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Published on Monday, October 31, 2011


Why "culture"? - Coimbra International Conference on the Semantics of Culture - intend to explore in a critical and historical sense, and if possible covering an interdisciplinary atmosphere, the philosophical themes that help us to think the relationship between Culture and Individuation. Organized by the Research Group Individuation of Modern and Contemporary Society, of the Research Unit Language, Interpretation, and Philosophy in collaboration with the Department of Philosophy, Communication and Information, University of Coimbra (Portugal). 24-25 Nov. 2011.


Why “Culture”? Coimbra International Conference on the Semantics of Culture

24-25 November 2011


The philosophical reference to “Culture” can be found and traced in the History of Philosophical Thought around two main currents. The first began with the Aufklärung and was focused on the philosophical-anthropological reflection on the Human Being as the creative agent of "culture". The Enlightenment ideal of liberation from superstition, immaturity and oppressive political systems was expressed in Kant’s formula of the sapere aude continued by Schiller’s ideas of an aesthetical education of Mankind, which bases the emancipative project on Knowledge and self-Knowledge. Kant extended his well-known distinction between culture (the spiritual idea of morality) and civilization (the practical application of the idea of morality), to the universal categorical imperative of a Civilized Moral Life. This entails the theoretical difficulty of the articulation of the concept of "Culture" with the concept of "Nature." Culture in this sense is the “second nature” (die zweite Natur) of Human Beings – as Johann Gottfried Herder would write in clear harmony with the legacy left by Giovanni Battista Vico’s “sensus communis” –, but this, unlike the first, requires Bildung. Between this first stage and the second it is possible to identify the investigations on so-called "primitive societies". Holistic views of phenomena called “cultural”, which were already present in the writings of Vico and Herder, are now applied to the study of Human Communities which seem grounded on mythical beliefs, magical rituals, and other ceremonials different from those known in Europe. After Joseph-François Lafitau’s Mœures des Sauvages Américains Comparées aux Mœurs des Premiers Temps, (1724) the works of Edward Burnett Tylor, Emile Durkheim, Franz Boas and Bronislaw Malinowski had a great relevance to a better understanding and a consequent expansion of the concept of Culture and also for the emergence of the Comparative Studies. These studies were decisive for the idea that the psychic structures of the Human Being are not only ruled by propositional meanings, but the Cultural Forms also have a root linking to a mythical view of the world and nature.

The second current, that takes place almost two centuries later in relation to the first, is partly favored by the development of the Social Sciences and Anthropology and can be interpreted as a Revolution – a Cultural Turn – in Philosophy. If we want to find a philosophical trait that marks this particular stage, then we can find it in the words of Ernst Cassirer when, in the first volume of his Philosophie der Symbolischen Formen, he alerted to the need for the transformation of Kant's Critique of Reason in a Critique of Culture, that is, a true Philosophy of Culture. Cassirer – as indeed had also argued Georg Simmel – sees the philosophical reflection on Culture as a integral study of the external forms (those symbolic forms such as Myth, Religion, Language, Art, Science) that Humans use to symbolize and articulate their experience of the World as well as to represent and schematize the individual Freedom. Thus, in this broader sense, “Culture” is of course a Symbolic System of shared patterns, norms and values that regulate social interaction, and, according to Cassirer's Philosophy, it is also a way for Man to achieve individuation.

We will take the main ideas that underlie these two historic periods – that is, the movement traced from the concept of "Culture" to the Philosophy of Culture – as a reference to our Congress «Why “Culture”? Coimbra International Conference on the Semantics of Culture». We are aware that “Culture” as a philosophical category is not immune to its own semantic construction in History and Society. But sometimes we need to stress this point against dogmatism.

We intend to explore in a critical and historical sense, and if possible covering an interdisciplinary atmosphere (Philosophy, Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Social Psychology), the philosophical themes that help us to think about the issue of individuation from the theoretical horizons opened by the introduction of the topic of Culture in the world of Philosophy.

We welcome also the discussion of contemporary themes such as the important subjects related to Colonialism, post-Colonialism and Globalization or to Aesthetics and the Theories of Art that can help us to recognize the links between Bildung, Cultural Difference and Individuation in contemporary Society.

The following topics may serve as references, guides or general marks for the preparation of the papers to be submitted and subsequently included in the program of the Conference.

- The semantics of "Culture" and "Manners", "Customs", "Moeurs", "Mode" in XVIII Century in philosophical and literary Texts.

- The philosophical use of "Culture" since Kant and Herder.

- Sociology and Philosophy of Culture (G. Simmel, E. Cassirer).

