"Aftermaths and ‘Foremaths’"

Frank R. Ankersmit

(University of Groningen)

"Aftermaths and ‘Foremaths’"


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 Societyand History of Race and Eugenics Research Groupat Oxford Brookes University, the University of Oxford, and the Wellcome Trust


Abstract:World-history (not to be confused with global history) enjoys a great deal of popularity nowadays. We are no longer interested in the history of the nation-state, of social class or of some cultural movement. Or are at least less so than before? What fascinates us now is how mankind, as we presently know it, came into being when ‘it broke with the cake of custom’ (as Toynbee put it), and no less what did precede that moment. How was man emancipated from the domain of nature, how did it succeed in creating a domain that we now un-problematically oppose to that of nature? Or, to put it all together, what can we say about man and mankind if looking at them from the perspective of nature, viz. a perspective assuming man to be just one more of the species inhabiting this world. And then we cannot fail to ask the question: if men came from nature, will they return to it again, ‘in the end’, and how to conceive of such a return to nature? We might think here of Hegel’s speculations on the absolute mind suggesting a final reconciliation (‘Versöhnung’) of Mind and Nature. Nevertheless, Hegel is not very specific about this reconciliation of mankind and nature. So at the end of my paper I turn to SF literature in an attempt to give some substance to Hegel’s intuitions.   


Short Bio: Frank Ankersmit has held different positions at the History Department of Gronin­gen University, becoming a professor for intellec­tual history and histori­cal theory at that same University in 1992. His main areas of interest lie with aesthetics, philosophy of history, and political philosophy. He is a member of the Royal Nether­lands Academy of the Sciences (KNAW) since 1986, and the Founder and Chief Editor of the Journal of the Philosophy of History (since 2007).Ankersmit is a member of the editorial board of a number of journals including History and Theory and Rethinking History. Ankersmit is also a member of the Berendel Foundation’s Advisory Board.



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