(A2-1) The Materialistic Worldview in the European Context of the 18th Century

In the second half of the 18th century, a type of worldview began to emerge in Europe which was characterised by three elements in particular:

  1. It had a critical relationship to religion, be it in rather aggressive confrontation, be it in a struggle for independence or neutrality toward religion.
  2. It strove to depart from illusions and emphasised its being “realistic”; in doing so, it referred more or less heavily to the authority of the natural sciences, which were gaining influence.
  3. It sought to gain influence on the formation of society, in part in a directly practical-political sense, but also, however, in part in an indirect way through the enlightenment of the individual.

This type of worldview was not restricted to individual countries but was a European phenomenon: regarding France,18th-century materialism is to be mentioned and later positivism. Utilitarianism developed in Great Britain; in Germany, historical and scientific materialism.
The project will investigate the similarities and differences between these (and related) worldview currents on a European level. These are in particular:

  • What convergences and divergences existed between them as regards content?
  • What was the relationship between these content-related positions and the social, political, cultural conditions in the different countries?
  • What are the differences in the engagement with organised religion (the churches) and in the political commitment between the different currents under the respective national conditions?

The Project is part of coordinated project group The liquefaction and solidification of normativity.