Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Man and Nature from Descartes to Wollstonecraft

Even now, on the European side of Istanbul, an argument of philosophers (I believe that is the correct group noun) is gathering for a few days. Man and Nature from Descartes to Wollstonecraft: does that count as the most meta title of the year? 
The theme of the conference centers on the place of human beings in the natural world in the 17th and 18th centuries. Papers focusing on human nature or on the place of human being in the natural order, both from historical  and contemporary perspectives are welcome. Although we chose the title ‘Man and Nature’ deliberately in order to reflect the common usage of the term ‘Man’ to refer to human beings in general in the early modern period, papers that question this gendered understanding of human nature will be of particular interest.
The conference is being held at Bogazici University, an institution with roots in the American higher education system 150 years ago.  Its host is Lucas Thorpe, who specialises in early modern philosophy, especially Kant. (He read PPE at Wadham, before international academic adventures.)  Philosophers are coming from France, Lebanon, Canadaand even countries beyond the Francosphere. No prizes for guessing the counter-balancing anglophone triumvirate.

The culmination of the conference must be its final speaker: none other than our old friend Sandrine Berges, on "Wollstonecraft on Women as Citizens and Mothers: Putting Nature Back in its Place". (This spring, she has been writing more informally on Vitae about various life stuff, including  "Playing at being a historian"  -- what I call  "I am not a historian", IANAH, in respect of my freelance research.) And immediately before her on Saturday afternoon is Natalie Nenadic from Kentucky, on "Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, and Human Nature". I wish I could be there! 

But I can console myself with having discovered a philosophical examination of Mary Wollstonecraft, a book dating from the end of the C19. Even more surprising, and satisfying, is that  "class" and "diversity" feature as items in its index. More on the Indian missionary another time.

Time for bed: in a few short hours I will be meeting a special someone at Mary's graveside. I still get a kick out of saying "Meet me in the cemetery."

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