- The culture of "Culture" and the formation of a Culture of Taste in XVIII Century from Montesquieu and Burke to Kant.

- "Culture" as Bildung and the semantics of Genius.

- "Culture" as an historical concept and a descriptive analytical tool.

- "Culture" and the hermeneutical triad of Action, Symbol and Text.

- The semantics of "Culture" in modern society and the evolution of the distinction civilized / barbarian.

- "Culture" in organizations. 

- Comparison through symbolic borders and the comparative use of "Culture".

- "Culture" and "pop-culture".

- "Culture", mass media and the mediation of knowledge

- Post-Colonial, Globalized Horizons of “Culture” and hybridizations

Further questions on the organization and logistics will be explained after the initial contacts.


24 November

9.00 Opening

Oswald Schwemmer, Culture as externalized information

9.45 Discussion

10.00 Coimbra Philosophical Lectures IV

Bernard Stiegler, La prolétarisation du sensible et les tournants machiniques de la sensibilité

10.45 Discussion

11.00 Break

11.15 „Culture“ as „National“ Expression?

Henrique Jales Ribeiro, Culture and Philosophy: on the existence of typically national Philosophies. The Portuguese case Reviewed

José Gama, A força da cultura em Bento de Jesus Caraça

Luis Costa Dias, A entrada de Portugal na era mediática: imprensa e cultura urbana de massas na transição do século XIX para o século XX

12.45 Discussion

13.00 Lunch Break

14.30 Effects of the Body, Art and Mediations

João Maria Bernardo Ascenso André, Artes e interculturalidade: o teatro como campo de diálogo intercultural

Eunice Gonçalves Duarte, Para um questionamento da performance mediada pelos meios tecnológicos

Pedro Ordóñez Eslava, Beyond identities: Transculturalisms, hybridizations, and other (cross-cultural) processes in music today

16.30 Discussion

16.45 Break

17.00 „Cultural“ inscriptions in the Urban Space

Paul Cortois, Cities as individual Essences

Isabel Ferin, Cultura, Identidade e Consumos: os centros comerciais Colombo e Vasco da Gama 

Vítor Oliveira Jorge, Por que é que o conceito de cultura material não tem sentido

18.30 Discussion

25 November

9.00 The Mediation of „Culture“ and its subjects

Maria João Silveirinha e Carlos Camponez, Intelectualidade, autonomia e desprofissionalização: regresso a questões cadentes do jornalismo

Ana Teresa Peixinho, Jornalismo e Cultura e a cabeça de Janus. Cultura nos jornais de oitocentos: da elite à massa

10.00 Discussion

10.15 Dimensions of the Semantics of „Culture“

E. Patrascu, Cultural representations of trauma in postcolonialism and post-communism

Isabelle Simões Marques, Do romance plurilingue, ou da forma como a língua incorpora a cultura do Outro

Antonia Olmos Alcaraz, El discurso multicultural y la re-esencialización de la cultura: sobre cómo se construyen diferencias y “nuevos” racismos

Edmundo Balsemão Pires, Organic, Psychic and Communicative Elements in the Individuation of «Genius» in XVII-XVIII Centuries

12.45 Discussion

13.00 Lunch Break

14.30 „Culture“ in the History of modern Philosophy

Jeffrey Andrew Barash, The Rhetoric of Culture. Hans Blumenberg and the Legacy of Herder

Inder S. Marwah, Bridging Nature and Freedom? Kant, Culture and Cultivation

Bernhard Sylla, Será que a linguagem determina a cultura? As posições de Humboldt e Cassirer em torno desta questão

16.00 Discussion

16.15 Philosophy of Culture

Joaquim Braga, Philosophy as Philosophy of Culture

Horia Patrascu, The Morphology of Culture in Romania. Lucian Blaga (1895-1965) – the Passage from Axiology to the Ontology of Culture

Olivier Feron, Does culture an improbable product or the essence of a rich man?

Liza Cortois, Incommensurability in the comparative study of cultures. From Kuhn to Benedict, back & forth

Christian Möckel, Mythisch-magisches Denken als Kulturform und als Kulturleistung. Eine Fragestellung bei Ernst Cassirer und Claude Lévi-Strauss

18.45 Discussion

Abstracts and Texts:



  • Praça da Porta Férrea (FLUC)
    Coimbra, Portugal


  • Thursday, November 24, 2011
  • Friday, November 25, 2011

Information source

  • Marta Maia
    courriel : martamaia72 [at] yahoo [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Why "culture"? », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Monday, October 31, 2011, https://calenda.org/205920

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