The Hessen-Grossmann Thesis and Lukács’s Reification Thesis

Abstract: Why and to what extent did the sensitive functions of the human soul (affects and sensations) come to be understood by way of analogy to machines in the 17th century?

The new working hypothesis I propose is a synthesis of the so-called ‘Hessen-Grossmann thesis’ and Lukács’s ‘reification thesis’. Since the 1990s, the historiography of early modern philosophy has been characterized by a so-called ‘affective turn’, but it has yet to answer the two following questions: Wherefrom did the mechanistic paradigm arise? And why was the mechanistic paradigm considered applicable to psychology? I argue that the first question can be addressed with the Hessen-Grossmann Thesis; a largely-neglected hypothesis that the mechanistic paradigm arose in early modern physics, because of a need to study and develop machines as substitutes for human laborers. The second question I address by incorporating into the Hessen-Grossmann thesis, Georg Lukács’s reification thesis. Lukács argues that modern philosophy rested upon an un-thought premise that it could neither conceive nor resolve; namely, that subjects and object are qualitatively equivalent via quantitative exchange. This un-thought premise arose from labor and products of labor being considered instances of the commodity-form within the logic of capital.
Sean Winkler received his PhD from KU Leuven in 2016 with a dissertation about Spinoza. His is interested in Early Modern philosophy more generally, as well as philosophy of science and 20th Century French philosophy. Since 2016 he is a post-doctoral researcher at NRU-HSE Moscow.
Friday September 29, 16.40-18.10,
Room 508 at Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4

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