Rahel Jaeggi (Humboldt University of Berlin): "Moral Progress and Social Change"

Thu, Mar 1, 2018, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
301 Marx Hall

ABSTRACT: My paper deals 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 turn, 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.


BIO: Rahel Jaeggi is a Professor for Practical Philosophy and Social Philosophy at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

Educated at the Goethe University Frankfurt and the Free University of Berlin, she has been a visiting professor at the Fudan University in 2012. She also taught as a Theodor Heuss Professor at the New School for Social Research in New York during the academic year of 2015/16. Rahel Jaeggi’s research interests include Social Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Ethics, Philosophical Anthropology, Social Ontology, Critical Theory and the enhancement of Critical Theory (in a broad sense).

Publications inter alia:
Kritik von Lebensformen (Critique of Forms of Life/English translation forthcoming), Frankfurt/M. 2013; Entfremdung. Zur Aktualität eines sozialphilosophischen Problems, Frankfurt/ M., 2006 (Translation: Alienation, New York 2014); Welt und Person – Zum anthropologischen Hintergrund der Gesellschaftskritik Hannah Arendts (World and Person – On the Anthropological Background of Hannah Arendt's Social Critique), Berlin 1997; Sozialphilosophie. Eine Einführung (Social Philosophy. An Introduction), co-authored with Robin Celikates, Munich 2017; Nach Marx: Philosophie, Kritik, Praxis (After Marx: Philosophy, Critique, Practice), co-edited with Daniel Loick, Frankfurt/M. 2013; Sozialphilosophie und Kritik. (Social Philosophy and Critique), co-edited with Rainer Forst, Martin Hartmann and Martin Saar, Frankfurt/ M. 2009; Was ist Kritik? (What is Critique?), co-edited with Tilo Wesche, Frankfurt/M. 2009.