Picture of Karl Pfeifer

Karl Pfeifer PhD

Professor Emeritus

Philosophy professor emeritus

Arts 523

Research Area(s)

  • Metaphysics
  • Action Theory
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophical Logic
  • Philosophy of Laughter & Humor
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Metaethics
  • Aesthetics


Aesthetics Humor Intentionality Laughter Moral Realism Ontology Panentheism Panpsychism Pantheism Supererogation Time

Research Projects

Pantheism, Panentheism, and Panpsychism. Recently I have been drawn into debates about pantheism, panentheism, and panpsychism, in which my old interest in intentionality has also reemerged. Here are two relevant publications:
“Pantheism as Panpsychism”, Andrei Buckareff and Yujin Nagasawa (eds.), Alternative Concepts of God: Essays on the Metaphysics of the Divine (Oxford University Press, 2016), 41-49.
“Naïve Panentheism”, in Godehard Brüntrup, Benedikt Paul Göcke, and Ludwig Jaskolla, (eds.), Panentheism and Panpsychism: Philosophy of Religion Meets Philosophy of Mind. (Innsbruck Studies in Philosophy of Religion, Vol. 2). (Paderborn: Mentis/Brill, 2020), 123-138. DOI: https://doi.org/10.30965/9783957437303_008

Moral Supererogation. The concept of moral supererogation was articulated in Catholic theology with regard to saints and their actions performed from morally good motives. Many philosophers would argue that motives need to be taken into account in order to distinguish supererogatory acts, acts which are above and beyond the call of duty and which are not wrong not to do, from merely permissible or indifferent acts. Borrowing a taxonomy of moral terms from Peter Glassen, I am developing a conceptual framework for supererogation that does not require supererogatory acts to be done from morally good motives.

Philosophy of the Book. Departments of literary studies have in recent times included the study of the history of the book in their curricula, where that history encompasses the various forms a book may take, from clay tablets to scrolls to codices to audiobooks to ebooks. The question “what is a book?” is frequently raised in this context, but is typically not answered with much concern for accuracy or precision. Philosophers, on the other hand, have not directly taken up this question either (although they have taken up related issues such as the nature of literature or literary works). I propose to undertake a preliminary philosophical account of the nature of the book.

The “unity of time”. I am reexamining some thought-experiments first put forth by Anthony Quinton and Richard Swinburne in the 1960’s pertaining to the “unity of time”. I believe and intend to show that the most recent response to these thought-experiments, Peter King’s ingenious argument that temporally isolated times are possible, does not imply, contrary to his further suggestion, that it is not possible to have temporally unrelated parts of the same space.

Philosophy of Laughter and Humor. I have been examining various philosophical and psychological theories of laughter and humor, including the views of some nineteenth-century German writers. I am particularly interested in the views of Ewald Hecker (1873) in relation to the sort of “boundary cases” of laughter discussed in M. Hurley, Daniel Dennett, & R. Adams, Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind, as well to the so-called Darwin-Hecker hypothesis. I aim to show that whereas the boundary cases are held to be out of scope by Hurley et al. they nevertheless play a central role in Hecker's account. The concept of amusement also needs to be investigated in this context.

Also see my old webpage here:  https://ibb.co/J7sPV1 

Many of my publications are listed here: https://philpeople.org/profiles/karl-pfeifer/publications