In this wide-ranging talk (given on April 8, 2014, as part of the Spring 2014 Shulman Lecture Series in Science and the Humanities at the Whitney Humanities Center) Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht argues that the ideas of presence, evidence, and latency are interconnected in distinct ways at different moments in history. He describes distinct chronotopes in history that have structured people’s relationship to time, and the objects they experience within it.
Prof. Gumbrecht begins by describing the heightened self-reflexivity of Cartesian dualism in the seventeenth century, a philosophy that opened a gap between the self and the world we seek to gain evidence of. Gumbrecht posits that after Descartes we can discern a number of competing ways of conceiving of the world, from historicism, to what he calls Diderot’s “prose of the world,” to an era of the “broad present” that arose in the mid-twentieth century.
Each of these moments in intellectual history rearranges the relationship among key concepts of evidence, truth, and perception. Gumbrecht then maps these trends onto Martin Heidegger’s views on being, and ends with a discussion of our virtually mediated world.
Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht is the Albert Guérard Professor in Literature at Stanford University. He teaches Romance and Comparative Literatures.