Working Groups



October 17, 2018
Pragmatism Working Group Seminar
Views of Nature
3:30-5:30, CCA (Academic Building West 6051, 15 Seminary Place)

November 15 and 16, 2018Leila Gomez, Spanish and Portuguese, U Colorado Boulder

  • Lecture: Alexander von Humboldt: Awareness of Globality and Environmentalism
    Thursday, November 15, 4:30pm
    Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese Seminar Room, Academic Building West 5190

The German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt is one of the key figures to understand the history of the 19th century in the West. He was the second most famous man after Napoleon Bonaparte, the second most important scientist after Charles Darwin, and was considered the second discoverer of the New World. In this talk, Prof. Gomez will examine Humboldt’s travels and essays on Latin America as a major contribution to a new understanding of the world, and to the building of a planetary consciousness (Pratt) or awareness of globality (Ette) without precedents in his times. By exploring Humboldt’s research on the “chain of connection” uniting all parts of the Earth, this talk seeks to analyze his scientific findings in relation to global economy, new empires, Latin American national (in)dependences, and environmentalism.

  • Pragmatism Seminar: Humboldt’s Views of Nature, Chapters 6 (Volcanoes) and 8 (Plateau of Cajamarca)
    Friday, November 16, 3:30pm
    CCA Seminar Room, Academic Building West 6051

How can we use Humboldt’s travels in and writing about Latin America as an analytic for the study of the global economy, new empires, Latin American national (in)dependences, and environmentalism? 

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Co-Sponsored by the Departments of Spanish and Portuguese, History, English, and American Studies; Program in Comparative Literature; Americanist Seminar; and Natura: Science and Epistemology Working Group

March 8, 2019
Conference: Humboldt, Darwin, and Pragmatist Worldviews
with Laura Walls (Notre Dame), Steven Meyer (Wash U St. Louis), Joan Richardson (CUNY) and others t.b.d.


The Pragmatism working group is a made up of faculty and graduate students interested in the history and contemporary theoretical implications of Pragmatism. Over the last two years, we have invited a number of scholars to campus to lead discussions of primary works by Peirce, James and Dewey that have played a role in their own work. For instance, last fall we had the political scientists Melvin Rogers and Alexander Livingston in to talk about Dewey and political theory. In the spring, we had the anthropologist Eduardo Kohn in to talk about why he thought Peirce was useful in his anthropological work in the Amazon. We spent the time together talking about Peirce in the context of the turn to “post-human anthropology.” 

Over this time, the working group has taken up many of the peculiarities of nineteenth century philosophy surrounding the emergence of Pragmatism—for instance, most recently, Peirce on protoplasm; and we have done so with an eye, for the most part, on philosophical precedents, namely Kant and Hegel. And yet, we have not much considered a parallel tradition of equal importance, which has been lurking somewhat below the surface of our discussions, namely developments in the natural sciences. We have caught a glimpse of it by way of frequent allusion to Charles Darwin; but we wanted to go more into depth on the topic. So this year, the group will take up this second branch of nineteenth century thought with a series of directed readings of Alexander von Humboldt and Darwin. 

 In the fall, we will turn our attention to Humboldt’s most widely read and influential work, Views of Nature. Spring semester will be devoted to a more wide-ranging engagement with Darwinian ideas in pragmatist thinking, then and now. As in years past, the group will be inviting a number of specialists to campus to share their work and lead seminars on primary materials. Current plans include a visit from Leila Gomez, Associate Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who will lead a seminar on Humboldt on November 16. Planning is also in the works for a one-day symposium, “Humboldt, Darwin and Pragmatist Worldviews,”with Laura Walls (Notre Dame), Steven Meyer (Wash U, St. Louis) and Joan Richardson (CUNY) currently scheduled as participants, to be held on March 8, 2019.



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