Vasfi O. Özen
D.Phil. Candidate in Philosophy and Instructor at The University of Kansas;
Andrew W. Mellon Coordinator of Academic Programs at The Spencer Museum of Art.
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M.A. in Philosophy, University of Kansas (2017)
M.A. in Philosophy, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (2014)
B.A. in Philosophy, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (2012)
B.Sc. in Business-Economics, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg (2011)
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: https://philosophy.ku.edu/scott-jenkins
I primarily work in moral psychology and post-Kantian continental 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 culture. 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.
NIETZSCHE'S THEORY OF EMPATHY
Forthcoming in Philosophical Papers
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. Even though Nietzsche’s theory of empathy has aroused some interest among commentators, I believe that his views on this subject merits greater attention than it has hitherto received in Nietzsche scholarship. Commentators have been interested in Nietzsche’s 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 a more developed and complete account of Nietzsche’s theory of empathy, which appears exclusively in his middle period writings, most clearly in Dawn
Forthcoming in Nietzsche-Studien: Internationales Jahrbuch für die Nietzsche-Forschung
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.
THE AMBIGUITY IN SCHOPENHAUER’S DOCTRINE OF THE THING-IN-ITSELF
The Review of Metaphysics: A Philosophical Quarterly Vol. 74, No. 2 (Issue No. 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.
RECENT COURSES & READING GROUPS
Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy
Fall 2019 (on campus); Spring 2020 (semi-online)
There is a tendency in teaching this type of introductory courses. Instructors generally neglect the “social” in the “social and political philosophy” and focus entirely on the discussion of texts considered classical or "representative" in political philosophy. Our goal in this course is to break with this tendency in order to gain a solid understanding of dysfunctional political relationships as well as explore the socio-economic structural factors that undermine human freedom and autonomy.
The social and political thinkers that are covered in this course include Leo Strauss, Hannah Arendt, Milton Friedman, Ibn Khaldun, Karl Marx, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Friedrich Engels, Carl Schmitt, Michael Bakunin, Chantal Mouffe, and Erik Olin Wright.
“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.
NEWS & UPCOMING EVENTS
"Nietzsche on mimicry, alliance, and the phantasy of empathy," paper accepted for Symposium presentation at the 2021 APA Central Division meeting, to be held February 24-27, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana (held online due to Covid-19).
In this paper, I am developing a psychological theory of empathy, which I call "representational emotional knowing", that incorporates Friedrich Nietzsche's middle-period writings.
"Nietzschean Compassion," paper accepted for Symposium presentation at the 2021 APA Eastern Division meeting, to be held January 4-7, 2021 in New York City, New York
(held online due to Covid-19)
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.
Here’s the teaser:
"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. As a result of this prevailing tendency in Schopenhauer scholarship, many have become so accustomed to treating his philosophy as in need of substantial correction and reconstruction. I do not particularly agree with this interpretative strategy, but it reflects the mainstream scholarly consensus, namely that Schopenhauer’s philosophical legacy, without his metaphysical vocabulary, might be maintained in the contemporary world. In this blog post, I briefly outline the major points of my research, without elaborating on the philosophical technicalities, and explain why I take issue with certain interpretive routes that have been taken in Schopenhauer scholarship concerning his metaphysical system." The link to the post is as follows:
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Contact me to discuss my published work, teaching, collaboration and job opportunities, or for any other inquiries.
University of Kansas
Department of Philosophy
1445 Jayhawk Boulevard
Wescoe Hall, Room 3085
Lawrence, KS 66045-7590