The Symbolic Power of Biology: Articulations of Biological Knowledge in Naturphilosophie around 1800

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Darwin’s Tree of Life

Biology, established around 1800 as the “science of life,” developed in modernity not only as a specific scientific discipline but also served as a kind of social knowledge. Biological knowledge supported the modern order of the sexes, as well as modern racism and the multiple forms of social inequality articulated in differentiations between the “normal” and “abnormal.” The main question of this research project is the extent to which the discourses of natural philosophy contributed to the politicalethical formation of biological knowledge at the turn of the 19th century. Several thematic workshops have taken place in this project, most recently “Genealogies of Life. Philosophy and the Early Life Sciences in Context” in October 2010.

Project Director:
Susanne Lettow, Visiting Professor of Philosophy, Free University Berlin; Former Visiting Fellow, IWM

Funded by the Austrian Fund of Sciences (FWF).