Susanne K. Langer: Feeling and Society

Charles E. Shain Library and the Connecticut College Arboretum

September 10–11, 2022

Program can be found here.

From 1954 Susanne K. Langer was affiliated with Connecticut College, the first academic institution which offered her a tenured position and enabled her to stop, in her words, “rather disconcerting spotty engagements for lecture and conferences” that she had participated in before she became part of the Connecticut College Philosophy Department. She stayed in close contact with the College, later as Professor Emeritus, until her death in 1985.

Susanne Langer’s philosophy encompasses aesthetics, logic, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of biology. Her work is, however, only rarely associated with moral, social, and political philosophy. Although somewhat scattered, social and political implications of her theory seem to be ever present in her thought, starting from the last chapter of the Philosophy in a New Key, “The Fabric of Meaning” (1942), through the essay “The Lord of Creation” (1944) as well as several of the essays collected in Philosophical Sketches (1962), to the very last part of her final work, Mind. The Essay on Human Feeling (1982).

In the seminar organized by the Philosophy Department at Connecticut College, we invite speakers to discuss moral, political, and social aspects of Langer’s philosophy. The questions we would like to discuss at the seminar include:

  • What is Langer’s social philosophy and how does it relate to problems she discusses in aesthetics and philosophy of biology?
  • How does Langer’s philosophy square with the historical times she lived through? Was her work attached to or detached from reality, or both, and in what sense(s)? How have the social, political, and historical aspects of her philosophy been understood and interpreted by others in philosophy and beyond?
  • Do we face the same crisis (or crises) that she identified? How does her philosophy help us to understand our world?