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DemCP colloquium - RAHEL JAEGGI (Humboldt University Berlin): "Progress and Regression"

When:We 25-11-2020 15:15 - 17:00


My paper will deal with a question which has repeatedly preoccupied contemporary philosophical discussion and which seems to me to be indispensable for a critical theory of society in the tradition of left-Hegelian critique in particular—namely, the question of moral progress. The question I would like to ask is: How should we conceive of social change and moral progress? How do they come about? How are the two phenomena, moral progress and social change, related to each other and how can they be evaluated-—as change for the better? In fact, my thesis is already implicit in the combination of the above-mentioned aspects: (1) Moral progress, I want to claim, can be understood, assuming it can be understood, only in the context of a more comprehensive dynamic of social change. (2) Social change is, in tum, a reaction to crises, i.e. it is a reaction to the pressure of problems that necessitates change. (3) Whether such change is merely a matter of alteration of circumstances or in fact constitutes “progress” in the sense of a change for the better can be seen only from the form assumed by this dynamic of change itself—although perhaps only through a negative diagnosis of phenomena of regression. My aim in these remarks is to lay the groundwork for a non-teleological, pragmatist-materialistic, and in this sense plural or multidimensional (hence no longer ethnocentric) concept of progress.

About the speaker

Rahel Jaeggi is Professor of Practical Philosophy with an emphasis on Social and Political Philosophy and director of the Center for Humanities and Social Change Berlin at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Her research focuses on social philosophy, political philosophy, ethics, philosophical anthropology, social ontology, and critical theory. She studied philosophy, history, and theology at the Free University Berlin (MA 1995). She received her PhD (2002) and Habilitation (2009) at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. She has held research and teaching positions at the Chair for Social Philosophy/Prof. Axel Honneth, Goethe University Frankfurt a. M., the University of St. Gallen/Switzerland, Yale University, New Haven/USA and Fudan University, Shanghai/PRC. She was senior fellow at the DFG-Research Group on Post-Growth Societies at the Friedrich-Schiller-University, Jena/Germany. As a Theodor Heuss Professor, she taught at the New School for Social Research in New York during the academic year of 2015-2016. In 2018-2019, she was a member of the School for Social Science at the IAS in Princeton. Selected works: Capitalism – A Conversation in Critical Theory (with Nancy Fraser), Cambridge: Polity Press (2018), Critique of Forms of Life, Cambridge: Harvard University Press (2018); Alienation, New York: Columbia University Press (2014); Sozialphilosophie. Eine Einführung (with R. Celikates), München: Beck (2017); Welt und Person – Zum anthropologischen Hintergrund der Gesellschaftskritik Hannah Arendts, Berlin: Lukas Verlag (1997).

Please register for a limited number of places beforehand at:

Registered participants will receive a link to the online talk shortly before it starts via email.

This lecture is sponsored by the Faculty of Philosophy.