The Notion of Life in German Idealism

Term: Spring 2009

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6620

It is a widely shared assumption in the history of science, especially prominent since Michel Foucault� s Les mots et les choses, that around 1800 a new concept of life emerges that serves as the condition of possibility of modern biology. New modern notions of life have taken shape, however, not only in proto-biological discourses. Simultaneously, complex notions of life were formed in the philosophical discourses of the time, especially in the various forms of German Idealism following Kant�s Critique of Judgement. The seminar will pursue (i) the way in which living objects and their possible recognizability are conceptualized in this line of thought and (ii) the way in which the mind itself appears to have the structure or mode of a living process. As exposed in these discourses, life seems to be the very process and mode of being that a mind can encounter in the outer world that comes closest to its own structure: an �analog of freedom in nature� (Fichte). The seminar shall investigate if and how the deployment of this idea, especially in the writings of G.W.F. Hegel, might lead to a non-reductionist concept of life and a living concept of mind.

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