Mid-Atlantic German History Seminar 2011: Johann Georg Forster: A Biography

Apr 09, 2011

Mid-Atlantic German History Seminar

At its annual spring gathering at the Institute, the Mid-Atlantic Seminar in German History discussed a chapter of Hugh West's (University of Richmond) book-in-progress about Georg Forster. Entitled "Empirical Cosmopolitianism: the Vilnius Writings," it addressed Forster's publications during the period (1784-87) when he was Professor of Natural History at the University of Vilnius, particularly his controversy with Kant about the nature and definition of race and his long essay on the character and achievements of Captain Cook. He argued that in the former piece Forster, though not fully conversant in the Kantian philosophy, exposed the limits of the Kantian critical method in dealing with biological and social analysis and in the latter proposed a naturalistic argument in defense of exploration and colonization.