Michael J. Olson


Michael Olson is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Marquette University in Milwaukee.  His research focuses on how patterns of thought articulated in the eighteenth century continue to impact—for better and worse—modern attitudes and expectations.  As a teacher, he aims to help students to appreciate the enduring power and relevance of the history of philosophy.



I grew up in St Louis Park, MN, on the southwestern edge of Minneapolis.  I earned a BA in Philosophy and Mathematics from Grinnell College in 2003.  When I began my graduate education at Villanova University, I intended to write a thesis on twentieth-century French criticisms of transcendental philosophy (in the work of Deleuze, Badiou, and Laruelle in particular).  Interested parties will find the skeleton of that project in a series of articles I published on the topic.  During that time I increasingly saw that Kant's modern critics too often caricature the nuance of his positions and I came eventually to the conclusion that a contextually-sensitive historical reconstruction of Kant's aims and arguments is an essential component of the broader task of coming to grips with what his thought might contribute to contemporary philosophical concerns.  So I wrote a dissertation on Kant's idealism and its debt to eighteenth-century German school philosophy.

After completing my dissertation, I taught for a year at Loyola University Chicago.  In January of 2015, I took up a position as Lecturer in Modern European Philosophy at Macquarie University in Sydney and I moved to Milwaukee in 2018 to teach at Marquette  At the moment, I am writing a book that argues that Kant's thinking about the nature of cognition and the soul in the 1770s and '80s interacted dynamically with his analysis of the biological, cultural, and geographical determinants of human life in the 1780s and '90s.  I hope to finish that project, Kant and the Unity of Life, soon.