Praxis Seminar: Research Colloquium in Practical Philosophy, Session 3

Dirk Michael Hennrich

Centre of Philosophy – University of Lisbon

About Creation and Destruction of Atmospheres in Modernity

18 February 2020, 18:00 h

Room B6 – Library Building

Faculty of Arts and Humanities – University of Lisbon



This lecture deals with the question and the meaning of dispositions and atmospheres in modern times. The main concern is the interpretation of modernity as an age, which is largely determined by the constant creation and destruction of atmospheres. It is only in modern times that disposition [Stimmung] and atmosphere become the central theme of the developing modern individual. In the course of modern philosophy, from Descartes to Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Simmel, Benjamin, Heidegger to the present day, there has been a decline, beginning with the cataloging of affects and dispositions, to a rationalistic exclusion and differentiation, to an narrowing down to individual moods up to a thinning and annihilation of the dispositions and the atmospheric. The inner structure of modernity, the incessant production of the new, must be assumed to be the main cause of the destruction of dispositions and atmospheres. This destruction of the atmosphere affects not only culture and society, but also modern civilization itself, the nature and the atmosphere of the earth as a whole. The destruction and emptying of the atmospheric in modern culture is therefore the cause of the destruction of the natural atmosphere. Only healing the pathological dynamic of modernity would enable the healing of the earth’s atmosphere. At least three central questions arise for the discussion of the present assumption: Can the pathological dynamics of modernity be determined on the basis of the historical-philosophical reconstruction of affects, dispositions and atmospheres? Is there an obvious Katabasis in the economy of dispositions and atmospheres in modernity? Is there a direct connection between the annihilation of the atmospheric in modern culture with the destruction of natural dispositions and the earth’s atmosphere?