Daniel J. Smith

Assistant Professor of Philosophy

323 Clement Hall, Memphis, TN 38152
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Daniel James Smith

About Dr. Smith

I was educated in the US (Ph.D., Penn State) and the UK (M.A., Continental Philosophy; B.A., Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, The University of Warwick), and joined the department in 2018. I specialise in Kant and German idealism and contemporary continental philosophy. Most of my recent research focuses on the history of philosophy in some form: sometimes I practice it, sometimes I theorise about it (often with the help of continental philosophers), and sometimes I explore its relationship to other fields, especially the life sciences. My work has appeared or is scheduled to appear in such journals as the European Journal of Philosophy, Research in Phenomenology, Kant-Studien, the European Journal of Psychoanalysis, Foucault Studies, and Critical Philosophy of Race.

At the moment, I am engaged in the following research projects:

  1. I am writing a book on the development of the concept of “evil” from Kant to Schelling, based on my doctoral research. I am convinced that this notion poses a major challenge to philosophy, raising issues not only within ethics, but also for the philosophy of history and systematic metaphysics. Alongside the difficult question of how to account for wrongdoing within the autonomy-based ethical frameworks bequeathed to us by German idealism, this research has led me to think about how contemporary thought inherits certain political-theological ideas associated with theodicies, and to explore how philosophers have tried to account for apparently metaphysically “negative” things like evil. Some of the Schelling material has already been published (see below), and an article on Kant’s theory of “nothing” is forthcoming.

  2. I am interested in the question of how to do the history of philosophy today in light of well-known critiques of the traditional canon, as well as theoretical developments in continental philosophy over the past hundred years or so. This has led me to a study of what I call “the history of the history of philosophy”, that is, the different approaches that philosophers have taken to writing the history of our discipline. How did we get from “lives and opinions” to Hegel’s progressive, developmental model, or for that matter to Foucault’s notion of genealogy and Deleuze’s constitution of a “minor” tradition? I am preparing an article, “A Kantian Conspiracy in the Historiography of Philosophy”, which traces the origin of the standard story – including much of what we find so problematic about it, especially its Eurocentrism – back to some little-known partisans of Kant’s philosophy writing in the early 1800s.

  3. With dissident Indian philosophers Divya Dwivedi and Shaj Mohan, I have been involved in the launch of Philosophy World Democracy, a new multilingual journal based in India with a focus on politically engaged philosophy from global perspectives. I am one of six associate editors, the others being based in Tokyo, Paris, Delhi, Zagreb, and Bogotá. This ongoing collaboration has also resulted in some research, including an article engaging with their book Gandhi and Philosophy and some texts on the coronavirus crisis.

  4. More recently I have been exploring the relationship between philosophy and the life sciences, especially in the two periods that are the main focus of my research: Kant and post-Kantian philosophy, and 20th century French philosophy. I am interested in German idealism's contribution to the birth of biology as an autonomous scientific discipline around 1800, especially the important parts played by Kant’s essays on race and Schelling’s philosophy of nature. This research has involved a critical re-engagement with Foucault’s account of the shift from natural history to modern biology in The Order of Things, though I also take an interest in this theme in other 20th century French philosophers such as Canguilhem and Deleuze.

I have supervised graduate work on a variety of topics including methodology in philosophy, the primacy of practical reason, the death penalty, genealogy, and notions of event and structure in relation to figures like Foucault, Kant, Deleuze, and Derrida. Recent graduate courses I have taught include Foucault’s Society Must Be Defended and Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

Selected Publications

“How is an Illusion of Reason Possible? The Division of Nothing in the Critique of Pure Reason”, forthcoming in Kant-Studien

"The Revenge of Nature? On the Coronavirus and Natural Evil" in Virality of Evil: Philosophy in the Time of a Pandemic ed. Divya Dwivedi, Rowman & Littlefield, 139-146 (2021)

On the Viral Event”, European Journal of Psychoanalysis, “Coronavirus and Philosophers. A Tribune (Agamben, Benvenuto, Cacciari, Cristi, Kristeva, Mbembe, Smith, Irigaray)” (2020)

“‘Clinging Stubbornly to the Antithesis of Assumptions”: On the Difference Between Hegel’s and Spinoza’s Systems of Philosophy”, forthcoming in Research in Phenomenology

Gandhi and Philosophy: Hypophysics and the Comparison between Caste and Race”, positions: episteme vol. 4 (2021)

An Ethics of Temptation: Schelling’s Contribution to the Freedom Controversy”, European Journal of Philosophy (online early view), (2020): 1-15, DOI: 10.1111/ejop.12601

What is the Body without Organs? Machine and Organism in Deleuze and GuattariContinental Philosophy Review, 51(1), (2018): 95-110

“After you, Sir! Substitution in Kant and Levinas”, Journal for the British Society for Phenomenology 48(2), (2017): 149-161

“Foucault on Ethics and Subjectivity: Aesthetics of Existence, Care of the Self” Foucault Studies 19, (2015): 135-150 (Spanish translation in 2017 by Eugenia Victoria Arria Álvarez and Juan Horacio de Freitas as “Foucault sobre ética y subjectividad: ‘cuidado de sí’ y ‘estética de la existencia’”, in Dorsal. Revista de Estudios Foucaultianos 2, 301-321)