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irmgard-spain

Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.

— Immanuel Kant

About Me

A U.S. citizen born in Germany, I earned my BA degrees in philosophy and history at George Mason University and my MA and PhD degrees at the American University. I taught in the Department of Philosophy at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore from 1991-2007. Tenured in 1998 I taught core courses, honors ethics courses, and upper level courses in my area on Kant and 18th century aesthetic theory. To satisfy a special interest I expanded my AOS and taught courses in the history of science.

Since my retirement in 2007 (my 16-year old granddaughter Jessica was dying of a brain tumor and I opted to spend the last year of her life close by her side), I have found joy and stimulation teaching courses for the OLLI programs (Osher Life Long Learning in Retirement Institutes) both at George Mason and the American University. I also teach regularly for the Encore Learning Institute in Arlington which is similarly organized as the Ollies.

To teach for an intellectually engaged retirement community has over the years become the greatest academic enjoyment of my life — to engage some of the deep philosophical themes with students who bring sagacity, an undiminished joy of learning, and often their own rich professional knowledge to the study of philosophy, doing so late in life but without the distractions and nervous lifestyles associated with traditional-age students.

I have ventured into teaching philosophy beyond my expertise, a self-improvement that has expanded my mind and general well-being, beyond what I thought possible. My students have approved and not held it against me.

Recently I have taught a 6-week course at my local church: “The God of the Philosophers: Aspects of Faith and Reason”.

My Publications

(1995) The Crisis of Judgment in Kant’s Three Critiques (In Search of a Science of Aesthetics). New York/Berlin/Paris/Bern: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.

(1995) “Kant’s Eschatology in Zum Ewigen Frieden: The Concept of Purposiveness to Guarantee Perpetual Peace.” In Proceedings of the 8th International Congress, Memphis. Vol. 2: 437-444. Edited Hoke Robinson. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press.

(1997) co-authored with Daniel Rothbart. “Kant’s Critique of Judgment and the Scientific Investigation of Matter.” In Hyle International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry 3(1): 65-80.

(1998) “The Problem of the A Priori in Sensibility: Revisiting Kant’s and Hegel’s Theories of the Senses.” In Review of Metaphysics, 52(2):341-367.

(2001) “Revisiting Kant’s General Metaphysics: Completing a Transcendental Psychology.” In Proceedings of the 9th International Kant-Congress, “Kant und die Berliner Aufklaerung, Berlin.” Vol. 4: 424-432. Editors: V. Gerhardt, R-P. Horstmann, R. Schumacher. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

(2003) “Faith, Philosophy, Passions and Feminism.” In anthology Philosophy, Feminism and Faith, edited Ruth Groenhout and Marya Bower. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

(2003) “Kant’s Transcendental Psychology: A Prerequisite for Metaphysics and Bridge to the Divine.” In Proceedings Second World Conference of Metaphysics, 2003. Rome, July 2-5, 2003. Vol. II:245-251. Editor: David C. Murray. Pub. Fondazione Idente di Study e di Ricerca.

(2004) “Irrationalism in Eighteenth Century Aesthetic Theory.” Abstract in Proceedings of the 21st World Congress of Philosophy, (12:23-29); August 10-17, 2003, Istanbul, Turkey.

(2008) “Reflections on Kant’s Transcendental Psychology: a Bridge to the Transcendent.” In Proceedings of the 10th International Kant-Congress, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 4 -9 Sept. 2005. “Recht und Frieden in der Philosophie Kants.” Vol. 5:87-93. Editors: V. Rohden, R.R. Terra, G.A. de Almeida, M. Ruffing. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

My Repertory of Courses Taught in the Osher Program

  • Introduction to Kant
  • Philosophical Aesthetics
  • General Ethics or What is the Good Life?
  • Philosophy and Science: Kissing Cousins
  • Existentialism
  • Ancient Greek Roots of Modern Science
  • What is Philosophy Anyway (or the Enterprise of Philosophy)
  • Metaphysics: The Nature of Reality
  • Spinoza’s Ethics
  • Philsophies of Human Nature (A Survey)
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Osher Lifelong Learning Institute — George Mason University

Fall 2017 — Course F652

The Enterprise of Philosophy:
What is it and What is it good for?

Mondays, 11:50am – 1:15pm, September 18 – October 9, 2017

Friendly Tour Guide (Instructor): Irmgard Scherer

Course Description: The Greek root meaning of philosophy comprises 2 terms: philia and sophia, or a friendship love with wisdom. Academic philosophy has taken the Socratic dictum, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” to examine human life most comprehensively for wisdom and knowledge in 4 main areas of inquiry: the art of reasoning (logic); the scope of knowledge (epistemology); comprehensive reality (metaphysics); and the good life (ethics). Nota bene: much knowledge does not automatically make one wise, nor is ignorance a sign of wisdom.

In this course we will go over these main divisions of philosophy in which the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge get a workout and are analyzed for their content and worth.

Here are the highlights of the 4 sessions:

Lecture 1: Logic

Logic teaches the art of reasoning or the skill of rational argumentation. What is an argument as understood in philosophy? How do we distinguish deductive from inductive arguments? Important concepts in logic are validity, truth, soundness.

Lecture 2: Epistemology

Epistemology or Theory of Knowledge inquires into the scope, limits, but above all the justification of knowledge claims. What is the distinction between rationalism and empiricism and how do they differ in justifying their knowledge claims?

Lecture 3: Ethics

Ethics or Moral Value Theory studies the rules of moral conduct. Why should I live by moral rules and not self-interestedly? We look at 2 distinct theories that claim universal validity: utilitarianism and deontological ethics.

Lecture 4: Metaphysics

Metaphysics or Ontology studies the nature of comprehensive reality, both physical and non-physical reality. Is a completely materialistic view of the universe adequate or are there non-material entities to be considered? ‘Does God exist’? is a theme in metaphysics (as well as in theology). Does science work by metaphysical assumptions?