"Cosmopolis: Towards a New Type of Humans?"

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Yehuda Elkana

(Emeritus, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin)

"Cosmopolis: Towards a New Type of Humans?"


Paper presented to the conference:

"Crafting Humans:From Genesis to Eugenics and Beyond"

8-10 September 2011, Queens College, Oxford


Second Annual Conference of the Berendel Foundation, in association with the Centre for health Medicine and Society and History of Race and Eugenics Research Group at Oxford Brookes University, the University of Oxford, and the Wellcome Trust


Abstract: The world of Montaigne, Rabelais, Shakespeare was a messy and complex one, and following the Stoic realization that the natural and social order were parts of the same unity – the COSMOPOLIS – and that knowledge created was context-dependent emphasizing the phrenetic (the practical): quoting Toulmin: the oral, the practical, the local and the timely. Nor were body and soul dichotomized in this world. With Descartes and the creation of the certain, rational, context-independent knowledge of the Enlightenment, three hundred years of unprecedented success story of creation of knowledge in all areas followed. That is, until the success story started to show tear and wear. We now live in a world we must acknowledge as complex and messy; a world which is insecure, unpredictable, full of contradictions and context-dependent. To cope with this new awareness we must move to the New Enlightenment: to replace rational by reasonable, to embrace contradictions, to create knowledge which is consciously context-dependent. Above all we must reform our university curricula to be able to research and teach the New Enlightenment. Then, and only then, shall we be able to create the new ‘cosmopolis’ and thus actually, create a new human being.


Short Bio: Yehuda Elkana was a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, of which he became a Permanent Fellow in 1987. He is a Member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Collegium Budapest and its Deputy Chairman; a corresponding member of the International Academy for the History of Science. He was the founding editor of Science in Context and author of several books and numerous articles. From 1995-1999 he shared with Helga Nowotny the Professur für Wissenschaftsphilosophie und Wissenschaftsforschung at the ETH Zurich. From 1999 to 2009 he was the President and Rector of the Central European University in Budapest.



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