Conference: “More than a machine”. On the Human Being in Kant and post-Kantian Philosophy (Nijmegen, June 20-21, 2023)

We are glad to give notice that the Center for Contemporary European Philosophy (CCEP) conference “More than a machine”. On the Human Being in Kant and post-Kantian Philosophy will take place on June 20-21, 2023 at the Radboud University.

The conference is organised by Manja Kisner (Radboud University) and Giovanni Pietro Basile (Boston College).

To attend the conference, please register by sending an email to before June 8, 2023.

Find below the program of the conference.


One of the central landmarks of Kantian and post-Kantian philosophy is to describe human beings in non-mechanistic terms and to point out the limits of mechanistic natural philosophy for understanding animal and human life. The early modern attempts to view human beings as machines – from Descartes to La Mettrie’s book L’homme machine (1747) and Holbach’s Système de la nature (1770) – were completely defeated by the end of 18th century. Kant played a prominent role in this defeat. In his famous essay What is Enlightenment (1784), he claims that human beings are more than machines, a view that he substantiates in his ethical, anthropological, and political writings. This shift of focus in philosophy was strongly shaped by the emerging life sciences. Biological research importantly influenced Kant’s and post-Kantian accounts of the human being. Epigenesis, one of the leading theories of generation in the second half of the 18th century, viewed the creation of living beings as a gradual, formative process based on the self-organizing capabilities of organisms. This idea proved fruitful not only for contemporaneous life sciences and their views of organic nature, but also for philosophical anthropology. Inspired by biological models, philosophers from Kant to Hegel (and beyond) turned their attention to the idea of the formation (Bildung) of human beings. Moreover, the burgeoning field of natural history encouraged questions concerning the progress of the human species as a whole. In German idealism, these different perspectives – biological, teleological, and historical – were brought together in order to pave the way for a holistic understanding of humanity. The aim of this conference is to discuss the philosophical conceptions of human beings found in Kant and German Idealism, and to shed light on their heritage in later psychoanalytical and phenomenological debates.


Tuesday, June 20th

09.30–09.45 Opening of the Conference
09.45–10.45 Giovanni Pietro Basile (Boston College), Kant’s Critique of the Representation of the Human Being as a Machine
10.45–11.45 Kristi Sweet (Texas A&M University), On Truth and Lies: Kant against the ‘speaking machine’

Coffee break

12.00–13.00 Manja Kisner (Radboud University), Kant on Progress and Bildung in Human History

Lunch break

14.30–15.30 Stefanie Buchenau (Université Paris 8 Saint-Denis), ‘The Human Being, Nature’s last darling child.’ Herder on Anthropology and Geohistory
15.30–16.30 David James (University of Warwick), Enlightenment, the Machine Metaphor and Fichte’s Theory of the Human Being’s Vocation

Coffee break

16.45–17.45 Laure Cahen-Maurel (University of Bonn), “Der vollständige Mensch”: Philosophical Anthropology in Schiller and Novalis


Wednesday, June 21st

09.30-10.30 Lara Ostaric (Temple University), Nature and Necessity in Schelling’s Aesthetic Intuition
10.30-11.30 Allegra De Laurentiis (Stony Brook University), On Hegel’s Anthropology

Coffee break

11.45-12.45 Herman Westerink (Radboud University), Freud, Drives, and Biology

Lunch break

14.30–15.30 Annabelle Dufourcq (Radboud University),  “Imaginative Structures”. Merleau-Ponty’s Concept of Bodily Intentionality
15.30–16.30 Ansgar Lyssy (University of Leipzig), Denial of the human. Stanley Cavell and Meta-Anthropology

Coffee break

16.45–17.45 Arjen Kleinherenbrink (Radboud University), Machines without Mechanism. Deleuze with and against Kant
17:45 Closing remarks


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