My research focuses on the philosophy and science of the German Enlightenment. Most of what I have written is about Kant, especially about how his interest in the sciences of his day both guided and were informed by his more purely philosophical conceptions of knowledge and human nature.
Along with Jennifer Mensch, my recent efforts have been directed toward translating and editing a collection of primary texts from the early German life sciences. That project, provisionally titled Generation, Heredity, and Race: Key Texts in the History and Philosophy of the German Life Sciences, 1745–1845, includes texts by Maupertuis, Buffon, von Haller, Kant, Blumenbach, C.F. Wolff, Goethe, Soemmerring, Georg Forster, Girtanner, Meiners, Herder and A. von Humboldt. Its goal is to illustrate how puzzles regarding generation and reproduction led Enlightenment natural historians to think about human skin color as crucial evidence in favor of theories of joint inheritance. From there, questions regarding relative influence of environmental factors (temperature, food, etc.) and heredity led to debates about the nature of racial difference. These natural historical debates about racial difference were not purely scientific, however; they were interwoven into political and moral reflections on slavery, European colonial expansion, and historical progress.
Jennifer and I are organizing a seminar at the German Studies Association meeting in October 2023 on some of this work.
Together with Sebastian Luft and Dalia Nassar, I edit a book series with De Gruyter, New Studies in the History and Historiography of Philosophy.