Interests: Political Theory, Modernism, the Enlightenment
Professor Schmidt specializes in the history of European political and social thought from the eighteenth century to the present. He is the author of Maurice Merleau-Ponty: Between Phenomenology and Structuralism (1985) and the editor of What is Enlightenment? Eighteenth-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions (1996) and Theodor Adorno (2007) and co-editor, with Amelie Rorty, of the Critical Guide to Kant’s Idea for a Universal History (2009). He has a particular interest in debates over the nature, the limits, and the legacy of the Enlightenment and has published a series of articles in such journals as the Journal of the History of Ideas, Journal of the History of Philosophy, Political Theory, History of Political Thought, American Political Science Review, Social Research, and Philosophy & Literature exploring the ways in which eighteenth-century thinkers understood the notion of “enlightenment” and the ways in which the Enlightenment has been approached by such twentieth-century thinkers as Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Jürgen Habermas, and Michel Foucault. He has received a number of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and was awarded the James L. Clifford Prize from the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.
He has taught a wide range of courses in the areas of intellectual history and history of political thought, including such topics as the experiences of European intellectuals who sought refuge in the United States during the Second World War (particularly the relationship between the philosopher Theodor Adorno, the novelist Thomas Mann, and the composer Arnold Schoenberg during their exile in Hollywood in the 1940’s) and the role of musical compositions in the memorialization of victims of political violence.