Enlightenment Man

Workshop in honour of Hans Erich Bödeker

It has been central to Hans Erich Bödeker’s interpretation of the Enlightenment to relocate the German Enlightenment within this pan-European movement. This novel perspective, discarding a dominating view of the German Enlightenment as an essentially late apolitical Sonderweg offers an understanding of the Enlightenment in it unity as well as in its plurality. For Hans Bödeker the Enlightenment should be understood as the attempt to answer common questions. While the questions may be the same, the answers take on different shapes depending on for example national, confessional or even local differences. This means that The Enlightenment cannot be conceived a priory as a unified ideology but should be analysed in concreto in its various forms.
In order to understand this complexity Hans Bödeker has offered a dynamic interpretation of the Enlightenment by analysing it as a variety of processes. This includes the transnational processes of communication and travel, national and international processes of politization and local processes of learning and reading, to name but a few.
In particular the understanding of Enlightenment as a process of communication stands at the center. This trait adds a reflexive layer to the Enlightenment science of man, in that man should not simply be understood as an object of scientific studies or a subject of political or social structures. Rather, by highlighting the Enlightenment understanding of man as a communicative being, Hans Bödeker simultaneously opens for an original perspective of what one may understand as intellectual history in its broad sense. The cultural process of theory building should be paired with the biography as reflexive, transformative processes of self-cultivation (Selbstbildung) and self-understanding. This means that the Enlightenment antagonists are no longer interpreted as thinkers imposing a project of Enlightenment or a philosophy of progress onto society but are themselves in their reflexive intellectual engagement subject to processes of Enlightenment in their interaction with society.
In this regard the notion of Enlightenment as process offers a non-teleological interpretation of the Enlightenment, which cannot be identified as a project of modernity rather the entanglement of these multiple processes offers an interpretation of the Enlightenment on its own terms as the conditions of possibility for modernity.

Please register via e-mail if you plan to participate in the workshop.