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18th Century European Thought and the Nature-Culture Problem in Advanced Techno-Scientific Societies

///18th Century European Thought and the Nature-Culture Problem in Advanced Techno-Scientific Societies

18th Century European Thought and the Nature-Culture Problem in Advanced Techno-Scientific Societies

CALL FOR PAPERS The background Modern industrial society has maintained a double attitude toward nature since the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. On the one hand, striving to gain technological control of nature it has produced what Bruno Latour has called technological hybrids: amalgamations of nature and culture. On the other hand, with respect to human life it has maintained a separation between the two spheres. Contradictory from the start, the principle of separation between culture and nature has ended up in a crisis as the result of global techno-scientific advancement. Scientists, clinicians and engineers have successfully “humanised” nature, including human life, to the point where the major practical constraints of its regulation are cost, morality and human behaviour, i.e. the social and not the natural. This crisis is poignant particularly in areas where the technological amalgamation of nature and culture concerns humans themselves. Human life itself can no longer be taken as ‘natural’, because life-controlling technologies compel us to make choices about it: what kind of life is desirable and what is not. Birth and death are not absolute notions any more, and human genetic engineering is considerably expanding the already wide domain where future life depends on knowledge and decision. We know a great deal about body and mind and about healthy living, and in contemporary society we are constantly faced with the need to make decisions on how to take this knowledge into consideration. 18th century European thought is interesting from today’s perspective, because in its course the split between culture and nature was emerging, and the social sciences were still not distinct disciplines. The concept of the state of nature in early modern contract theories, Adam Smith’s theories of moral sentiments and the economy, Rousseau’s ideas concerning the natural man, and Diderot’s holistic materialism are examples of streams of thought that from today’s perspective are relevant and instructive in view of our need to reconsider the relationships of the social and the natural. Still in our contemporary social thought we observe the tendency to demonise nature as the “other” of culture: something raw, primitive or impure – epithets that have been latent in social thought since the Enlightenment. But Enlightenment also gave birth to the opposite idea: the romantic tendency to valorise nature against the deforming effects of society, which is equally important in contemporary social criticism. Goals The symposium aims at bringing to light the freshness and diversity of European Enlightenment thought on pertinent moral and theoretical issues that we are currently facing in social life. The modern dualism of nature and culture is disturbing but also more recent and limited in scope than is often thought. The objective of the symposium is to increase social scientists’ awareness of the European Enlightenment tradition and to clarify the perspectives in the intellectual history of social sciences. Participants The symposium is intended for social scientists and historians who are interested in 18th century thought from contemporary perspective in contexts such as moral issues related to the environment, the concept of health and the body, the passions, or evolution and “human nature”. Professors Ian Hacking (College de France and University of Toronto) and Steve Fuller (University of Warwick) have agreed to participate as invited guest lecturers at the symposium. Papers are invited (a) either on contemporary debates on these themes in the light of 18th century thought, or (b) on specific 18th century theories that might have a bearing on later modern or contemporary ideas on these themes. The international symposium will be organised by the research project “Life Regulation Practices and the Nature-Culture Problem” and hosted by the Department of Sociology, the University of Helsinki. The International Society for 18th Century Studies has agreed to collaborate as a co-organiser of the symposium. The venue of the symposium will be Hotel Vuoranta at the coast of the Baltic Sea near Helsinki.

Registration and dead-lines If you wish to propose a paper for the symposium, you should send by December 1st 2003 to the address below an abstract and the following information: Your name, institution, address, e-mail, and a few words on our previous work on the topic of the symposium. We are going to send an invitation to participants by February 1st 2004. Final registration and payment of the registration fee (approximately 280 euros including all meals for three days) should be done by June 1st 2004. Accommodation (58 euros per person in single room, 37 euros per person in double room) must be paid to the hotel. In particular cases partial support may be granted to cover the registration fee. Contact persons Conference office Anu Katainen, conference secretary [email protected] Professor Pekka Sulkunen, chair of the organising committee [email protected] Department of Sociology PO Box 18 00014 University of Helsinki FINLAND tel. +358-9-1911

By | 2017-11-10T09:59:21+00:00 December 15th, 2010|Conferences, Symposia & Workshops|Comments Off on 18th Century European Thought and the Nature-Culture Problem in Advanced Techno-Scientific Societies

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