Fractured Enlightenment: Organic History before and after Kant

When:5 Apr 2016, 12:30pm - 2pm
Venue:Morven Brown 209 (map ref C20)
Who:Dr Jennifer Mensch (University of Western Sydney)
Jennifer Mensch

Philosophy Seminar


The inspiration for this project is a passing remark made by Hannah Arendt in her book On Revolution. With all the good philosophical minds at work in the years surrounding the French Revolution, Arendt complained, why is it that no one took up the opportunity to develop a genuine political science, choosing instead to create a philosophy of history? This talk will focus on the role played by speculative history in late 18th-century German philosophy in an effort to answer Arendt’s question, suggesting that we look to the outsized role played by Buffon’s natural history volumes as our starting point. From this beginning I turn to Kant’s adoption of a teleological lens through which he could view the socio-political development of mankind. Although Kant’s model was quickly adopted by his successors, I will suggest in closing that the developmental model offered up by natural history became a problem for philosophical approaches to history in the wake of the French Revolution.

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