Department of Philosophy

Kant today?

In April 2024, it will be 300 years since Immanuel Kant was born in Königsberg. In a workshop organised by the department’s research group „History of Modern Philosophy“ (formerly „Culture, Society, Politics“), researchers from the University of Bergen will give informal talks about the importance of Kant to their own current research.

Kant and his table companions. Colored wood engraving by Klose & Wollmerstaedt
Kant and his table companions. Colored wood engraving by Klose & Wollmerstaedt.
Wikimedia Commons

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The Department of Philosophy commemorates the anniversary with an all-day event on Friday 26 April. 

Program (abstracts below)

10.15-10.30 Welcome by organizing committee and presentation of research group  

10.30-11.15 Jørn Jacobsen, Professor, Faculty of Law
“Kant and Legal Science Today: A Criminal Law Perspective”

11.15 - 12.00 Carola Freiin von Villiez, Professor, Department of Philosophy
“Kant on states and peoples: An International Law Perspective”

12.00-13.00 Lunch

13.00-13.45 Torgeir Skorgen, Professor, Department of Foreign Languages
“From ‘Race’ to Cosmopolitan Law: Anthropological Horizons in Kant’s
Perpetual Peace”

13.45-14.30 Franz Knappik, Professor, Department of Philosophy
“Debating Kant's views on race and colonialism”

14.30 15.15 Hans Marius Hansteen, Associate professor, Department of Philosophy
“Philosophy and Rhetoric in Kant”

15.15-15.30 Coffee break

15.30-16.15 Anita Leirfall, Associate professor, Department of Philosophy
“Some notes on Kant’s Metaphysical Exposition of the concept of space in the
Kritik der reinen Vernunft

16.15-17.00 David Vogt, Postdoctor, Department of Philosophy
“Kant and the limits of blame”


Jørn Jacobsen:
Kant and Legal Science Today: A Criminal Law Perspective

In my talk, I will address the lack of attention to Kant’s philosophy in modern Nordic legal science, criminal law science in particular, despite the many connections there clearly are between Kant and contemporary law. Rethinking and developing these connections provide important groundworks for legal science in a complex world - strengthening its connections not only to philosophy, but to social science as well.

Carola Freiin von Villiez:
Kant on states and peoples: An International Law Perspective

Kant’s affirmation of normatively qualified national sovereignty is firmly rooted in the legitimate claim of peoples to self-determination and compatible with (if not even the blueprint for) these concepts’ legal realization within positive international law. Based on this claim, my presentation will highlight how his legal philosophical concepts of people and state can provide normative guidance for determining the legitimate powers of supranational political institutions. 

Torgeir Skorgen:
“From ‘Race’ to Cosmopolitan Law: Anthropological Horizons in Kant’s Perpetual Peace”

In its darkest historical moments Europe has repeatedly turned to Kant’s roadmap to perpetual peace. Even if this end may seem out of reach in our time, Kant himself insisted that his cosmopolitan idea of lasting peace was more than a utopian vision, but rather a
feasible way, taking man’s inherent potential for both good and bad, cruelty and violence into account. But to what extent did Kant consider these faculties evenly distributed among the nations and peoples of the world? And to what extent is Kant’s vision of peace stained by the attempted racial classification in his physical anthropology? This paper addresses both the anthropological context of Kant’s perpetual peace and his controversies with Forster and other contemporaries on these matters. Without the presupposition of universal human dignity as founded in Kant’s moral anthropology, how meaningful is it to criticize Kant’s racial classification?

Franz Knappik:
“Debating Kant's views on race and colonialism”

The last years have seen growing scholarly interest in Kant's theory of race, his denigrating views about non-European groups, and his stance on European colonialism, including slavery and the slave-trade. The debate on these topics has not only attracted an usual degree of attention in the broader public, it has also polarized and alienated Kant scholars who suddenly found themselves on different sides of the ongoing "culture wars". In my presentation, I survey some main strands in the debate in order to find out what insights have been reached, what has possibly gone wrong, and what lessons we might learn from this case when it comes to researching and debating the darker sides of modern Western philosophy.

Hans Marius Hansteen:
Philosophy and Rhetoric in Kant

Anyone who still maintains that Kant belongs to a patently anti-rhetorical tradition of philosophy, has neither paid attention to recent scholarship, nor have they read Kant’s remarks on rhetoric with sufficient care. My talk will substantiate this statement and highlight how rhetorical perspectives (and possibly even a rehabilitation of sophistic insights) may contribute to the understanding of Kant’s philosophy in general, and his philosophy of history in particular. 

Anita Leirfall:
Some notes on Kant’s Metaphysical Exposition of the concept of space in the Kritik der reinen Vernunft

Throughout his philosophical career, Kant defended the view that philosophy cannot begin with definitions. Instead, a philosophical  argument, or theory, may at best have a definition as its end point. The reason why Kant maintains this view on definitions is that philosophical concepts are given as complex, confused and indeterminate. According to Kant, philosophical concepts are to be contrasted with mathematical concepts since in mathematics distinct concepts are made through direct construction in the intuition whereas in philosophy they are always given. Kant’s way of dealing with how to define a philosophical concept is by introducing a certain kind of analysis which he entitles exposition. Since philosophical concepts are given a priori, they require a metaphysical exposition. In my talk, I will take a closer look at Kant’s arguments regarding 'expositions' in order to see what kind of analysis such an exposition exhibits. Some comments will also be made as to what distinguishes a metaphysical concept from a mathematical one. 

David Vogt:
Kant and the limits of blame

How should we understand blame and blameworthiness on a Kantian theory? Is blaming part of the function of punishment on such a theory? Is the concept of standing to blame relevant in criminal law, and if not, how might a Kantian theory of criminal law consider the
argument that severely unjust states lack moral standing to blame criminals who are victims of state injustice?