skip to main contentskip to main menuskip to footer Universität Bielefeld Play Search
  • Masterclass Philosophy

    Three monochrome abstract pictures of guys standing and walking

Bielefeld Masterclass in Philosophy

The Masterclass in Philosophy aims to provide advanced students and junior researchers from Bielefeld and elsewhere an in-depth course on cutting-edge research of an internationally renowned expert in a particular area of philosophy. Through pre-reading current manuscripts, lecture series, extensive discussion formats or group debates, the Masterclass allows participants to enhance their knowledge of the subject matter, strengthen their argumentative skills and get a feeling of the research process in professional academic philosophy.

Masterclass Summer 2024

with Matthieu Queloz (Bern)

Poster Masterclass 2024

Concepts are the building blocks of thought. It is plausible that how we think about the world-what we believe to be true, what we consider possible or desirable, or how we intend to act-is highly dependent on the concepts we use to frame our thoughts. Using a different set of concepts is likely to lead to different ways of thinking. How do we know if the concepts we are currently using are the best ones to put our thoughts into? Are there better concepts? How can concepts be evaluated, compared, or justified in the first place? These are the questions that Matthieu Queloz's new book, The Ethics of Conceptualization, seeks to answer. In this masterclass, we will join the author in exploring how concepts can be scrutinized, how they relate to our concerns and needs, and why justifying our use of concepts is like giving reasons for reasons.

Over the course of six sessions - each devoted to a specific part of Queloz's book manuscript and opened with a presentation by him - we will explore the author's novel and original approach to conceptual ethics and engineering. On Day 1, we will begin by considering how the authority of a concept can be challenged, and what the very idea of doing so implies for how we should think about concepts and conceptions. On day 2, we will take a critical look at the idea that concepts should necessarily be precise, coherent, and tension-free, before turning to the alternative idea that concept evaluation is ultimately rooted in our concerns and the conceptual needs they generate. Finally, on day 3, we will consider the relationship between concepts and reasons, and what it means to give reasons for using a particular concept.

Matthieu Queloz speaks both English and German. So while the texts and presentations will be held in English, everybody is welcome to ask their questions in either German or English.

Registration (free of charge):


Wednesday, June 26th

9.30-11:45am (Room: X-B2-103)

The Authority Question & the Autoethnographic Stance

Reading: esp. ch. 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.3


2:30-4:45pm (Room: X-B2-103)

Concepts, Conceptions, Confidence, and the Importance of Thickness

Reading: esp. ch.  Intro, 1.2, 2.2, 2.3, 2.5, 3.1, 3.3, 3.4


6-8pm, Evening lecture

Should Explanations of Where Concepts Come from Affect How We Deliberate?


Thursday, June 27th

10:00-12:15am (Room: X-A2-103)

Tethering Concepts to Concerns

Reading: esp. ch.  6.1–6.4


2:00-4:15pm (Room: X-A2-103)

Tailoring Thought to Need

Reading: esp. ch.  7.1–7.6


Friday, June 28th

10:00-12:15am (Room: X-E0-222 )

Reasons for Reasons

Reading: esp. ch.  8.1–8.5


2:00-4:15pm (Room: X-A2-103)

Conceptual Ethics – the General Picture

Masterclass Summer 2023

with Prof. Jason Baehr (Loyola Marymount University, California)

Poster Masterclass 2023

Intellectual virtues are the deep personal qualities or character strengths required for good thinking and learning. This Masterclass with Jason Baehr will examine the nature and structure of intellectual virtues and vices.

In the first half of the Masterclass, we’ll examine several theories of what makes something an intellectual virtue or a vice. In the second half , we’ll apply the theories we’ve been studying by asking what makes somebody a good thinker or learner. These answers come to mind. First, they have a lot of knowledge. Second, good thinkers and learners have a lot of cognitive abilities, meaning that good thinkers also tend to be intelligent or to have a reasonably high IQ. But a person can be very knowledgeable and intellectually “gifted” while also being intellectually hasty, lazy, dishonest, arrogant, servile, distracted, superficial, careless, or closed-minded. These qualities (intellectual vices) prevent a person from thinking or learning well. They are cultivated dispositions to act, think, and feel in particular ways. These considerations underscore that good thinking and learning have a character-based dimension. They require the practice of qualities like intellectual carefulness, perseverance, honesty, humility, attentiveness, thoroughness, curiosity, open-mindedness, intellectual courage, and intellectual tenacity (intellectual virtues). Intellectual virtues differ from natural cognitive abilities like raw intelligence or IQ. With proper steps and a suitable environment, anyone can grow in intellectual virtues. Accordingly, our guiding questions throughout the course will be: How can intellectual virtues be taught?

During the Masterclass, we will discuss these questions with Jason Baehr (Loyola Marymount University, California) in person.

