The 2023|2024 theme "Project: Enlightenment!" will stage scientific, artistic and literary events to explore the ideas of the Enlightenment and their relevance to the present and the future.
The era of the Enlightenment saw the emergence of a pan-European intellectual project, whose effects have continued to shape our society in myriad ways until the present day. During the Enlightenment, traditional ways of life and established hierarchies were subjected to critical examination. A new orientation towards reason and science would, it was believed, fundamentally improve human living conditions. It was in this context that the philosopher Immanuel Kant formulated his targeted appeal: "Have the courage to use your own reason!" However, the Enlightenment was riddled with internal contradictions from the outset and in many respects remained an "unfinished project" (Habermas). For example, it produced the Declaration of the Rights of Man, but also provided justifications for racism and colonialism.
In anticipation of the 300th anniversary of Kant's birth on 22 April 2024, the theme of the next two years will focus on scientific, artistic and literary approaches that address the legacy of the Enlightenment, as it relates to the present. How do the sciences position themselves within society? How has the concept of a discerning public changed as a result of social media? Can the Enlightenment ideal of progress still be upheld in the face of economic and ecological constraints? How do ethical and political debates take form within artistic and media contexts? How do we deal with the problematic aspects of the Enlightenment? And how can we realise its unexploited potential?