Irmgard Scherer

Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.

— Immanuel Kant

About Me

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 areas of competence, a self-improvement that has expanded my mind and well-being beyond what I thought possible. My students have approved and learned along with me. I have also taught a course at my local church, “The God of the Philosophers, on 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 and Encore 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)

Philosophy and Science:

Kissing Cousins from Ancient Beginnings to Modern Developments

SPRING 2021, Encore Learning Online
Tuesdays, March 9 to April 27, Tuesdays
2:00PM – 3:30PM
Friendly Zoom Guide: Irmgard Scherer

This course explores the early beginnings of western science, as the ancient Greek “natural philosophers” in the 6th century BC began to strike out on a new path, to ask and answer questions about the physical nature of the universe. They departed from religious mindsets of their time and relied on their own observations and reasonings and dared to formulate new hypotheses of how the world worked. Their theories could be examined and tested by other knowledge seekers—either to accept, reject or further build on them. Their novel strategies to finding the natural causes of observed phenomena launched western science and placed it on a particular trajectory which in time led to spectacular breakthroughs of modern science and technology. As we explore this journey of science we may stop to ponder about the presuppositions of the western scientific outlook, and whether science as we know it today has been an unmitigated success for human life. What are the advantages, what are drawbacks inherent in this worldview?

(1) Milton Munitz, ed. Theories of the Universe, from Babylonian Myth to Modern Science. Free Press, 1957. (Total text available on Internet)
(2) A READER, a collection of fragments from ancient texts, provided as a PDF file early in the course.

Lecture #1

  1. General Introduction.  What is ‘philosophical’ about science?  /  Is certainty of knowledge possible?  /  “natural philosophy” becomes scientia in 17th century C.E.
  2. Precursors to the story of science: The Presocratics begin to answer the “Problem of the One and the Many” or the theory of everything (TOE).

Lecture #2

Reading the PRESOCRATICS: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides (Reader, 3-12)

Lecture #3

  1. The PLURALISTS: Anaxagoras and Empedocles. Take away: Early version of modern theory of “panpsychism” (Reader, 13-18)
  2. CLASSICAL ATOMISM:  Leucippus and Democritus (Reader, 19-22)

Lecture #4


  1. A THEORY OF TOTAL REALITY: Republic VI, a two-tiered cosmos in the “twice-divided line” (Reader, 23-24)
  2. A COSMOGONY: Timaeus (Munitz, 67-74)

Lecture #5

ARISTOTLE, a model for early European universities in the 14th century C.E.

  1. HIERARCHIES OF KNOWLEDGE: Metaphysics, Book 1 (Reader, 25-27)
  2. MATRIX OF SUBSTANCES: Physics and Metaphysics (relevant passages and illustration will be forthcoming in PDF attachment)

Lecture #6

LATER ATOMISTS, Lucretius and Epicurus

  1. Epicurus.  A THEORY OF ETHICS based on atomism (Reader, 28-30)
  2. Lucretius. De Rerum Natura (Nature of the Universe). First theory of INDETERMINACY, foreshadowing quantum physics (Munitz, 41-57).

Lecture #7  

COPERNICUS and GALILEO (Munitz, 149ff and 190ff respectively).

A RADICAL REVOLUTION and its aftermath.  Galileo’s introduces an early theory of the mind-body problem arguing for “the subjectivity of sensible qualities.”

Lecture #8

NEWTONIANISM — “the World as a Machine.”