Click here for Jason Baehr's profile

Click here for Poster Masterclass 2023 - Baehr

31.05., Masterclass - Part I
01.06., Masterclass - Part II
02.06., Masterclass - Part III

Registration (free of charge):

Masterclass Fall 2021

with Janet Kourany, Torsten Wilholt, Martin Carrier, Inmaculada de Melo-Martín, Lutz Wingert & Mathias Girel

The pioneers of the Scientific Revolution in the early 1600s conceived the new science of the period as an undertaking in the service of the common good. By contrast, parts of present-day research are said to be detrimental in groundlessly undermining an evidentially backed and well-supported scientific consensus or to impair and hurt social groups. Take climate change denialists who attempt to undercut well-established knowledge about threats to humankind by sticking to received political and economic interests. Or think of cases of “virtuous ignorance” (Proctor), in which we don’t want to see personal affairs made subject to public scrutiny. Such research may contribute to preventing urgent political action or make people suffer without justification.

Such issues pose epistemic and moral challenges. The epistemic challenge is whether it is advisable to seek to identify fake science and ostracize the relevant approaches or, alternatively, whether the adverse side-effects possibly tied up with such attempts would create more harm than good. After all, the misidentification of such fake accounts would lead to the unfavorable suppression of scientific debate. In moral respect, blacklisting certain research undertakings might conflict with the freedom of research. Moreover, hurt feelings may not be a sufficient reason for abandoning a research endeavor.

The 2021 masterclass in philosophy differs from its predecessors in implementing a controversial scheme. Both the epistemic and the moral dimension will be addressed in contrasting ways. The parties involved will defend and criticize the appropriateness of ruling out certain approaches right away as epistemically unsound and morally defective.


October 20 (ZiF Plenary Hall)

10:15—12:00 Janet Kourany (University of Notre Dame), Agnotological Quandaries: Toward a Proper Balance of Knowledge and Ignorance in Research.

14:15—16:00 Torsten Wilholt (Leibniz-University Hannover), Dangerous Knowledge and the Freedom of Science.

October 21 (ZiF Plenary Hall)

10:15—12:00 Inmaculada de Melo-Martín (Weill Cornell Medical College), Identifying Normatively Inappropriate Dissent: Easier Said than Done.

14:15—16:00 Martin Carrier (Bielefeld University), Fake Research: How Can We Recognize it and Respond to it?

October 22 (X-Building, A2-103)

10:15—12:00 Lutz Wingert (ETH Zurich), TBA

14:15—16:00 Panel Debate: All speakers and Mathias Girel (ENS Paris)

Masterclass Summer 2019

with Prof. Hanno Sauer (Utrecht University)

Last year's Masterclass in Philosophy, "Moral Judgment: Intuition, Reason, Progress", was be held by Prof. Hanno Sauer (Utrecht).

Date: June, 4-6, 2019
Location: Bielefeld University


What are moral judgments - and are they any good? In this course, we will address these and other questions with the tools of recent empirically informed metaethics and moral psychology. We will take a look at the respective roles reasoning, emotion and intuition play in moral judgment, how reliable moral judgments are, or how and when reflection should override moral intuition. With this in hand, we will consider whether moral cognition improves over time. Does the evidence from moral psychology suggest that our moral values converge upon a universal moral code? And if so, what are the metaethical implications of this convergence? Finally, are there any limits to moral progress and development? And to what extent are those limits determined by the evolved constraints of our moral psychology?

Further information:
The schedule for the Masterclass (including information about times, topics, and rooms for all sessions) is here.

Organization: Hannah Altehenger, Valerij Zisman, Paul Rehren


Eine Liste der vergangenen Veranstaltung im Rahmen der Bielefeld Masterclass in Philosophy finden Sie hier.

Masterclass Summer 2018

with Prof. Nico Orlandi (University of California at Santa Cruz): "The Nature of Visual Perception"

How do we come to see the world as we do? And when we see the world, are we representing it? These two questions will be the focus of the masterclass. We will consider them by looking at contemporary work in philosophy and in cognitive science. We will look at Bayesian models of perception and at what they imply about the perceptual process, and we will consider the question of representation: what representations are and whether perception is properly described as representational.

Wednesday July 4th

14:00–16:30 The Nature of Visual Perception: An Introduction

18:15–19:45 Public Lecture: Seeing the Duck-rabbit without Concepts

Thursday, July 5th

Ecological Vision

Friday, July 6th

Vision and the Notion of Representation

Readings: For the most part, the Masterclass will focus on Nico Orlandi's recent book, The Innocent Eye: Why Vision is Not a Cognitive Process (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Masterclass Spring 2017

with Prof. Geoffrey Sayre-McCord (University of North Carolina Chapel Hill)

This year’s guest lecturer is Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Morehead-Cain Alumni Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Director of UNC’s Program in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Geoffrey Sayre-McCord has published extensively on metaethics, moral theory, epistemology, David Hume and Adam Smith.

