Univ.-Prof. Dr. Alexander Somek - Research Projects


My chief project concerns a further elaboration of the relational approach to law. Inadvertently, it has grown to much larger proportions. If it is true that the legal relation addresses an antinomy of morality it makes sense to view law as the historically manifest critique of practical reason. It becomes necessary, hence, to embed legal philosophy into the broader background of the self-determination of reason, for which I draw on German idealism and its latest fulgurations in the forms of Pittsburgh pragmatism.

For tentative project statements - see:

The relational approach to law

Das Recht als Kritik der praktischen Vernunft


As a spin-off project toMoral als Bosheit” I would like to analyze the moralization of art, by which I mean that even in the eyes of many artists, works of art are supposed to carry some morally commendable message. In my view, this idea is entirely misguided, for art actually is what permits us to transcend the strictures of morality. At the same time, the moralization of art does not happen by accident. I would like to explain why art invites its own moralization from within the structure of art itself.

For a first instalment, see here.

“The Soul and the City” is the provisional title of my ultimate project—in the sense of both the final and the finest. I would like to continue whereThe Cosmopolitan Constitution” left off. This work concludes with the conjecture that the ancient way of thinking about constitutions is superior to regarding constitutions as some “higher law”. Ancient constitutionalism is based on the idea that both a good life and a good social order require a reasonable balance among human drives and ambitions. The key to calibrating this balance is the theory of the soul. With “The Soul and the City” I would like to explore, among other things, how and why psychoanalysis (Freud’s “second topic”) continued a way of thinking from which modern political philosophy departed due to its focus on rational subjectivity. The path to be taken by the project can be sketched by putting three names together: From John Marshall via Plato to Freud.