Unsocial Sociability: The German Enlightenment at the Intersection of European Discourses / Ungesellige Geselligkeit. Die deutsche Aufklärung am Schnittpunkt der europäischen Diskurse


In Immanuel Kant’s renowned definition, “unsocial sociability” is the human “propensity to enter into society, bound together with a mutual opposition which constantly threatens to break up society”. This “antagonism”, as Kant calls it in the fourth thesis of his Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Viewpoint (1784), is nature’s means to realise all human capacities over the long course of history. Yet renowned as Kant’s definition has become, it was written at the end of a vigorous cross-European debate that had been conceptualised in different ways since the beginning of the eighteenth century.

This protean discussion concerned initially the urgent post-Hobbesian question of whether human beings were naturally sociable or needed to become socialised and “civilised”– a topic that kept preoccupying authors all across Europe throughout the eighteenth century. At times it was more narrowly focussed on a particular issue or domain: the psychological nature of pity (or sympathy) in relation to self-regarding drives; the use of pity in the theatre and the plastic arts; the role of these notions in the evolution and history of mankind; self-interest versus sympathy and fraternity in the economic realm and more generally in politics. Some Enlightenment philosophers concentrated on one aspect of “unsocial sociability” at the expense of others, as in Bernard Mandeville’s thesis that all our feelings and inclinations could be traced back to self-interest. Most authors, however, recognised the inevitable tension between self-interest and sociability in human society and history. Even thinkers who considered this so-called antagonism lamentable tended to acknowledge its productive and powerful role in human society and history.

The workshop aims to bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars in order to discuss these themes in their European context, with a special focus on the German Enlightenment.


Wednesday/Mittwoch, 14.12.

15:30   Greetings/Begrüßung  (Elisabeth Décultot, Laura Anna Macor & Avi Lifschitz)

16:00-17:30   I. Nature, artifice, and sociability

Wolfgang Proß (Bern/München): Was „will“ die Natur? Zum Zwist von Humanphysiologie und sozialer Ökonomie

Hans Erich Bödeker (Göttingen): ‘Dynamic Antagonism’ as a Foundational Interpretative Pattern in Georg Forster’s work

Thursday/Donnerstag, 15.12.

09:30-11:00   II. Self-interest, ethics and politics

Andreas Pečar (Halle): Eigenliebe als Moralprinzip?  Friedrich II. als Philosoph und als Erzieher

 Mario Marino (Cottbus): Herder und Hemsterhuis: Zur Physik und Politik der Freundschaft

11:00-11:30   Coffee break/Kaffeepause

11:30-13:00   III. Egoism and sociability on stage

Ritchie Robertson (Oxford/Göttingen): Spielverderber am fürstlichen Hof: Loens Der redliche Mann am Hofe und Goethes Torquato Tasso

Daniel Fulda (Halle): „Galle ist noch das Beste, was wir haben.“ (Major von Tellheim) Die Komödie der Aufklärung zwischen Konfliktlust und Versöhnungstelos

13:00   Lunch break/Mittagspause

14:30-17:30   Guided tour of the Franckesche Stiftungen and other early modern sites in Halle/Führung durch die Frankeschen Stiftungen und andere Stätten der Frühen Neuzeit

Friday/Freitag, 16.12.

10:00-11:30   IV. Natural law, history and gender

Alexander Schmidt (Jena/Chicago): Natural law as advice to fallen man in Thomasius’s thought

Anthony La Vopa (North Carolina): German turns: Kant and Fichte rethinking natural law

 11:30   Coffee break/Kaffeepause

 12:00   Nicholas Miller (Göttingen): Unsocial sociability and the progress of gender: Millar, Meiners and Bergk on domestic antagonism

 12:45   Lunch break/Mittagspause

14:00-15:30   John Robertson (Cambridge): Concluding remarks followed by an open discussion/Abschießende Bemerkungen und offene Diskussion

Ort: Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für die Erforschung der europäischen Aufklärung (IZEA)
Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Franckeplatz 1 , Haus 54, Christian-Thomasius-Zimmer
D-06110 Halle/Saale

Datum: 14.- 16. Dezember 2016

Konzept und Organisation: Laura Anna Macor, Dr. Avi Lifschitz, Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Décultot

Kontakt: Aleksandra Ambrozy
Tel.: +49 (0) 345 55-21768