27506/37506 The Second Person: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives

The ‘I think’ traditionally stands at the center of philosophical reflection. Yet there is a minority strand in the history of philosophy which has advocated that the second person pronoun is no less central. Human beings are social creatures. For this reason, addressing another as ‘you’ in communication is no less fundamental to human rationality than giving expression to oneself through saying ‘I.’ A guiding idea of the proposed seminar will be that, properly conceived, self-consciousness and recognition of another are two sides of one and the same phenomenon. In seeking to make out this claim, the seminar will explore the different aspects of the role of address in human life. It will take its point of departure from two guiding ideas: (1) the second-person present indicative form of interpersonal nexus is no less important for understanding human thought and action and logically no less fundamental than the corresponding first-person form, and (2) what is logically peculiar to the former form of thought is best brought to the fore if one examines what second-person thought in both its theoretical and practical guises have in common. The plan for the seminar is to alternate between examining problems in theoretical philosophy whose proper solution requires attention to the role of the second person and counterpart sorts of problem in practical philosophy. Under the first heading, we will explore the role of address and joint consciousness in speech act theory, the topic of shared understanding in the philosophy of language acquisition, and the problem of the apprehension of another human being as it arises in the epistemology of other minds. Interpolated between these topics, we will weave in and out of counterpart forms of philosophical difficulty arising out of reflection upon the place of the second-person in practical philosophy: in understanding the human striving for honor, in relations of justice, as well as in friendship and love. (I) (II)


At least one course in philosophy.

2022-2023 Spring

PHIL 23504/33504 Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind

In the class, we will study Hegel’s the first part of Philosophy of Mind: the account of “subjective spirit.” In the introduction, Hegel says that Aristotle’s books on the soul are the only work of speculative interest on the topic. We will consider the relation to De Anima where Aristotle considers three kinds of life or soul: vegetative, perceptive, and thinking soul. For this purpose, we will look at the end of Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature and then study the three sections of “subjective spirit”: the account of anthropology, phenomenology, and psychology. Topics will include the role of habit or second nature in human life, the relation between self-consciousness and recognition, and the unity of theoretical and practical reason. (IV)


G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Mind, A revised version of the Wallace and Miller translation. ed. by Michael Inwood, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2010

For the first meeting, please read Hegel’s short introduction to his Philosophy of Mind.

2022-2023 Winter
Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 27000 History of Philosophy III: Kant and the 19th Century

The philosophical ideas and methods of Immanuel Kant's “critical” philosophy set off a revolution that reverberated through 19th-century philosophy. We will trace its effects and the responses to it, focusing on the changing conception of philosophical ethics. Kant's famous Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals rejects any appeal to nature or religious authority grounding all ethical obligations in the very idea of freedom or autonomy conceived as something that is for everyone. At the same time, Kant’s own work and much of the tradition that follows seems deeply shaped by racism, sexism, and elitism. We will investigate this tension in the tradition that led inter alia to the modern university. We will discuss works by Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Frederick Douglass, G.W.F. Hegel, Harriet Taylor Mill, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, and W.E.B. Du Bois.

Completion of the general education requirement in humanities.

2021-2022 Spring
Early Modern Philosophy (including Kant)
German Idealism

PHIL 53022 Agency and Alienation

The concept of alienation is central to the practical philosophy of Hegel and Marx. Following the work of the latter, the notion became a basic critical concept of social theory: under certain social conditions human agents are said to be alienated from their own agency. When the notion of alienation is discussed in contemporary analytic action theory and ethics, it tends to appear primarily as a tension or contradiction within the mind: as an estrangement from one’s own desires or from demands, norms, or ideals one is aware of. This internalization stands in stark contrast to the considerations that appear under that heading in the work Hegel and Marx. Here, the whole discussion is framed through the idea that one can only know one’s own agency through its realization in the world. Consequently, the problem of alienation appears as the impossibility of seeing oneself in one’s work.

Given the conceptual frameworks on offer in contemporary analytic action theory, it is not clear whether one can make sense of a critique of social conditions along these lines. The current debate on knowledge of one’s own actions divides into two main camps. The one side defines the human condition as one where one necessarily encounters one’s deeds just like other events in world: as alien and given from without. The other side defines intentional action as necessarily known by its subject from within or self-consciously. In consequence, there seems to be no space for a critique of alienation: either because it seems inevitable or because it seems impossible. One of the central questions of the seminar will be how one has to understand human agency such that alienation is conceivable.

On closer inspection, what Marx’ calls “alienation” seems to be ultimately a privation of the kind of practical knowledge that Aristotle calls “practical wisdom” (phronesis) and the correlated form of agency that he calls praxis. We will discuss Marx’ account in relation to Aristotle’s and Hegel’s developments of these concepts as well as in relation the discussion of practical reasoning, practical knowledge, and practical truth in the work of contemporary philosophers such as G.E.M. Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Christine Korsegaard, Gilbert Ryle, and Michael Thompson. Marx famously distinguishes four dimensions of alienation: the workers is said to be alienated (1) from their products, (2) from the act of production, (3) from the human form of life, and (4) from their fellow human beings. We will consider the respective practical categories and the correlated forms of practical cognition. (I) (III)

For the first session please read the bit on alienated labor in Marx’ Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 as well secondary literature posted on Canvas.

2021-2022 Spring

PHIL 21508/31508 Enslavement and Recognition

The so-called “master-slave” dialectic in G.W.F. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit belongs to the most quoted passages in philosophy. The scene of the struggle is nearly as famous as Plato’s Cave and arguably just at as obscure as the shadows on its wall. In the course, we will study the passage against the background of philosophical thought on enslavement and recognition in the western tradition. The class divides into three parts. In the first part, we will begin with the question of the “unthinkability” of slavery, as it is discussed in recent analytic ethics. Then we turn to philosophical thought in the “unthinkable” relation: we study the philosophical articulation of the act of liberation; and we analyze the way in which the thought of the “master” is deeply rooted in the tradition of western philosophy. In the second part of the course, we will study Hegel’s account of the struggle for recognition. We will read the famous sections from the Phenomenology of Spirit and situate it in the wider context of Hegel’s development of the idea of recognition in his Philosophy of Mind. In the third part of the course, we will discuss the potentiality and the limitations of Hegel’s theory of recognition by considering three “contradictions” that arise (in one way or another) in Hegel’s account of the concrete recognitive community of ethical life in his Philosophy of Right. In intricate ways, those “contradictions” are related to what in contemporary discourse figures under the headings of sex, class, and race. (A) (I)

2021-2022 Winter