Susan Neiman (born March 27, 1955) is an American moral philosopher, cultural commentator, and essayist. She has written extensively on the juncture between Enlightenment moral philosophy, metaphysics, and politics, both for scholarly audiences and the general public. She currently lives in Germany, where she is the Director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Neiman dropped out of high school to join the anti-Vietnam War movement. Later she studied philosophy at Harvard University, earning her Ph.D. under the direction of John Rawls and Stanley Cavell. During graduate school, she spent several years of study at the Free University of Berlin. Slow Fire, a memoir about her life as a Jewish woman in 1980s Berlin, appeared in 1992. From 1989 to 1996 she taught philosophy at Yale University, and from 1996 to 2000 she was an associate professor of philosophy at Tel Aviv University. In 2000 she assumed her current position at the Einstein Forum in Potsdam. She is the mother of three grown children.
In 2014 Neiman was the recipient of the International Spinoza Prize and an honorary doctorate from the University of Sankt Gallen. She delivered the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at the University of Michigan in 2010.
Moral inquiry and political activism start where reason is missing. When righteous people suffer and wicked people flourish, we begin to ask why. Demands for moral clarity ring long, loud bells because it is something we are right to seek. Those who cannot find it are likely to settle for the far more dangerous simplicity, or purity, instead.
~ from Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists
Consider what you mean when you tell someone: be realistic. It's another way to say: lower your expectations. It's also connected with a view of maturity that holds growing up to be a process of becoming resigned.
~ from “It’s the Metaphysics, Stupid,” The Boston Globe, February 28, 2008
Like many others, I came to philosophy to study matters of life and death, and was taught that professionalization required forgetting them. The more I learned, the more I grew convinced of the opposite: the history of philosophy was indeed animated by the questions that drew us there.
~ from Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy