Category Archives: philosophy

Goethe and Hegel discuss Hamann at a tea party

On October 18, 1827, Goethe gave a tea party in honor of the philosopher Hegel, who had come to Weimar to visit him. Although each of the men genuinely respected the achievements of the other, we know from a first-hand report of the discussion that the radical difference in their basic philosophical positions emerged in […]

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Review of Hamann and the Tradition in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews has just published a review of Hamann and the Tradition (Northwestern University Press, 2012), edited by Lisa Marie Anderson, to which I contributed a chapter.

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The Hegemony of the Eye

Insofar as the most innovative instruments of the era – the telescope and the microscope – extended the range and acuity of one sense in particular, scientific experience tended to privilege the visual, with its capacity to produce knowledge at a distance, over the other senses. Even when Bacon castigated normal vision for staying on […]

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Zeno of Citium on Flute-Playing Olives and Harp-Bearing Trees

In his On the Nature of the Gods Cicero alludes to Zeno of Citium‘s discussion of flute-playing olives and harp-bearing trees: “If melodiously piping flutes sprang from the olive, would you doubt that a knowledge of flute-playing resided in the olive? And what if plane trees bore harps which gave forth rhythmical sounds? Clearly you […]

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Diderot on Living Marble and Self-Replicating Harpsichords

Denis Diderot explains how he can make marble come to life ‘whenever he pleases’ in an imaginary dialogue between himself and his friend Jean le Rond d’Alembert, mathematician and co-editor of the Encyclopedia. In the following passage he has just informed d’Alembert, much to the latter’s astonishment, that he knows how to make marble have […]

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Hamann and Benjamin on the Concept of Experience

Next month I’ll be giving a paper at the upcoming The Philosophy of Walter Benjamin conference at Goldsmiths, University of London. Here’s the abstract: In his 1917 essay “On the Program of the Coming Philosophy”, Benjamin wrote: “The great transformation and correction which must be performed upon the concept of experience, oriented so one-sidedly along […]

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When Leibniz met Spinoza

In 1676 Leibniz found a pretext to visit Spinoza in The Hague, having learned that Spinoza was at work on a philosophical treatise of great importance. Spinoza showed Leibniz the manuscript of the Ethics, and the two men discussed philosophy together over several days. Although there is no written record of their conversation, it seems […]

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Hamann, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein on the Language of Philosophers

I’ve got a chapter on “Hamann, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein on the Language of Philosophers” in Hamann and the Tradition, which has just been published by Northwestern University Press. The book is based on a series of papers given at an international conference on Hamann in New York in March 2009. It is edited by Lisa […]

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The Intellectual History of Europe

In the introduction to their 1984 volume on Philosophy in History, Richard Rorty, J.B. Schneewind and Quentin Skinner describe their vision of a comprehensive (and incidentally impossible) “Intellectual History of Europe”: Imagine a thousand-volume work entitled The Intellectual History of Europe. Imagine also a great convocation of resurrected thinkers, at which every person mentioned in […]

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Sketch for “Romanticism Without Borders” workshop series

For a few months I’ve been thinking of starting a workshop series on the influence and legacy of different forms of romanticism around the world. Each workshop would have a day or half day of short papers on a variety of topics, authors and works. The workshops would be accessible to a non-specialist audience. I’ve […]

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