Wednesday, May 31
14:00-16:15     Understanding normative concepts, a brief history (and, so, a whirlwind tour of cognitivism, prescriptivism, expressivism and quasi-realism)
18:15-19:45     Public lecture (tba)
Thursday, June 1
10:00-12:15     The nature of normative concepts, an alternative account, first pass
14:00-16:15     Normative standards for normative concepts: eliding the distinction between a better theory of morality and a theory of a better morality
Friday, June 2
10:00-12:15     Moral kind terms: moral twin earth visited and explained
14:00-16:15     Challenges, threats, and opportunities in understanding normative concepts

Masterclass Spring 2016

with Prof. Hasok Chang (University of Cambridge)

Organized by the Department of Philosophy and the doctoral school GRK2073 (Integrating Ethics and Epistemology of Scientific Research).

In five lectures Hasok Chang will discuss the benefits of a renewal of pragmatist philosophy in relation to science, drawing particularly on the work of John Dewey and Clarence Irving Lewis. Pluralism is one important consequence of a pragmatist understanding on the actual achievements of science, which are multifarious and achieved by various methods. A pragmatist and pluralist outlook will introduce significant changes to our views on realism, reductionism, theory-choice, natural kinds, and many other issues in the philosophy of science.


Lecture 1: Epistemic pluralism in science (May 23, 10–12 h).

Realistic empiricism leads to pluralism. There are also positive benefits in simultaneously cultivating multiple systems of knowledge in a given field of study. The 'benefits of toleration' arise from distinct contributions that can be made by distinct co-existing systems. The ‘benefits of interaction’ arise from productive exchanges and competition between such systems. This lecture will rehearse and develop my general argument for pluralism laid out in chapter 5 of Is Water H2O?.

Lecture 2. Pragmatism in epistemology (May 23, 14 – 16 h).  

The understanding of scientific practice requires a consideration of the epistemic activities that constitute scientific inquiry, and the motivations and purposes of inquiry. The evaluation of knowledge should be carried out in terms of various merits of systems of practice (which are coherent interacting sets of epistemic activities), not merely of their propositional elements. Pragmatism provides the best broad philosophical framework for the analysis and evaluation of epistemic activities and systems of practice.

Lecture 3. Coherence, truth and reality (May 24, 10–12h). 

Adopting pluralism and pragmatism does not mean abandoning the pursuit of truth and reality. Rather, it means that we should revise the philosophical concepts of truth and reality so that they become meaningful in scientific and everyday practice. The basis of such revision will be a renewed pragmatist concept of coherence, which pertain to the fitting-together of actions in achieving particular aims.


General lecture : How does a battery work? (May 24, 16–18h)

The nature and growth of technoscientific knowledge.  For a full century after Alessandro Volta’s invention of the “pile”, controversy continued about the mechanisms by which batteries produce electrical action. The state of “battery science” in the 19th century was a stimulating co-existence and contention between at least four different systems of practice, each with its own high-profile experiments and theoretical moves. This early history of batteries makes a very interesting illustration of how scientific knowledge originates and grows in situations that fully integrate theoretical thinking and practical engagement.

Lecture 4. The human origins of metaphysical notions (May 25, 10–12 h)

Taking pragmatism seriously means grounding even metaphysical notions in the conditions of human action and thought. In some cases, certain metaphysical principles are necessitated by our engagement in certain epistemic activities; the justification of such principles take the form of a ‘conditional transcendental argument'. In other cases, metaphysical notions arise through metaphorical projection from practical activities; such notions include causation, necessity, and the representation of the world.

Lecture 5. A renewal of the philosophy of science. May 25, 14 – 16 h.  The pluralist and pragmatist perspectives elaborated in the previous lectures demand a reconceptualization of many central problems of the philosophy of science in stimulating directions. These issues include not only realism and theory-choice as already discussed, but reductionism, natural kinds, discovery, explanation, and demarcation.

Two preparatory meetings will be held: April 26, 16 – 18 h; May 17, 16 – 18 h.

Preparatory meetings (U2-200)

Tue, April 26, 16 – 18 h, Hasok Chang, Chapter 5 of Is Water H2O? Evidence, Realism and Pluralism (Dordrecht: Springer, 2012).

Tue, May 17, 16 – 18 h, Hasok Chang, “Epistemic Activities and Systems of Practice: Units of Analysis in Philosophy of Science After the Practice Turn”, in Léna Soler, Sjoerd Zwart, Michael Lynch and Vincent Israel-Jost, eds., Science After the Practice Turn in the Philosophy, History and Social Studies of Science (London and Abingdon: Routledge, 2014), 67–79.

Kick-off meeting: Tue, April 12, 16 h (U2-200)

back to top