Naturalizing the Normative in the Eighteenth Century

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Sam Hushagen/ American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies
contact email: 

Call for Papers: Panel, "Naturalizing the Normative in the Eighteenth Century," ASECS 54th Annual Meeting (Toronto, April 4-6)

Deadline: September 15th, 2023


The eighteenth century witnessed extraordinary changes in natural philosophy that challenged scholars to reconcile an insurgent naturalistic picture of the world guided by the empirical sciences with the normative domain of meanings and values. Eighteenth century poets, philosophers, and scientists alike asked, in the parlance of contemporary philosophy, “Are there any indispensable, irreducible normative facts involving, say, reasons, meanings, and values, that are not or cannot be accommodated within the scientific image of the world?” (De Caro and Macarthur 1). While some committed themselves to various dualisms, locating reasons, meanings, and values in an ontologically distinct, spiritual domain, others attempted to naturalize the normative by showing how it could emerge from and remain consistent with the new science. Within contemporary philosophy and theory, the so-called “placement problem,”—"What ‘place’ can we find for the normative in the natural world?”—has become recognized as a fundamental issue with implications for science policy, political responses to climate change, and the study of the historical and cultural entanglements of scientific practices. Naturalizing the normative is a central task of contemporary philosophers, who widely acknowledge the origins of their project in the late-seventeenth and eighteenth century. But among scholars of eighteenth-century history, philosophy, literature, and culture, the relevance to the Anthropocene’s urgent challenges of historical attempts to reconcile philosophical naturalism with the ineliminable normative dimensions of experience has been overlooked.

This panel seeks papers exploring eighteenth-century efforts to make theology, poetry, prose fiction, practical reason, and epistemology consistent with the findings of empirical science. Possible topics include personification, apostrophe, descriptive practice in poetry and prose, conjectural history, early ecology, Enlightenment vitalism, Empiricism and Rationalism, agricultural policy, environmental degradation and resource extraction, and the origins of racial science. Given the interdisciplinary focus of our topic, scholars from history, literature, cultural studies, and philosophy are encouraged to apply.

Chair: Dr. Sam Hushagen, University of Washington

Please submit 250-word abstracts using the ASECS CfP form:

Keywords: Aesthetics, Art History/Visual Culture, Critical Theory/Theory, Cultural Studies, Ecology/Eco-humanities/Environmental Studies, Material Culture, Philosophy