For the past semester, Mareike Hauer, a German doctoral student of philosophy, has been a research visitor at Notre Dame — writing her dissertation and participating in the many activities of the Notre Dame Workshop on Ancient Philosophy.
Enrolled at the De Wulf-Mansion Centre for Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy at the Catholic University Leuven, Belgium, Mareike received her magister’s degree from the University of Cologne in 2011. She studied at the Sorbonne during the 2008–2009 academic year.
Mareike’s dissertation takes up the conception of qualitative properties in the philosophy of Proclus, a fifth-century philosopher, and Simplicius, who was active in the sixth century — both of whom wrote several commentaries on works by Plato and Aristotle.
“Qualitative properties are such concepts as warm, cold, transparent, or colorful,” explains Mareike. “They are core features of objects in the natural world and contribute decisively to our perception and understanding of these objects in particular and nature in general.
“The accounts and conceptions of these qualities differed between philosophers and were subject to numerous debates in ancient philosophy and even beyond the ancients. The questions with which philosophers have wrestled throughout history remain more or less the same: What is the ontological status of these properties? How can they be differentiated? Is a classification or even hierarchization possible? And if so, what are the underlying criteria? Additionally, and not least, philosophers dealt with the question about the causation of these properties.”
Notre Dame was an ideal place for Mareike to focus on her studies of Proclus and Simplicius, and to work on her dissertation. The Workshop on Ancient Philosophy is directed by Prof. Gretchen Reydams-Schils, chair of the Program of Liberal Studies and an expert in the traditions of Platonism and Stoicism. The workshop is renowned for the opportunity it affords to both faculty and graduate students to inform each other and discuss a myriad of topics — from the Pre-Socratics to the Neo-Platonists of Late Antiquity.
“Faculty and graduate students from seven different departments participate in our colloquia, reading groups, and other events,” Prof. Reydams-Schils explains. “We are pleased to welcome Mareike this year. She has offered insights on how to approach the intricate tradition of the ancient philosophical commentaries and complex issues of traditional metaphysics. Graduate students such as Mareike who use their own stipend to spend a few months doing research at Notre Dame are a major asset to the graduate student body. They bring new insights and different methodologies to bear on the study of Ancient Philosophy.”
Mareike is enthusiastic about her participation in the workshop, both the colloquia and the Greek reading group, and the insights they have afforded her.
“What has been rewarding this semester is the opportunity to have so many new and different perspectives on my work — and those perspectives have been gained formally, within the workshop, and informally, in more casual interactions with the participants. Such an experience is a real advantage to any graduate student. It has allowed me to put my work in a broader context and to discover many interconnections between my studies and those of professors here and other graduate students.”
Mareike adds that she has found Notre Dame to be a warm and welcoming place. Her semester here is an experience that she will take with her when she returns to Belgium to complete her dissertation.