My research focuses on Kant’s analysis of the unity of human life. As I see it, Kant’s views on the issue can be broken down into two broad phases. In the first phase, which begins in the 1760s and peaks with the publication of the Critique of Pure Reason in 1781, Kant develops an explanation of the unity of consciousness that avoids the pitfalls of earlier metaphysical accounts bound up with ideas of the immortality and immateriality of the soul. In what I see as the second phase of Kant’s thinking about human life, which overlaps the first in the 1770s but becomes more pronounced in the 1780s, he expands the scope of his investigation considerably. Here he explores the political, moral, and cultural dimensions of human life, as well as asking questions about how biological structures and geographical variation impact our lives. Kant’s approach to these areas of investigation is guided by the principles established in by the first phase of his work, but his study of the moral, political, and natural aspects of human life leads him to reconsider those principles at a number of points. The goal of this research is, then, to provide a unified and historically sensitive explanation of Kant’s analyses of the many facets of the unity of a human life and of his efforts to reconcile the tensions that arise in trying to integrate those analyses into a systematic whole.
Articles & Chapters
Michael J. Olson, "Kant on the Feeling of Health," in Jennifer Mensch (ed.), Kant and the Feeling of Life: From the Beautiful to the Good in Kant's Critique of Judgment (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, forthcoming).
Michael J. Olson and Jean-Philippe Deranty, “The Work of Art in the Age of its Digital Distribution,” Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities (forthcoming).
Michael J. Olson, “Kant and the Unity of the Activity of Thinking,” in Violetta L. Waibel and Margit Ruffing (eds.), Akten des 12. Internationalen Kant-Kongresses: Natur und Freiheit (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 2019), vol. 2, 1099-1108.
Michael. J. Olson, "On the Significance of the Copernican Revolution: Transcendental Philosophy and the Object of Metaphysics," Con-Textos Kantianos, no. 7 (2018), 89-127.
Michael J. Olson, "Literature in the German Science of the Soul: Johann Gottlob Krüger's Träume," History of European Ideas, vol. 44, no. 5 (2018), 528-542.
Michael J. Olson, "Kant on Anatomy and the Status of the Life Sciences," Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, vol. 58 (2016), 77-84.
Michael J. Olson, “The Camera Obscura and the Soul: On a Tension between the Mechanics of Sensation and the Metaphysics of the Soul,” Intellectual History Review, vol. 25, no. 3 (2015), 279-291.
Reprinted in Anik Waldow (ed.), Sensibility in the Early Modern Era: From Living Machines to Affective Morality (New York: Routledge, 2016), 25-37.
Michael J. Olson, "A Materialist Transcendental: On the Ontology of Logics of Worlds,” Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, vol. 18, no. 2 (2013), 143-159.
Michael J. Olson, “Transcendental Arguments, Axiomatic Truth, and the Difficulty of Overcoming Idealism,” in John Mullarkey and Anthony Paul Smith (eds.), Laruelle and Non-Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 169-190.
Michael J. Olson, “Critical Idealism and Transcendental Materialism: A Speculative Analysis of the Second Paralogism,” Cosmos and History, vol. 7, no. 1 (2011), 49- 61.
Michael J. Olson, “The Intuition of Simultaneity: Zugleichsein and the Constitution of Extensive Magnitudes,” Kant-Studien, vol. 101, no. 4 (December 2010), 429-444.
Michael J. Olson, “Philosophy, Non-Philosophy, and the Axiomatization of Matter,” Philosophy Today, vol. 53, SPEP Supplement (December 2009), 257-262.
Michael J. Olson, “Kant, Deleuze and Guattari, and the Metaphysics of Objects,” in Edward Willatt and Matt Lee (eds.), Thinking Between Deleuze and Kant (London: Continuum, 2009), 151-170.
Michael J. Olson, “The Metaphysics of the Epigenesis of Reason: on Jennifer Mensch's Kant's Organicism,” Philosophy Today, vol. 61, no. 3 (2017), 793-799.
Michael J. Olson, Review of Colin McQuillan, Immanuel Kant: On the Very Idea of a Critique of Pure Reason (Northwestern University Press, 2016), Critique (2016).
Michael J. Olson, Review of Nicholas Jolley, Locke’s Touchy Subjects: Materialism and Immortality (Oxford University Press, 2015), Australasian Journal of Philosophy, vol. 94, no. 4 (2016), 838-839.
Work in Progress
Key Texts in Early German Life Science Debates: Theories of Generation and Race, 1750-1820, ed. and trans. Jennifer Mensch and Michael Olson (under contract with Bloomsbury)
Kant and the Unity of Life (manuscript in preparation)
"Kant, Dog Whistle Politics, and the History of Philosophy"
"Distinguishing 'Nature' and 'World' in Classical German Philosophy" (with Raoni Padui)