Life Forms in the Thinking of the Long Eighteenth Century

Friday, April 27, 2012–Saturday, April 28, 2012
All Day

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

—a conference organized by Jenna Gibbs, Florida International University, and Keith Baker, Stanford University

Honoring the Work of Peter H. Reill

lifeforms11This two-day conference to honor Professor Peter Reill and his distinguished scholarship in the field of Enlightenment studies comprises four panels thematically organized around the enduring concerns that shape his interpretive vision: life forms in Enlightenment historical, vitalist, and esoteric thinking in the long eighteenth century. The first panel entails a re-examination of the nature and structures of Enlightenment historical thought and the centrality of Enlightenment historicism to the formation of a modern understanding of history. Two panels on vitalism and its translations investigate the application of vitalist epistemology—derived from a biological model of goal-directed living forces—to political economy, natural history, and civil society. The conference concludes with a final panel on esotericism and the Enlightenment. It explores the significance of alchemical, hermetical, and occult thought for Enlightenment thinkers and challenges the bifurcation often made by scholars between esotericism and magic, on the one hand, and “rational” scientific Enlightenment experiment, observation, and theory, on the other.

Session I: History and Society
Chair: David Myers, University of California, Los Angeles

Kent Wright, Arizona State University
“Rousseau and the Anti-Historicists: Strauss and Althusser”

Martin Gierl, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
“Johann Christoph Gatterer and History as a Science”

Session II: Vitalism and its Political Translations
Chair: Kirstie McClure, University of California, Los Angeles

Kris Pangburn, Colorado College
“Vitalist Natural Philosophy in the Political Thought of John Stuart Mill and Wilhelm von Humboldt”

Helena Rosenblatt, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
“The Liberal Mysticism of Madame de Staël”

Keith Baker, Stanford University
“Was Marat a Vitalist?”

Session III: Vitalism and Cultural Translations
Chair: Jenna Gibbs, Florida International University

Frédéric Ogée, Université Paris Diderot
“‘That infinite variety of human forms’: The New Epistemology, Modern Identity, and English Portraiture in the Enlightenment”

John Zammito, Rice University
“From Vital Materialism to Naturphilosophie: The Question of Historical Continuity”

Amanda Jo Goldstein, University of Wisconsin-Madison
“William Blake and the Time of Ontogeny”

Session IV: Esotericism
Chair: David Sabean, University of California, Los Angeles

Clorinda Donato, California State University, Long Beach
“Esoteric Reason and Occult Science; Seamless Pursuits in the Work and Networks of Raimondo di Sangro, the Prince of San Severo”

Renko Geffarth, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
“The Preaching Philosopher: Andreas Weber (1718–1781) between Wolffian Philosophy and Heterodox Theology”