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Ben Seel




Since 2021      Ph.D. Student at the Graduiertenkolleg „Normativity, Critique, Change“

2013-2020      M.A. Political Theory, Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main

2014               Semester abroad, New School for Social Research, New York

2009-2013      B.A. History and Political Science, Heidelberg University^

Occupations and Voluntary Positions

2019-2020      Representative for Germany, Advisory Group on Learning and Teaching, European Higher Education Area

Since 2015     Member of the Advisory Council, Bund demokratischer Wissenschaftler*innen (BdWi)

2017-2020      Member of the Academic Senate, Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main

2016-2019      Member of the Board of the European Students Union (ESU)

2015-2016      Member of the Executive Committee, freier zusammenschlusses von student*innenschaften (fzs)

2011-2012      Member of the Academic Senate, Heidelberg University

Consequences of a Materialist Philosophy of History

With a focus on the impact of the reception of the humanistic ideals of the French Revolution from the 18th century to the present day, this research project examines modern concepts of time as they have evolved in the aftermath of Enlightenment thinking. Starting from Hegel's critique of the Enlightenment in the Phenomenology of Spirit and the philosophy of history of (early) critical theory, the project explores how the principles of the 17th and 18th-century Enlightenment and its political realization following the French Revolution continue to shape historical thinking today. The thesis pursued is that modern progressive thinking is based on an abstract retrojection of an unattainable origin of history. This structure is conceived as a constellation of resistance and repetition closely connected to Christian concepts of time.

The project takes its starting point from the chapter on "Bildung" in the Phenomenology of Spirit and its commentary on the relationship between Enlightenment and the terreur following the French Revolution, which Hegel describes as the "terror" of "absolute freedom." Subsequently, the project investigates how this terror is processed in the post-revolutionary modern era, with interdisciplinary connections to aesthetic representations in literature, theater, and film, especially within the framework of Surrealism. The underlying structure of abstract humanity inherent in this terror is also evident in the basic structure of modern law and its inherent contradictions, which constitute the development of law. Using these constellations, the project seeks to derive a materialist methodology for the philosophy of history and historical criticism from the idealistic foundations of Kantian and Hegelian philosophy, through which the antinomies of a self-destructive pursuit of progress can be genealogically examined. In connection with Hegelian motifs, diagnoses of early critical theory, and contemporary post-Hegelian authors, the project then aims to historicize the Enlightenment's understanding of history and make it accessible to forms of  transcendent critique.

Further Research Interests:

  • Critical Theory of the Political
  • History and Critique of the State
  • Hegel’s Social Philosophy and Philosophy of Right
  • Games of Aesthetic Form in Benjamin, Kafka and Kluge
  • History of Ideas of the 17th and 18th Century
Freie Universität Berlin
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
Universität der Künste Berlin