Peter E. Gordon specializes in modern European Intellectual History from the late eighteenth to the late twentieth century. He works chiefly on themes in Continental philosophy and social thought in Germany and France in the modern period, with an emphasis on critical theory, Western Marxism, the Frankfurt School, phenomenology, and existentialism. He regularly teaches a survey of German Social Thought from Nietzsche to Habermas, and a survey of French Social Thought from Durkheim to Foucault. He has written a great deal about Martin Heidegger, and has taught courses and published essays about the Frankfurt School, Theodor Adorno and music criticism, Weimar Intellectuals, Hannah Arendt, political theology, theories of secularization, theories of historical ontology and historical epistemology, social theory after the Holocaust, and modern Jewish thought. His first book, Rosenzweig and Heidegger, Between Judaism and German Philosophy (California, 2003) won several awards, including the Salo W. Baron Prize from the Academy for Jewish Research for Best First Book, the Goldstein-Goren Prize for Best Book in Jewish Philosophy, and the Morris D. Forkosch Prize from the Journal of the History of Ideas for Best Book in Intellectual History. He is the editor of Weimar Thought: A Contested Legacy (Princeton, 2013). He also co-edited The Cambridge Companion to Modern Jewish Philosophy (Cambridge, 2007), and The Modernist Imagination: Essays in Intellectual History and Critical Theory in Honor of Martin Jay (Berghahn, 2008). His most recent book is major historical and analytical reconstruction of interwar German philosophy, entitled Continental Divide: Heidegger, Cassirer, Davos(Harvard University Press, 2010), which received the Jacques Barzun Prize from the American Philosophical Society. He serves on the editorial boards for Modern Intellectual History,The Journal of the History of Ideas, and New German Critique,and he is a regular contributor of book reviews to The New Republic, alongside other public journals and websites.. He is a faculty affiliate at the Center for European Studies and also has a permanent seat on the Standing Committee for Degrees in Social Studies. In 2005, Gordon received the Phi Beta Kappa Award for Excellence in Teaching. He is currently working on a new book on secularization and social thought in the twentieth century. His newest book, entitled Adorno and Existence: Four Lectures is also forthcoming from Harvard University Press.
Gordon is co-founder and co-chair of the Harvard Colloquium for Intellectual History.
He was born in Seattle, Washington, where he spent his childhood hiking and intermittently studying music. Gordon attended the University of Chicago and Reed College, and he received his PhD in modern European history from the University of California at Berkeley in 1997. From 1998 to 2000 he was a fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts at Princeton University. He joined the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in the autumn semester of 2000, and was elected to a position on the permanent faculty in 2005.
- “Between Christian Democracy and Critical Theory: Jürgen Habermas and the Dialectics of Secularization in Postwar Germany” Social Research. Special Issue: “Political Theology?” Vol. 80 No.2 (Spring 2013), edited by Richard Bernstein
- "Marx after Marxism" (a review of Jonathan Sperber, Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life) in The New Republic (May, 2013)
- "Religion before the Fall" (a review of Carlos Fraenkel, Philosophical Religions from Plato to Spinoza) in The New Republic (25 November, 2013)
- "What Hope Remains?" in The New Republic on Jürgen Habermas, An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-Secularist Age, and also in Judith Butler et al, The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere (December 14, 2011)
- Continental Divide: Heidegger, Cassirer, Davos (Harvard University Press, 2010)
- Weimar Thought: A Contested Legacy
Peter E. Gordon and John P. McCormick eds.
(Princeton University Press, 2013)
- “The Place of the Sacred in the Absence of God: Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age” Journal of the History of Ideas Volume 69, Number 4 (October, 2008), pp. 647-673.
- “The Artwork Beyond Itself: Adorno, Beethoven, and Late Style” In The Modernist Imagination: Essays in Intellectual History and Critical Theory in Honor of Martin Jay. (Berghahn Books, 2008)
- “Neo-Kantianism and the Politics of Enlightenment” Philosophical Forum (Spring, 2008)
- “The Concept of the Unpolitical: German Jewish Thought and Weimar Political Theology” Social Research. Special Issue on Hannah Arendt's Centenary Volume 74, Number 3 (Fall 2007)
- The Modernist Imagination: Essays in Intellectual History and Critical Theory in Honor of Martin Jay. Co-Editor, with Breckman, et al. (Berghahn Books, 2007)
- The Cambridge Companion to Modern Jewish Philosophy. Co-Editor (Cambridge University Press, 2007)
- “Hammer without a Master: French Phenomenology and the Origins of Deconstruction (or, How Derrida read Heidegger)” in Historicizing Postmodernism, Mark Bevir, et al., eds. (Routledge, 2007)
- “Science, Realism, and the Unworlding of the World” in The Blackwell Companion to Phenomenology and Existentialism, Mark Wrathall and Hubert Dreyfus, Eds. (Blackwell, 2006)
- “Continental Divide: Heidegger and Cassirer at Davos, 1929—An Allegory of Intellectual History” Modern Intellectual History. Vol. I, N. 2, (August, 2004), pp.1-30.
- Rosenzweig and Heidegger: Between Judaism and German Philosophy(University of California, 2003)
- “The Erotics of Negative Theology: Maimonides on Apprehension” Jewish Studies Quarterly, Volume 2, Number 1 (1995), 1-38.
Peter E. Gordon
Position: Harvard College Professor; Amabel B. James Professor of History
Field: Modern Europe
Specialty: Modern European Intellectual History
27 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
617.495.4303 ext. 290
Office Hours: Tuesdays 2-3:50 pm or by appointment