Anselm Mueller

Anselm Mueller
Chicago Moral Philosophy Seminar Visiting Professor
Stuart Hall, Room 202-A
University of Fribourg PhD (1966)

A student of Elizabeth Anscombe and Anthony Kenny at Oxford in the early sixties, Professor Müller has taught philosophy at Oxford University, Australian National University, University of Trier, University of Luxemborg, and Keimyung University.  He has written many books and articles in the following areas: ethics, rationality, action theory, philosophy of mind, and the history of philosophy (especially Aristotle and Wittgenstein). He has been a regular Visiting Professor in the Department of Philosophy since 2011. A conference on his work was held here on campus in that year: "Virtue, Action, and Reason: A Conference in Honor of Anselm Müller."


Selected Publications

Was taugt die Tugend? Elemente einer Ethik des guten Lebens. Japanese edition (transl. Hiroshi Goto / Mitsugu Ochi). Kyoto: Koyoshobo 2017.

Produktion oder Praxis? Philosophie des Handelns. Heusenstamm: Ontos 2008. 

"Laßt und Menschen machen!" Ansprüche der Gentechnik – Einspruch der Vernunft. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 2004.

Was taugt die Tugend? Elemente einer Ethik des guten Lebens. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 1998.

Tötung auf Verlangen Wohltat oder Untat? Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 1997.

Demokratie: Illusionen und Chancen. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 1996 (in cooperation with C. Friedrich).

Ende der Moral? Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 1995 (in cooperation with W. Greve, Y.‐Y. Han and K. Rothermund).

Praktisches Folgern und Selbstgestaltung nach Aristoteles. Freiburg: Alber 1982 (habilitationsschrift).

Ontologie in Wittgensteins Tractatus. Bonn: Bouvier 1967 (doctoral dissertation).


Recent Courses

PHIL 20001/30001 Emotions and Their Ethical Significance

It has been said that one’s emotions bespeak one’s character even more truly than one’s actions do. At the same time there is a long tradition of opposing the emotions to reason, and some ethical conceptions, e.g. Stoicism and Buddhism, suspect them of undermining virtue. Such positions are not without foundation. Doesn’t fear prevent you from pursuing an excellent project? Do not greed and envy stand in the way of justice and charity? Does not pride prevent veracity and deprive you of friends? Nevertheless, those pessimistic views fail to do justice, first, to the importance of emotions in human life, second to the role of reason in their constitution and, third, to their indispensable contribution to a life of virtue. – In the first half of the course we are going to investigate how reason is at work in typical emotions, providing the soul with patterns of inclination that take it (inferentially, as it were) from kinds of occasion and their ostensible significance to kinds of inward and outward response. We’ll also see that the apparent involuntariness of emotions does not in fact remove them from our accountability. Nevertheless, being “passions”, they expose us to the impact of our surroundings. What is the significance of the resulting “passivity”? – This question takes us to the second half of the course: an exploration of the relevance of our emotionality to a good life. Emotions enhance motivation: acts of loyalty or charity, for instance, find support in affection and sympathy. Likewise, admittedly, acts of cruelty are helped by hatred! Emotionality is indeed ambivalent. But, if all goes well, our feelings support the practice of virtue, and thwart its obstruction. Moreover readiness to emotional responses goes with alertness to occasions and opportunities – again for better or worse. One’s readiness to appropriate feelings of gratitude makes one notice undeserved support and the need to acknowledge it; the compassionate person is aware of distress that he / she may be able to alleviate. Similarly, of course, the resentful person is good at perceiving affront and injury (even where there are none!). Still, it may be doubted that morality would have a grip on human living even to the moderate extent to which it does shape people’s conduct, if practical reason were not assisted in its task by a well-formed emotionality – where “well” means both in accordance with virtue or right reason and to a sufficient extent. Does all this mean the value of “virtuous feelings” is essentially instrumental?

2018-2019 Spring

PHIL 21504/31504 The Nature of Practical Reason

Practical reason can be distinguished from theoretical or speculative reason in many ways. Traditionally, some philosophers have distinguished the two by urging that speculative or theoretical reason aims at truth, whereas practical aims at good. More recently, some have urged that the two are best known by their fruits. The theoretical exercise of reason yields beliefs, or knowledge, or understanding whereas the practical exercise of reason yields action, or an intention to do something, or a decision about which action to choose or which policy to adopt. In this course, we will focus on practical reason, looking at dominant accounts of practical reason, discussions of the distinction between practical and theoretical reasons, accounts of rationality in general and with respect to practical reason, and related topics.

At least one course in philosophy.

2017-2018 Spring
Philosophy of Action

PHIL 20212/30212 Ethics with Anscombe

Elizabeth Anscombe has deeply influenced moral philosophy ever since the publication of her book Intention and the article "Modern Moral Philosophy". The rise of contemporary Virtue Ethics is only one indication of this influence; and the important themes addressed in those writings are only some among a great many topics raised and absorbingly discussed in Anscombe's work on ethics and matters moral. This class is intended to track and discuss the most central issues she brings to our attention in her uniquely original and searching way. It is to cover both questions in the area of "meta-ethics" and the discussion of basic moral standards, including such topics as: Teleological and psychological foundations; Kinds and sources of practical necessity; The importance of truth; Practical reasoning; Morally relevant action descriptions; Intention and consequence; "linguistically created" institutions; Knowledge and certainty in moral matters; Upbringing versus conscience; Sex and marriage; War and murder; Man's spiritual nature. (A) (I)

2016-2017 Spring
History of Analytic Philosophy

For full list of Anselm Mueller's courses back to the 2012-13 academic year, see our searchable course database.