Susan Neiman (born March 27, 1955) is an American moral philosopher, cultural commentator, and essayist. She has written extensively on the juncture between Enlightenment moral philosophy, metaphysics, and politics, both for scholarly audiences and the general public. She currently lives in Germany, where she is the Director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam.

Biography and career

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Neiman dropped out of high school to join the anti-Vietnam War movement. Later she studied philosophy at Harvard University, earning her Ph.D. under the direction of John Rawls and Stanley Cavell. During graduate school, she spent several years of study at the Free University of Berlin. Slow Fire, a memoir about her life as a Jewish woman in 1980s Berlin, appeared in 1992. From 1989 to 1996 she taught philosophy at Yale University, and from 1996 to 2000 she was an associate professor of philosophy at Tel Aviv University. In 2000 she assumed her current position at the Einstein Forum in Potsdam. She is the mother of three grown children.

Neiman has been a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, a Research Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center in Bellagio, and a Senior Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. She is now a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Her books have won prizes from PEN, the Association of American Publishers, and the American Academy of Religion. Her shorter pieces have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Globe and Mail, and Dissent. In Germany, she has written for Die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and Freitag, among other publications. Neiman is among a handful of prominent female philosophers in a field overwhelmingly dominated by men,[1][2][3] and was the only woman invited to write for Penguin's Philosophy in Transit series of books.[4]

Awards and honors

In 2014 Neiman was the recipient of the International Spinoza Prize and an honorary doctorate from the University of Sankt Gallen. She delivered the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at the University of Michigan in 2010.

Quotes

Moral inquiry and political activism start where reason is missing. When righteous people suffer and wicked people flourish, we begin to ask why. Demands for moral clarity ring long, loud bells because it is something we are right to seek. Those who cannot find it are likely to settle for the far more dangerous simplicity, or purity, instead.
~ from Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists
Consider what you mean when you tell someone: be realistic. It's another way to say: lower your expectations. It's also connected with a view of maturity that holds growing up to be a process of becoming resigned.
~ from “It’s the Metaphysics, Stupid,” The Boston Globe, February 28, 2008
Like many others, I came to philosophy to study matters of life and death, and was taught that professionalization required forgetting them. The more I learned, the more I grew convinced of the opposite: the history of philosophy was indeed animated by the questions that drew us there.
~ from Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy

Selected bibliography

Books

  • Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin, 1992, New York: Schocken.
  • The Unity of Reason: Rereading Kant, 1994, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy, 2002, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Fremde sehen anders: Zur Lage der Bundesrepublik, 2005, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
  • Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists, 2008, New York: Harcourt.
  • Why Grow Up?, 2014, London: Penguin (series Philosophy in Transit). [Reprinted as Why Grow Up? Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age, 2015, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux]

Book chapters

  • "After Auschwitz, After Hiroshima: Remembering Which Past?" in Tester, Critical Theory and Nuclear Bombs, Thesis Eleven, 2015
  • "Victims and Heroes," in Matheson, ed., The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, 2012, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
  • "Subversive Einstein," in Galison, Holton and Schweber, ed., Einstein for the 21st Century, 2008, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • "Amerikanische Träume," in Honneth, Kemper und Klein, ed., Bob Dylan, 2007, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Newspaper and magazine articles

  • "History and Guilt," Aeon, 2013.
  • "Was ist Religion?," Die Zeit, 2013.
  • "What It All Means," The New York Times, 2011.
  • "Is Morality Driven by Faith?" The Washington Post/Newsweek, 2008.

External links