Laura Werner, Dr
Post-doctoral Fellow, PPhiG
Center for European Studies
Harvard University, Cambridge
Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies
FI-00014 University of Helsinki
I completed my Ph.D thesis The Restless Love of Thinking’ – The concept Liebe in G.W.F. Hegel’s philosophy for the Department of Social and Moral Philosophy, University of Helsinki, while working at the Politics of Philosophy and Gender (PPhiG) research team at the Centre of Excellence in Political Thought and Conceptual Change. The public defence of the dissertation took place on 2.6.2007, and I received my Ph.D (Pol. Dr.) degree 4.9.2007. I have co-edited two books, Visions of Value and Truth: Understanding philosophy and literature (Acta Philosophica Fennica, 2006) and Feministinen filosofia [Feminist philosophy] (Gaudeamus, 2005), and have published articles on the relation of feminism and the history of philosophy, G.W.F. Hegel’s thought, and cultural philosophy, especially philosophy of literature and philosophy of film. I am currently preparing a monograph on the concept “love” in Hegel’s philosophy.
Post-doctoral Research Project: Politics of Virility in 18th and 19th Century European Philosophy
In my postdoctoral research project (2009-2012) I ask how virile sexuality and active sexual desire are conceptually connected to political participation in 18th and 19th century European political philosophy, focussing on German Idealism and political Romanticism. This period of thought surrounding the revolutions of the 18th century was historically unprecedented in bringing forth the question of universal male suffrage and political participation. Because of the limitation of newly universally understood political rights to men only, the problem of gender and political inclusion/exclusion also rose in a new way during that period. Earlier research on the political thought of this time has argued convincingly that gender and sex became conceptualized in new ways: a unified category of ‘women’ constructed as biological beyond class and economic distinctions being one effect of a change in conceptual thought, and the rise of the ideology of two distinctly separate, gendered spheres of action (the family and the state) another. However,
the way concrete sexual virility, particularly active sexual desire, was used conceptually in theoretical discourses of this period to explain men’s but not women’s political rights has been only touched upon in the previous research.
My research project fills in part this gap and asks, first, how and why sexual virility
was connected to political concepts and ideas in the philosophy of the crucial new period of modernity around the French Revolution; second, how virility is connected to the “politics of friendship” – the privileging of the idea of fraternity and friendship/love between men in political thought; and third, what consequences these historical connections that now are invisible in the concepts we use (‘citizen’, ‘state’) have had for thinking about politics and political participation in modern political thought. I answer these questions by doing careful conceptual analysis of texts by both key European philosophers of the time (Hegel, Fichte,
Kant, Rousseau) and by lesser known figures of political Romanticism (Adam Müller). The increase in knowledge that should result from the research project has at least three aspects. First, by focussing on sexuality and not more generally on gender relations, the project will contribute to a deeper and more vivid understanding of the conflicting forces that surround the emerging of universality as the ideal of political thought, as well as of the shift between classical and modern political concepts. Second, looking at the question of how active sexuality and political participation are connected in this period of modernity as a specifically
philosophical problem brings a new theoretical level to previous research on this connection. Unlike earlier scholars, I focus on the conceptual work done in philosophical texts, however still being sensitive to their unique historical context. At the same time, this focus also widens the traditional subject matter of history of political philosophy, challenging the public/private distinction and showing how such a very ‘private’ matter as sexuality lies at the heart of central political concepts. Third, this genealogical inquiry into modern political conceptions of ‘citizen’ and ‘political participation’ provides a fruitful historical comparison point to recently
emerged contemporary discourses on sexual citizenship and the politics of virility, and should bring forth real, fertile interaction between historical work and current feminist and queer political philosophy. The results of the project will be published principally as a monograph The Politics of Virility.