Notre Dame Book Symposium for “Incomprehensible Certainty” by Thomas Pfau

On Thursday, March 9, 2023, at 4:00pm EST, the Departments of EnglishGerman and Russian Languages and LiteraturesPhilosophy, and Theology at the University of Notre Dame, together with the University of Notre Dame Press, will co-host a book symposium at McKenna Hall for Thomas Pfau’s new work, Incomprehensible Certainty: Metaphysics and Hermeneutics of the Image (University of Notre Dame Press, 2022). Pfau’s study of images and visual experience is a tour de force linking Platonic metaphysics to modern phenomenology and probing literary, philosophical, and theological accounts of visual experience from Plato to Rilke.

“There has perhaps never been written a more definitive rebuttal to the heresy of iconoclasm, which constantly recurs in novel forms, than Incomprehensible Certainty. With his nearly incomparable breadth and depth of learning, Pfau is uniquely positioned to fashion a response that is at once historical, literary, cultural, philosophical, and theological. This is a breakthrough book, not just because of its brilliant content but also because of the boldness of its approach, which quite evidently bears valuable fruit. It is not possible to read this book without coming to see the world with new eyes.”

—D. C. Schindler, author of Freedom from Reality

Incomprehensible Certainty might . . . be understood as the positive response to the necessarily critical project of Minding the Modern. Like a good architect, Pfau cleared the ground before constructing his cathedral.”

The Hedgehog Review

“By examining the role of images in ordinary life, Pfau is able to show how his book’s genealogy of modernity is true, as compared to other books in this genre. Happily, the book is lavishly illustrated so that the reader can directly see the changes in ways that Western people have seen the world. It is a marvelous history of Western visual culture, packed with fascinating analyses of artworks, and of philosophical texts about them, from Plato and Plotinus to Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso.”

Law and Liberty

The symposium will feature John Betz (introduction), Thomas Pfau (opening remarks), Cyril O’Regan (remarks), Romana Huk (remarks), and Judith Wolfe (remarks). There will be a Q&A and a reception/book signing. The event is free and open to the public.

Here is a link to the book’s introduction Writing the Image.

Thomas Pfau is the Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of English at Duke University with a secondary appointment on the Duke Divinity School faculty. He is the author, editor, and translator of twelve books, including Minding the Modern: Human Agency, Intellectual Traditions, and Responsible Knowledge (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013, 2015).

For more information, contact: Kathryn Pitts,, 574.631.3267.

This piece first appeared at