Universiteit Leiden

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Institute for Philosophy Opening Academic Year 2023-2024

Thursday 7 September 2023
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

On Thursday, 7 September 2023 the Institute of Philosophy will celebrate the opening of Academic Year 2023-2024. All staff, students, and members of the wider philosophical community are cordially invited to attend the presentations.

16:00 Opening & Welcome

Douglas Berger
Academic Director/Professor, Global and Comparative Philosophy

16:10 Speech

Nas Abshari 
Student representative

"Beyond Philosophy" 

Why Philosophy is important beyond the mere student activity of just completing a program of coursework.

16:25 Lecture

Marie Louise Krogh 
University Lecturer Continental Philosophy

"The Institution of Barbarism: Alexander von Humboldt on Race, Slavery, and Colonialism"


Drinks & bites in the Faculty Club


The Institution of Barbarism: Alexander von Humboldt on Race, Slavery, and Colonialism

The contemporary critical philosophy of race can be characterised by a dual approach to its object: a rejection of the old, pseudoscientific concept of race and new conceptualisations of the experiential and socio-political reality of racial divides. ‘Race’, in this context, is not a biological category, but a historically and institutionally conditioned form of social division. In this paper, I propose that we might read the writings of Prussian polymath, natural scientist, cosmopolitan, and abolitionist, Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) precisely along those lines. I will both examine his critique of the purportedly scientific concepts of race introduced by Immanuel Kant and Johann Friedrich Blumenbach in the late eighteenth century and demonstrate his sensibility to how ideas of white racial superiority reinforced social hierarchies in the colonies. I will conclude the paper by considering how Humboldt’s writings compare to arguments against slavery and colonialism of the period and how, despite his best intentions, some of these writings became central to a predominantly economic mode of colonial exploitation in the Americas, at the moment where many of the colonies were at the brink of achieving independence.

Dr. Marie-Louise Krogh
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