Professor Michael Hauskeller
MA (Bonn), PhD (Darmstadt)
OFFICE HOURS: Monday 9-11.
"Philosophy, like life, must keep the doors and windows open." (William James)
I wish I could say I had an agenda, a general philosophical purpose, but I don’t, or at least I think I don’t, and if I do then there is nothing programmatic about it. Mostly I want to have a good life. Yet unfortunately, when your place in the world has not been fixed for you, when you find yourself thrown, as many of us do, into what Heidegger called the openness of being, it is rather difficult to have a good life without some idea of what constitutes it. As Socrates was fond of pointing out, the unexamined life is not worth living. So I think what I’m basically trying to do is figure out what makes our life good, and possibly also what all philosophers, and not only they, ultimately seek to understand, namely what it all means, this whole business of living and loving and dying, and watching others live and love and die.
With this pretty vague and hardly conscious end in mind, I did some work on atmospheres (the way we find ourselves in different perceptual environments), the foundations of morality (which are aesthetic, perception-based, not reason-based), the history of ethics (from which I learned that the ethical realm is far more diverse and complex than the question that many bioethicists seem to be obsessed with suggests, namely what is morally permissible and what not), the philosophy of beauty and the philosophy of art (the latter mostly because I was asked to do so by someone who mistook my interest in the notion of beauty for an interest in art), and various philosophers whose work resonated with my own preoccupations (e.g. A.N. Whitehead, Schopenhauer, and Albert Schweitzer).
More recently I worked on the integrity of living beings (which basically captures the idea that some things we do to living beings may be bad even if there is no suffering involved), and most recently on transhumanism and human enhancement, which fascinates me because the debate highlights different conceptions of what it means to be human, and what it means to be a good human, which brings me back to where I started. I have published three books on the subject, Better Humans? Understanding the Enhancement Project in 2013, Sex and the Posthuman Condition in 2014, and Mythologies of Transhumanism in 2016. I am not planning to write another one on this topic. Instead, I have now embarked on a new project, which is concerned with the relation between death and meaning.
If you fancy reading any of my papers, you may want to visit the following website, where many of them can be accessed online: http://exeter.academia.edu/MichaelHauskeller. I also have a (recently a bit neglected) blog called "Philosophical Reflections" which can be found here: http://hauskeller.blogspot.co.uk.
Research group links
- Metaethics: the grounds of morality
- The interrelation between aesthetics and morality
- Allegedly "irrational” moral concerns
- Moral concerns related to biotechnology
- Philosophy of art and beauty
- Scepticism and Common Sense
- Philosophy of Death
- Human-Animal Relations
- Transhumanism and human enhancement
- Moral concerns about the use of biotechnology
- Morality and the emotions
- Mythology and philosophical argument
- Narratives of the human
- Philosophical investigations into human nature
- Utopias and utopian aspects in philosophical thought
- Death and Meaning
Olya K-Mehri: Intergenerational Justice. Environmental Rights in the Context of Climate Change
Peter Sjöstedt-H: Panpsychism. Elucidation, Vindication, Reformulation
Taline Papazian: Transpersonal Gratitude. Nature, Expressions, and Links
Lewis Coyne: Hans Jonas's Principle of Responsibility. Ethics and Politics in the Technological Age
Alexander Badman-King: Growing in Goodness. Towards a Symbiotic Ethics (PhD completed 2017)
James Watson: A Universal Human Dignity. Its Nature, Ground, and Limits (PhD completed 2017)
Trijsje Franssen: Contemporary Philosophical and Literary Images of the Human: Prometheus and Human Enhancement (PhD completed 2014) www.uva.nl/en/disciplines/cultural-studies/staff/staff/staff/folder/f/r/t.m.franssen/t.m.franssen.html
Ann-Sophie Barwich: A Defence of Promiscuous Realism (cosupervised with John Dupre, PhD completed 2013) www.kli.ac.at/people/fellow-detail/15a3a710/ann-sophie-barwich
Rishad Motlani: How Religious and Cultural Influences Shape Moral Practice (cosupervised with Mark Wynn, PhD completed 2011)
- PHL3075 - Philosophical Readings 6
I grew up in Germany where I was born in 1964. In 1983 I enrolled at the University of Bonn to study various rather weird subjects before finally settling on philosophy (as well as German Literature and English and American Literature). I graduated in 1990 with an MA in Philosophy, after which I went on to do a PhD in Darmstadt (on perceptual atmospheres) under the supervision of Gernot Boehme (degree with "magna cum laude" awarded in 1994). I spent the next seven years teaching at the university of Darmstadt and writing several books in German (some of which, I'm proud to say, have been translated into Spanish, Korean, Japanese, and Indonesian) until, in 2001, I received the highest academic qualification that a German university can bestow, the so-called habilitation. Thereafter I was a Privatdozent, which basically means that you can supervise doctoral students and teach whatever you want and how much you want without getting paid a penny for your troubles. This being not very satisfactory in the long run, and no chair in sight, I decided to leave Germany and try my luck elsewhere, so in 2003, on New Year's Day, I arrived in Exeter with my then wife Christine and our two children to start anew, without a job yet, but hopeful. A short while later I was lucky enough to receive a grant from the Wellcome Trust to write a book on "the integrity of living beings as a normative concept", which then led to my being hired by the Department of Sociology and Philosophy, first as a Lecturer and then as an Associate Professor of Philosophy. A grant from the Leverhulme Trust allowed me to write another book, this time on "human enhancement", which was published in spring 2013, followed by "Sex and the Posthuman Condition" in 2014 and "Mythologies of Transhumanism" in 2016. From 2013 to 2016 I was Head of our Department and in February 2015 I was promoted to Personal Chair. And that's it so far.