The Research Project Europe 1815-1914

P.O. Box 24
Unioninkatu 40
FI-00014 University of Helsinki




The programme is continuously updated. New events might be advertised with short notice. External participants are welcome but preferably on a regular basis. Since the number of seats is limited pre-registration with project coordinator Minna Vainio (erere-info[at] is requested.

December 2009
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10 Dec
Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace and ibid, The Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View
, introduced by Kelly Grotke. Reading seminar.

The thought of Immanuel Kant has loomed large in a number of the project's reading seminars, not least in discussions of the work of Jürgen Habermas and of David Harvey. This seminar, led by Kelly Grotke, gave centre-stage to the work of Kant himself, focussing particularly upon the essays, 'Idea for a universal history with a cosmopolitan purpose' (1784) and 'Perpetual peace: a philosophical sketch' (1795). In her presentation, Grotke set out to problematize Kant's interest in universal history, questioning its implications for how we understand his philosophical project more broadly. The question posed was, what was the purpose of a philosophically-motivated universal history that eschewed any claim to pure empiricism? Relating Kant's efforts in this direction to contemporaneous attempts to fashion such a universal history, Grotke began to sketch aspects of her own recent research into this facet of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century intellectual history, and in particular into the work of the post-Kantian philosopher and critic, Friedrich Bouterwek (1766-1828).

Universal histories, Grotke explained, could be seen to impinge in a number of ways on key features of eighteenth-century philosophical discourse; above all they were suggestive of the challenge the writing of history could pose to attempts to think through the thorny problem of the relationship between particulars and universals. This, she suggested, could be related to the continuing wrangling over the fate of the natural law tradition with its syncretic ambitions for human knowledge. This could be seen to lead back into the heart of Kant's philosophical project, and into the terrain of the three Critiques, and in the subsequent discussion, this was a problem that was explored at some length, with particular reference to the problem of transcendental freedom. Kant's ambitions in the universal history were variously linked to twentieth-century constructivist arguments, to the problem of theodicy, and to hierarchies of civilizational progress. The agonistic structure that Kant imputes to human history eventually led the discussion back to the problems of republican constitutionalism and perpetual peace that had been explored in previous seminars, and it was agreed that these were likely issues that would continue to occupy the research project in the years ahead.

15 Dec
Evaluation and fellow feed-back. All day. Closed meeting.