Shell, Susan Meld 1948–

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Shell, Susan Meld 1948–

PERSONAL: Born March 24, 1948, in New York, NY; daughter of Murray B. (a social worker) and Sophie (a social worker; maiden name, Kushner) Meld; married Marc Shell (a professor), September 13, 1970; children: Hannah Rose, Jacob Adam. Education: Cornell University, B.A., 1969; Harvard University, Ph.D., 1975.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Political Science, Boston College, 229 McGuinn Hall, Chestnut Hill, MA 02167. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, assistant professor, 1975–77; McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, university fellow, 1977–80; Boston College, Boston, MA, assistant professor, 1980–83, associate professor, 1983–86, professor of political science, 1996–. Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, visiting associate professor, 1985–86; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, visiting professor, 1996.

MEMBER: North American Kant Society, American Political Science Association, Phi Beta Kappa.

AWARDS, HONORS: Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst fellowship, 1977; research and operations grant, McMaster University, 1979; Publication Award, Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 1980; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, 1982–83, 1987, 1993; Bunting Institute fellowship, Radcliffe College, 1982–83; Bradley Foundation fellowship, 1991, 1993; research grant, Boston College, 1997, 2001; American Council of Learned Societies fellowship, 1997–98; Earhart research fellowship, 1999–2000.


The Rights of Reason: A Study of Kant's Philosophy and Politics, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1980.

The Embodiment of Reason: Kant on Spirit, Generation, and Community, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1996.

Contributor to books, including Confronting the Constitution, edited by Allan Bloom, American Enterprise Institute (Washington, DC), 1990; Old Rights and New, edited by Robert Goldwin, American Enterprise Institute, 1993; Democracy and the Prophets of Progress, edited by Arthur Melzer and others, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1995; Kant's Precritical Philosophy, edited by Alfred Denker and Tom Rockmore, Prometheus (New York, NY), 2001; and Essays on Kant's Anthropology, edited by Brian Jacobs and Patrick Kain, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals, including Academic Questions, American Political Science Review, Journal of Democracy, Kantian Review, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Perspectives in Political Science, and Review of Politics.

SIDELIGHTS: Susan Meld Shell, a professor of political science at Boston College, writes widely about the theories of eighteenth-century philosopher Immanuel Kant. Shell is the author of the 1980 work The Rights of Reason: A Study of Kant's Philosophy and Politics, as well as The Embodiment of Reason: Kant on Spirit, Generation, and Community, published in 1996.

In The Embodiment of Reason Shell examines the unity of Kant's thoughts and life experience through a detailed analysis of the German philosopher's writings. According to Steven M. DeLue in the American Political Science Review, Shell "explains what she views as Kant's 'novel definition of the world,' and she demonstrates how his life's work is an 'elucidation' of this definition, informing Kant's entire philosophy."

"Most of Shell's chapters constitute relatively self-contained units," noted Gregory R. Johnson in the Review of Metaphysics. "They are strung together on two distinct but intertwined threads: (1) the theme of the nature and community of substances and the forms of commerce between them; and (2) the theme of embodiment, namely, the nature, generation, and dissolution of the connection between mind and body." In "Commerce and Community in Kant's Early Thought," for example, Shell reviews three of Kant's writings, including Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens, in which the philosopher presages his eventual ideas on metaphysics and epistemology. "Dreams of a Spirit-Seer" addresses Kant's interest in Swedish theologian and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, while "Community in Theory and Practice," explores Kant's concept of community in such significant works as the Critique of Pure Reason, the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, and Kant's Critique of Practical Reason. As DeLue observed, Kant believed that "The finest achievement of culture is a form of community in which individuals uphold the moral law and treat one another as an 'absolute end' or, in other terms, not 'as a means only.' For Kant, comprehending what makes this type of community possible is a key concern." DeLue continued, "A major theme of this book, then, is to show how, in Kant, the rational intelligence creates an understanding of the world that enables humankind to become nature's final end."

The Embodiment of Reason received generally positive reviews. Johnson commented that "Kant's Hypochondria: A Phenomenology of Spirit," one of the final chapters in the book, "is a real tour de force" in its discussion of how Kant's "conception of reason's blend of rational spontaneity and sensuous receptivity, may have been enabled by his lifelong attempts to master the hypochondria to which his melancholic temperament was prone by means of philosophical and dietary regimens. With its psychological sensitivity and myriad earthy little details, this chapter offers the most vivid sense of Kant the man I have encountered." DeLue also praised the essay, observing that Shell's "spectacular chapter on Kant's hypochondria is a significant contribution to Kant studies."



American Political Science Review, June, 1997, Steven M. DeLue, review of The Embodiment of Reason: Kant on Spirit, Generation, and Community, p. 445.

Eighteenth-Century Studies, summer, 1998, Helmut Muller-Sievers, review of The Embodiment of Reason, p. 539.

Ethics, October, 1982, Andrew Levine, review of The Rights of Reason: A Study of Kant's Philosophy and Politics, p. 209; July, 1999, review of The Embodiment of Reason, p. 765.

Isis, September, 1998, Andrew D. Wilson, review of The Embodiment of Reason, p. 547.

Journal of Politics, August, 1997, Matthew J. Feeney, review of The Embodiment of Reason, p. 967.

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, October 5, 2004, Brent Kalar, review of Essays on Kant's Anthropology.

Political Theory, April, 1999, Hans Reiss, review of The Embodiment of Reason, p. 260.

Review of Metaphysics, June, 1997, Gregory R. Johnson, review of The Embodiment of Reason, p. 918.


Boston College Political Science Department Web site, (January 25, 2004), "Susan Meld Shell."

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