Irmgard Scherer

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 and philosophy of science.

Since my retirement in 2007 (my 16-year old granddaughter Jessica was suffering with 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. I never imagined that retirement could be so rewarding.

To teach for an intellectually engaged retirement community has over the years become the greatest academic enjoyment — to engage some of the deep philosophical questions with students who bring sagacity and undiminished joy of learning to the study of philosophy, adding their rich professional backgrounds and insights to the debates, without the distractions with which traditional age students have to cope.

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

Not long ago I taught a 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
  • Philosophies of Human Nature (A Survey)

Encore Learning

FALL, 2019

Arlington Campus, Founders Hall, George Mason University

General Description

Friendly Tour Guide (instructor): Irmgard Scherer

Existentialism is a diverse and complex philosophical movement. The question, What is Existentialism? is not easily answered because unlike other philosophies which espouse and argue for basic belief systems, existentialism refers more to a set of themes and perspectives than to a specific doctrine or methodology. By focusing on the human subject — anthropological and ethical ideas – we will come to appreciate the diversity and continuity of existential thought in Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger. In addition, we will take a brief look at Phenomenology which is not so much a philosophy in its own right, but rather a methodology, one that underlies Sartre’s philosophical investigations.

Our text for the course is Walter Kaufmann’s classic, Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre (1975)

Outline in 8 lectures:

The following is a rough outline of the thinkers and their themes envisioned for the course. Discussion will be part of our meetings which means we may not be able to follow this guide as precisely and timely as here indicated.

Lecture 1.  Introduction to course
The existentialist critique of Enlightenment ideals and values   /   Primary question: What is a human being?   /    outline of major existentialist themes

Lecture 2.   KIERKEGAARD (Kaufmann, pp. 83-120)
Subjectivity is truth   /   the attack on Christendom    /   the three stages of life: aesthetic, ethical and religious

Lecture 3.  Concluding KIERKEGARD   /  The religious dimension of existence
NIETZSCHE  (Kaufmann, pp. 121-133)
The Madman in the marketplace   /   Who is the madman?   /   God is dead and we are his murderers    /    Who is God that it was possible to kill him?    /   meaning and impact of God’s presence    /    meaning and impact of God’s absence    /    consequences of the deed of murder: where do we go from here?

Lecture 4.  Concluding NIETZSCHE
Major themes:   Űbermensch?    /    Transvaluation of values   /    Will to Power   /    Perspectivism   /   Thus Spoke Zarathustra (a book for all and none)
Comparing Kierkegaard and Nietzsche (JASPER: 185-211)

Lecture 5 and 6. Kierkegaard-Nietzsche compared.
PHENOMENOLOGY, an overview
SARTRE (Kaufmann, pp. 309ff; 345ff)
Sartre’s psychology: Self-deception (309ff)    /    Sartre’s plays (No Exit, The Flies): radical freedom   /   portraits of genuine vs. pseudo freedom    /    creating heroes and anti-heroes in Sartre’s existential philosophy

Lecture 7.   Concluding SARTRE
Sartre’s ethics:  Critique of a God-based morality in “Existentialism is a Humanism” (345ff):  Existence precedes essence    /    confrontation, conflict, escape, loneliness and despair.

Lecture 8.   HEIDEGGER, a brief encounter.  Robert Solomon. Introducing the Existentialists (we read the Heidegger interview)

Existentialists and Their Major Themes


♦  three stages of life

♦  the concrete individual

♦  subjectivity is truth vs. objectivity is untruth

♦  Christianity as opposed to Christendom

♦  “leap of faith”



♦  “live dangerously”

♦  “God is dead”

♦  Will to Power

♦  eternal return of the same

♦  perspectivism

JEAN-PAUL SARTRE  (1905-1980)

♦  radical freedom

♦  existentialism is a humanism

♦  existence comes before essence

♦  patterns of self-deception



♦  Da-sein, Sein and Seiendes

♦  What is metaphysics?