This two day conference to honor Professor Peter Reill and his distinguished scholarship in the field of Enlightenment studies will comprise four panels thematically organized around the enduring concerns that shape his interpretive vision: life forms in Enlightenment historical, vitalist, and esoteric thinking in the long eighteenth century. The first panel will entail a re-examination of the nature and structures of Enlightenment historical thought and the centrality of Enlightenment historicism to the formation of a modern understanding of history. Two panels on vitalism and its translations will investigate the application of vitalist epistemology—derived from a biological model of goal-directed living forces—to political economy, natural history, and civil society. The conference will conclude with a final panel on esotericism and the Enlightenment. It will explore the significance of alchemical, hermetical, and occult thought for Enlightenment thinkers and will challenge the bifurcation often made by scholars between esotericism and magic, on the one hand, and "rational" scientific Enlightenment experiment, observation, and theory, on the other.
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