Dr. David James

Dr. David James

Senior Fellow

Period at the center: Octobre 2023 – April 2024

Research Project: German Philosophy and the ‘Dialectic’ of Enlightenment

Email: d.n.james@warwick.ac.uk


David James is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Warwick, UK. His research interests are in the history of philosophy, especially the tradition in practical philosophy that begins with Rousseau and extends, through Kant, Fichte, Hegel and Marx, to the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory.

Research Project

German Philosophy and the ‘Dialectic’ of Enlightenment

The theme of the project derives from the book Dialectic of Enlightenment that was co-authored by the best-known representatives of the first-generation Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. Although parts of the project will deal directly with this text, other parts of it will aim to show how the ‘dialectic’ identified by Horkheimer and Adorno was, in different forms, already a theme in classical German philosophy, if only implicitly. Other philosophers whose writings will be drawn upon include Herder, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. The term ‘dialectic’ concerns how certain concepts or ideals are shown to be bound up with their opposites in such a way that enlightenment reason generates fundamental tensions either within reason itself or with respect to the ends of reason and the attempt to achieve them. In this way, enlightenment reason turns out to be self-undermining. I shall focus especially on the tension between the ideal of a rational organization of society and the idea of freedom, and on how certain forms of suffering that are difficult to reconcile with a progressive view of history reflect this tension.

Selected publications


“Compassion, Egoism and Selflessness: Schopenhauer’s Problematic Debt to Rousseau“, in: The Schopenhauerian Mind, ed. D. Woods, T. Stoll, (London: Routledge, 2023).

“The Relevance of Personality, Slavery, and Property to the Question Whether Hegel Seeks to Justify Colonial Oppression”, in: The Review of Metaphysics 76:4 (2023), 587–610.

“Situating the Enlightenment in Herder’s Philosophy of History”, in: Journal of the Philosophy of History 16:3 (2022), 247–270.


Property and its Forms in Classical German Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023).

Practical Necessity, Freedom, and History: From Hobbes to Marx (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021)