Ross Shields received a PhD in German Studies and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 2019. He has held various research positions in Germany, including a fellowship at Humboldt University, a residency at the Friedrich Schlegel School of Graduate Studies, and a postdoc at the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung (ZfL). He teaches regular seminars on literature and philosophy at Bard College Berlin, where he led the Science and Religion Project from 2021–22.
His research traces the concept of ‘Zusammenhang‘ (nexus) from eighteenth-century rationalist philosophy to twentieth-century literature and theory. Recent publications include lexicon entries on ‘Zusammenhang (nexus)’, in Goethe-Lexicon of Philosophical Concepts (2021), and ‘Aggregate’, in Formen des Ganzen, ed. by Eva Geulen und Claude Haas (2022), as well as an article on ‘Morphology and Music Theory’, in Aus dem Leben der Form, ed. by Eva Axer, Eva Geulen, Alexandra Heimes (2021). A monograph titled The Critique of Pure Feeling: Goethe Reading Kant is currently under preparation.
ICI Project 2022-24
This project investigates Ludwig Wittgenstein’s use of physical models to define linguistic form. Although Wittgenstein’s reception of physicists like Hermann von Helmholtz, Heinrich Hertz, and Ludwig Boltzmann is well documented, current scholarship unanimously assumes that his borrowing of their ideas was done in good faith. This project proposes instead that Wittgenstein’s application and adaptation of physical models to language constitutes a philosophical parody, one that performs the very ‘misunderstanding of the logic of language’ that his Tractatus diagnoses.
Far from viewing the sentence as a ‘model of reality’, the Tractatus demonstrates, in the mode of performative critique, how this reductionistic definition leads to philosophical problems. This thesis is then put forth as a solution to one of the most persistent and controversial questions haunting Wittgenstein scholarship: Why does Wittgenstein insist, at the end of the only work published during his lifetime, that his propositions are nonsense?