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The Emergence of Impartiality: Towards a Prehistory of Objectivity

Poster Impartiality, Design: melwiener.de

Poster Impartiality, Design: melwiener.de

International Conference, Freie Universität Berlin, 14–16 July 2011

Organized by Kathryn Murphy (University of Oxford) and Anita Traninger (Freie Universität Berlin)

From the early seventeenth century onwards, the epithet 'impartial' appears ubiquitously in publications from different disciplines, figuring in the titles of works of history, economy, law, and philosophy, as well as histories of the church and of emerging nation states.

The objective of the conference was to map out the contexts in which impartiality emerged as a key tenet of learned practices during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and to describe the implications of the changing self-descriptions of different cultures of knowledge. Papers traced the notion of impartiality in various discourses, and thus contributed to a deeper understanding of the emergence and development of this ‘travelling concept’, the routes it took, and the role played by various discursive fields in shaping it. A particular focus of attention was the relationship of impartiality to the modern notion of objectivity.

The conference was generously supported by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and was organized in collaboration with the Dahlem Humanities Center and the Interdisciplinary Centre “Middle Ages – Renaissance – Early Modern Times”

Location: Topoi-Haus, Hittorfstraße 18, 14195 Berlin

Conference Schedule

Thursday, 14 July 2011

14:30 – 15:00

Registration and Coffee/Tea


15:00 – 15:30

Kathryn Murphy / Anita Traninger: Welcome and Introduction: Instances of Impartiality

15:30 – 16:30

Joad Raymond (University of East Anglia)

Exporting Impartiality

16:30 – 17:30

Anne Eusterschulte (Freie Universität Berlin)

Pierre Bayle’s Dictionnaire historique et critique and the Approach to Objectivity in Historiography. Controversial Issues and Methodical Debates in the Early Eighteenth Century


17:30 – 18:00 Refreshments


18:00 – 19:00

Anja Zimmermann (Universität Oldenburg)

(Un-)Parteiliche Betrachter? Visuelle Evidenz in der englischen Kunst des 18. Jahrhunderts

Friday, 15 July 2011

09:30 – 10:30

Rainer Godel (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg)

The Rise of Controversies and the Function of Impartiality in the Early Eighteenth Century: Christian Thomasius’s ‚Händel‘


10:30 – 11:00 Coffee / Tea


11:00 – 12:00

Tamás Demeter (Hungarian Academy of Sciences)

Impartiality without Objectivity: Hume’s Case for Separating Moral Evaluation and Moral Philosophy

12:00 – 13:00

Bastian Ronge (Freie Universität Berlin)

Adam Smith’s Impartial Spectator as a Revenant of the Stoic Parrhesiast


13:00 – 14:00 Lunch


14:00 – 15:00

Beth Stovell (McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON)

‚Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth‘? Impartiality and the Schism between Biblical and Systematic Theology

15:00 – 16:00 Rhodri Lewis (University of Oxford)

Impartiality and Disingenuousness in Restoration Natural Theology


16:00 – 16:30 Coffee / Tea


16:30 –17:30 Nathaniel Stogdill (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Abraham Cowley’s Invigorated Impartiality

17:30 – 18:30 Christine Gerrard (University of Oxford)

The Language of Impartiality in Party-Political Discourse, 1680–1745

Saturday, 16 July

09:30 – 10:30

Derek Dunne (Trinity College Dublin)

‚Partialitie in a Iudge, is a Turpitude‘: Partial Judges and Impartial Revengers in Early Modern English Drama


10:30 – 11:00 Coffee/Tea


11:00 – 12:00

Bernd Roling (Freie Universität Berlin)

Bruchstellen im Raster des Artensystems: Carl von Linné und die Folklore

12:00 – 13:00

Hanns-Peter Neumann (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg / Freie Universität Berlin)

Objectivity, Impartiality, and Hermeneutics as Means of a Policy of Science in the Leibnizian-Wolffian Discourses between 1715 and 1750


13:00 – 14:00 Lunch


14:00 – 15:00

Gideon Stiening (LMU München)

Impartiality in Natural Law Theories of the Eighteenth Century

15:00 – 16:00

Nick Hardy (University of Oxford)

Impartiality and the ars critica in Early Modern England

16:00 –16:30

Concluding Remarks

Einstein Stiftung Berlin