About me
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Hi—I’m Joe Stratmann.

I’m a (tenure-track) assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I earned my PhD at UC San Diego in spring 2022.

My research focuses on eighteenth-century German rationalism, particularly Kant. I’m especially interested in the fate of human reason’s demand for explanation—theoretical and practical. For one, I argue that Kant’s aspiration to provide an adequate account of rational cognition from grounds underlies the critique of pure reason offered in the Critique of Pure Reason.

Other philosophical interests include early modern philosophy (especially Leibniz and Wolff), metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of hope, post-Kantian philosophy, and Chinese philosophy (and the history of Western engagement with it).

I also enjoy cooking, music (everything from classical music to progressive rock), film photography, and learning languages.

Feel free to reach me at joe.stratmann1@gmail.com


Here’s my CV (and a scenic overview of Königsberg). The following slides describe five ongoing research projects (and have more pictures). Some of the papers described in these slides are fully drafted, others merely planned.

Rationalism Restrained
Rationalism Restrained: Kant and the Metaphysics of Ground

Human reason constantly asks Why and demands the Because —it demands to cognize things from their grounds. In rationalism’s seventeenth-century heyday and contemporary renaissance, rationalists employ the principle of sufficient reason and other metaphysical principles to satisfy this demand.

Yet the eighteenth-century German rationalist tradition come to terms with the very intelligibility of grounds: how can reason cognize anything at all from its ground?

Papers tied to this project…

(1) detail the opposing responses to this problem developed by Leibniz’s German rationalist successors—most notably, Christian Wolff and Christian Crusius.

(2) propose that Kant’s awakening from dogmatic slumber is tied to perceived inadequacies in his predecessors’ responses.

(3) sketch how Kant’s aspiration to save the possibility of rational cognition from grounds underlies the Critique of Pure Reason’s assessment of reason.

(4) reconstruct Kant’s argument for idealism about a priori laws of nature based on this aspiration.

(5) reconstruct Kant’s argument against rational cognition of objects beyond the bounds of sense based on this aspiration.

[Image: from La folle journée du professeur Kant – courtesy of Les petits Platons / Laurent Moreau]

Rationalism Unrestrained

Human reason’s demand for explanation extends to moral philosophy. Not content to accept secondhand that something is good or bad (or permissible, etc.), human reason demands to cognize why it is good or bad. Moral rationalism maintains that moral truths can be rationally cognized from their grounds.

Kant’s influential version of moral rationalism locates the grounds of moral truths in necessary and strictly universal moral laws. A prevailing view claims that Kant’s moral rationalism fails catastrophically.

Papers tied to this project …

(1) propose that Kant appropriates the essentialist metaphysics of moral laws found in Wolff’s universal practical philosophy.

(2) detail the neglected internecine dispute between Wolff and Crusius concerning how rational cognition of the bindingness of moral laws is possible.

(3) reconstruct Kant’s critical response to this problem in light of this historical context (against the above prevailing view).

(4) investigate how an infinite intellect (such as God’s) would cognize moral laws from their grounds.

Rationalism Unrestrained: Kant and the Metaphysics of Moral Ground

Cause for Hope

Cause for Hope: Kant’s Account of Hope

Alongside what can I know? and what ought I do?, Kant famously describes what may I hope? as a fundamental question of human reason. Despite this, Kant’s account of hope—and the role of reason in it—has remained largely neglected.

Papers tied to this project…

(1) differentiate Kant’s notion of hope (from closely related notions like faith or wishing) in terms of reason’s demand for a cause for hope.

(2) elucidate the conditions under which hope is justified.

(3) investigate the value of justified hope.

[Image: somewhere in San Diego, Nikon F3, Kodak Portra 400]

From Reform to Revolution

Kant’s critical philosophy is said to offer not merely new answers to old problems, but also a revolutionary “critical” way of doing philosophy that overturns the prevailing “dogmatic” philosophy of Christian Wolff.

To the contrary, I argue that Kant’s critical revolution extends Wolff’s prior attempts to reform dogmatic philosophy.

Papers tied to this project…

(1) detail how Kant’s critical procedure—predicated upon an analysis of our cognitive faculties—departs from Wolff’s dogmatic procedure in far more subtle ways than previously appreciated.

(2) argue that Kant’s diagnosis of the errors of traditional metaphysics builds upon Wolff’s diagnosis.

From Reform to Revolution: Philosophical Method in Wolff and Kant
Wolff’s Cosmopolitanism: From East to West
From China to the West: Wolff’s Rationalist Cosmopolitanism

In the mid-eighteenth century, Wolff advanced a powerful cosmopolitan vision of a morally progressive international community encompassing all people—a civitas maxima. And unlike Kant’s later cosmopolitanism, Wolff’s was directly informed by the Chinese philosophical tradition.

Papers tied to this project…

(1) trace Wolff’s engagement with Chinese moral philosophy back to his claim that Confucius was among the first to extend the principle of sufficient reason to moral philosophy.

(2) offer a novel interpretation of Wolff’s civitas maxima in light of his reading of Confucius’ notion of the great harmony [大同]—a reading influenced by neo-Confucians like Zhu Xi [朱熹].

(3) assess both Wolff’s cosmopolitanism and his engagement with Chinese philosophy as a possible model for engaging with diverse cultures and philosophical traditions.

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