We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Bernd Goebel

IAS Fellow at Grey College, Durham University (January - March 2008)

Professor Bernd Goebel has German and French degrees in phi­losophy, divinity and religious studies, with a Ph.D. from Bonn University and the Ecole Pra­tique des Hautes Etudes Paris. He was an Assistant Professor at the Hanover Institute for Phi­lo­sophical Research from 1997 to 2001 and has lectured for the Catholic University of Lille's department of theology and for the University of Hildesheim's depart­ment of philo­so­phy. He has held visiting pro­fes­sorships at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes Paris and the Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame. In 2002-03 he was a fellow of the Erasmus In­stitute at the Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame and has re­cently been elected to a visiting fellow­ship at Magdalen College Ox­ford for Michaelmas term 2007.

Professor Goebel's main areas of interest are early medieval and contemporary philosophy (ethics, phi­lo­­­sophy of mind, philosophy of religion, and ontology). He has published on a variety of sub­jects. His first book, Rectitudo: Wahrheit und Freiheit bei Anselm von Canterbury (2001), is a historical and sys­­te­ma­tic study of Anselm's philosophical theology. He has co-edited four col­lections of es­says, on environ­men­tal ethics (Nachhaltigkeit in der Oekologie, 2001), political phi­losophy (Ei­ne moralische Po­li­tik?, 2001), bioethics (Gentechnologie und die Zu­kunft der Menschen­wuer­de, 2003), and on philosophical naturalism (Pro­b­le­me des Naturalismus, 2005). Two other works which he is co-editing are to be published in late 2007 or early 2008: a collection of cri­tical es­says on philosophical postmodernism (Kritik der postmodernen Ver­nunft) and a Ger­man trans­­lation with introduction and com­men­tary of Augustine's The Nature of Good; a se­ries of three ar­ticles on reason and authority in the early middle ages is forth­co­ming in 2007 in a French antho­lo­gy. Goebel has also translated several books into German such as the best-sel­ling Ethik für jun­ge Menschen (Ethics for young adults) by the Mexican phi­lo­sopher Héctor Zagal.

He is a founding member of the German Society for Philosophy and Science (GPW), a mem­ber of the International Society for the Study of Medieval Philosophy (SIEPM), the Ger­man So­­­ciety for Analytical Philosophy (GAP), and the scientific board of the Anselm of Canter­bu­ry-Foundation Beuron.

Pro­fessor Goebel is currently working on a series of articles about the philosophical theology of Anselm of Can­­terbury, parts of which he wishes to incorporate into an introductory book on Anselm. Du­ring his time at the IAS, he will be resear­ching and writing on the new con­cep­tu­al models of understanding human action, freedom and responsibility that Anselm de­ve­lo­ped in the 11th cen­tury, and on the rival models of interpreting his thought.

IAS Insights Paper


There is much disagreement as to the nature of Anselm of Canterbury's solution to the ontological problem of universals. I propose a new interpretation by introducing, first, two distinctions between different forms of realism concerning the existence of universal entities, and various ways in which these can be combined to form full-blown theories. After
reconsidering some recent views of Anselm's theory of universals in the light of these distinctions, I then argue that it is of an ‘Objective Idealist' (or ‘Pan-realist') type. It constitutes the core of Anselm's ontology, which may be characterized as a ‘five-category ontology.' The gist of his theory of universals is a three-level account of reality where the entities on different
levels vary in their degree of being or existence. Anselm has recently been taken to be saying that a universal is strictly immanent to its corresponding particulars. But this interpretation seems to miss the point. His ontology is of a decidedly neo-Platonic bent. Still, Anselm takes the metaphysics of Aristotle's ‘Categories' very seriously as far as it goes.

Insights Paper