CFP: Rethinking the Enlightenment, due 31 Aug

Rethinking the Enlightenment
16 December 2015
Deakin University 

This is a CFP for an event on ‘Rethinking the Enlightenment’ to be hosted by Deakin University’s European Philosophy and the History of Ideas Research Network, housed within the Alfred Deakin Institute of Citizenship and Globalisation on Wednesday December 16, 2015 at the Deakin Burwood campus.  The conference will be led by keynote papers by Genevieve Lloyd, Dennis Rasmussen, Karen Green, and Peter Anstey.

Older and recent work in the history of 18th century ideas calls into question popular images of the enlightenment as a single movement of thinkers characterised by a naïve, utopian rationalism closed to otherness or difference, and the affective, playful and poetic dimensions of thought, sociability and experience in ways that would lead, in time, to the horrifying European catastrophes of the world wars and total states.  Works such as those by our keynotes Rasmussen and Lloyd, but differently the influential work of Jonathan Israel (to evoke only a few), have instead explored the different strands of enlightenment thought, and the importance of deistic, empiricist, sceptical, literary, and moral-sentimental (as well as rationalist and materialist) strands of the French and British enlightenments.  In thinkers like Voltaire, the first conceptions of religious toleration were developed, while in thinkers like Diderot, important criticisms of Western colonialism emerged; with figures like Wollstonecraft (also Condorcet and Bentham), we see the first advocates of women’s rights, and Israel in particular has traced the emergence of competing, contested conceptions of democracy in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The continuing rise of what sociologist Robert Antonio has called ‘reactionary tribalisms’ predicated on openly anti-enlightenment visions, and differently the political and philosophical questions raised by the crises of Greece and the Eurozone make scholarly and wider reassessments of the European enlightenment in all of its complexity, promises and limits a newly contemporary task.

We hereby invite papers on ‘Rethinking the Enlightenment’ on or around the following (or related) themes from graduate students, early career and more established researchers:

  • Conceptions of democracy in the 18th century
  • Conceptions of religious toleration in the 18th century
  • Deism and/or biblical criticism in the enlightenment
  • The role of scepticism and empiricism in shaping enlightenment thought
  • 18th century conceptions of the role of science in society
  • Enlightenment sinophilia and images of the non-European ‘other’
  • Criticisms of colonialism in Jeremy Bentham, Condorcet, Diderot, Herder, Kant, Adam Smith, and Raynal et al
  • The role of literary forms (eg satires, contes, letters, dramas …) in enlightenment thought, and enlightenment politics
  • Conceptions of the public sphere emerging in the enlightenment
  • Conceptions of polity, democracy and law in the lumières and Scottish authors
  • Conceptions of the intellectual and/or ‘philosophe’ in the 18th century
  • The history or histories of images of the enlightenment, from the 18th century to today
  • The effects of subsequent historical events (eg the great war) on images of the enlightenment

Expressions of interest, and abstracts of not more than 300 words, should be sent to and/or by August 31, 2015.  Papers will be in 30 minute sessions, so should be between 2-4000 words at the maximum.