Sunday, October 11, 2015


The conference Revolutions in the Concept of Form is devoted to the concept of form in humanistic inquiry. It is especially interested in the kind of formal generality at issue in humanistic disciplines, and the differences between such formality and, for example, the concept of scientific law. Our approach is exploratory, and we begin with no fixed commitments, but our initial orientation assumes that what distinguishes objects of study in the humanities - literature, art objects, music, etc. - is that they are the objects they are by virtue of the self-understanding embodied in these objects, and that humanistic inquiry attempts to articulate the self-understanding and purposiveness that is the basis of the distinct unity of the objects themselves.

We are interested both in basic transformations in the history of philosophical thought about these issues, from Plato and Aristotle to Kant and Hegel and many others, as well as in the embodiment of different alternatives of such formal unity in various art works and in critical thinking about these works.

Conference Format and Participants

The conference will have a workshop-format. Its central purpose is to create a forum for serious discussion on a topic important to humanistic inquiry today. Papers will be pre-circulated and read before the conference, so that we can spend the majority of our time in discussion. The papers are available under the "Conference Papers" tab. The page is password protected. If you wish to participate in the conference, please contact Garrett Allen, at, who will give you access to the papers.

Conference Brochure

View and download the conference brochure here.


Matt Boyle (Harvard): "Essentially Rational Animals"
Stephen Engstrom (Pittsburgh): "Understanding Autonomy: Form and Content of Practical Knowledge"
Michael Fried (Johns Hopkins): "Gericault's Romanticism"
Andrea Kern (Leipzig): "Kant on Knowledge as Self-Constituting Capacity"
Thomas Khurana (Leipzig): "The Life of Form: Practical Reason in Kant and Hegel"
Aryeh Kosman (Haverford): "Matter and Form in the Being of Animals"
Gabriel Richardson Lear (Chicago): "Plato's Form of the Beautiful"
Sebastian Roedl (Leipzig): "The Power"


James Conant (Chicago)
David Finkelstein (Chicago)
Anton Ford (Chicago)
Leo Lisi (Johns Hopkins)
Michael Kremer (Chicago)
Mark Payne (Chicago)
Robert Pippin (Chicago)
David Wellbery (Chicago)

If you are interested in this event, you may also be interested in a series of seminars Aryeh Kosman is giving at the University of Chicago during the week before this conference. These seminars, hosted by The University of Chicago Center for Ancient Philosophy, will focus Kosman's book The Activity of Being. To learn more about these seminars, click here.