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Vasfi O. Özen

Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy and Instructor at The University of Kansas


Please feel free to get in touch to find out more about my work and research projects.

For access to my selected publications, please click on the "Contact" button below,

and you will be directed to my PhilPapers or ResearchGate profile.

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I am currently working on my doctoral thesis,

"On willing and the phantasy of empathy,"

under the supervision of Professor Scott Jenkins.

His university website profile can be found at:

I primarily work in moral psychology and post-Kantian European philosophy,

and I am especially interested in questions at their intersection.


I also have strong research interests in political theory, economic systems, and the limiting and enabling aspects of social structures and cultures. Some of my non-dissertation projects focus on the 19th-century German philosophical texts that respond to familiar issues within contemporary social and political philosophy.

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SELECTED PUBLICATIONS                                                                  


 Nietzsche-Studien: Internationales Jahrbuch für die Nietzsche-Forschung, Vol. 50, Issue 1, Aug. 2021: 244-274.

Abstract. Nietzsche is known for his penetrating critique of Mitleid (now commonly rendered as ‘compassion’).  He seems to be critical of all compassion but at times also seems to praise a different form of compassion, which he refers to as “our compassion” and contrasts it with “your compassion” (Beyond Good and Evil § 225). Some commentators have interpreted this to mean that Nietzsche’s criticism is not as unconditional as it may seem–that he does not condemn compassion entirely. I disagree and contend that even though Nietzsche appears to speak favorably of some forms of compassion, he regards the nature of all compassion to be fundamentally bad. Furthermore, I suggest that Nietzsche’s discussion on different forms of compassion have significant implications for achieving greatness and meaning in life. More specifically, I argue that, for Nietzsche, ‘our compassion’, however regrettable qua compassion it is, may give occasion for a rare and peculiar insight into ‘co-suffering’ with others, which in turn results in overcoming compassion entirely. I also argue that although Nietzsche objects to compassion, he approves of a form of what feminist theorists might now call ‘anticipatory empathy’. Even though a large body of literature has evolved over Nietzsche’s critical evaluation of compassion, his understanding of a non-compassionate response to suffering is, in my view, rather overlooked and should receive more attention.


Philosophical Papers, Vol. 50, Issue 1-2, Jul. 2021: 235-280.

Abstract. Nietzsche is not known for his theory of empathy. A quick skimming of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on empathy demonstrates this. Arthur Schopenhauer, Robert Vischer, and Theodor Lipps are among those whose views are considered representative, but Nietzsche has been simply forgotten in discussion of empathy. Nietzsche’s theory of empathy has not yet aroused sufficient interest among commentators. I believe that his views on this subject merit careful consideration. Nietzsche scholars have been interested in his naturalistic accounts of other phenomena, but there seems to be relatively limited interest in his naturalistic account of a phenomenon that is so central to his disagreement with Schopenhauer, namely, empathic concern for others. This is surprising because Nietzsche makes a valuable contribution; he has views more in keeping with contemporary theories of empathy than others of his time. My goal here is to fill in this gap in the scholarship and provide the first thorough analysis of Nietzsche’s theory of empathy, which appears most clearly in Dawn.


The Review of Metaphysics: A Philosophical Quarterly,  Vol. 74, Issue 294, Dec. 2020: 251-288.

Abstract. The general attitude towards Arthur Schopenhauer’s metaphysics is rather fiercely critical and at times even tendentious. It seems that the figure of Schopenhauer as an irredeemably flawed, stubborn, and contradictory philosopher serves as a leitmotiv among scholars. Schopenhauer’s identification of the thing-in-itself with the will continues to be a thorny puzzle in the secondary literature, and it presents perhaps the greatest challenge to Schopenhauer scholars. Schopenhauer borrows the term ‘thing-in-itself’ from Immanuel Kant, who uses it to refer to a reality that is distinct from what appears to us, and hence unknowable. Despite the fact that several interpretations have been offered to make sense of Schopenhauer’s identification of the thing-in-itself with the will, there appears to be no consensus about how to interpret this identification as well as his understanding of the term ‘thing-in-itself’. Unlike the other interpretations, the interpretation that I offer here distinguishes between three distinct and mutually incompatible views that Schopenhauer formulates about the thing-in-itself. I argue that it is not only difficult to give a coherent, consistent account of Schopenhauer’s position, but also not worth trying, because such an endeavor comes at the cost of ignoring the textual richness and depth of thought that Schopenhauer’s works offer.

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RECENT COURSES & READING GROUPS                                     

Moral Issues in Business 

Fall 2021 (online lecture, asynchronous)

Course Description. In this course, we will rely on various theoretical perspectives including sociological, economical, feminist, and decolonial in exploring and analyzing moral issues in business. More specifically, we will learn about the values and assumptions that undergird business and economic market relationships. We will address issues dealing with the moral and ethical foundations of capitalism and free markets as a socio-economic system.

The works of the thinkers that are discussed in this course include R. M. Hare, Richard Rorty,

Joseph A. Schumpeter, Gerald Gaus, Erik Olin Wright, Karl Marx, and Immanuel Kant.

Below is a sample video lecture from my course:

Lebensphilosophie Series.1

“Life in Health and Sickness”

Spring 2020 (online)

This was a semester-long, interdisciplinary reading group, involving both doctoral students and faculty members. We studied the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Helmuth Plessner, Georges Canguilhem, and other major representatives of Lebensphilosophie (German, "life philosophy", or "philosophy of life"),

a school of thought that is grounded on cultural criticism, sociology, and philosophical biology.

It focuses more on the corporeal and lived elements of human experience and life.

I will organize more of these reading groups in the future. If you are interested in the rich tradition of Lebensphilosophie, please feel free to join our group. I will post new updates here. 

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NEWS & UPCOMING EVENTS                                                                   

"Introspection and Self-knowledge in Schopenhauer," paper accepted for Symposium presentation at the 2022 APA Central Division meeting, to be held at
The Palmer House, Chicago, Illinois, February 23-26, 2022.

To learn more about my research on Schopenhauer, please see my blog post titled
"The legacy of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics,"
which will appear on The Official Blog of the American Philosophical Association.

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Contact me to discuss my projects (as well as yours), or for teaching / collaboration / job opportunities, and for lecture / presentation requests.

University of Kansas 

Department of Philosophy

1445 Jayhawk Boulevard

Wescoe Hall, Room 3085 

Lawrence, KS 66045-7590