The Darkness at the Heart of the Enlightenment: Kant’s Racism

The Lit & Phil Philosophy Forum

philosophy forum time lapse style image of night sky with silhouette of figure and tress in the foreground
This is a past event
Date and time
25 January 2024
7.00 pm
From £3 (non-members)


We like to think of the Enlightenment as a glorious period where ideas were driven by rationality and evidence.  But, of course, it’s not as easy as that.

The history of human ideas is blemished with personal and cultural beliefs we find repulsive today.  Immanuel Kant, arguably the greatest 18th century European philosopher and source of so many ideas in modern philosophy, neuroscience and psychology, was sadly no exception.

In this January session of the Lit & Phil’s Philosophy Forum, Dr Keekok Lee – philosopher, author and Honorary Research Professor/Fellow at the University of Manchester – will guide us through the ethical minefield of how we can maturely face up to the past by looking at Kant’s racism.

You don’t need any prior knowledge of Kant’s work. The theme of this Forum is about how we deal with uncomfortable facts about our cultural past.

So, can we judge Kant and his work by present day standards?  Or can we separate the wheat from the chaff, ignoring the awkward bits?  Or must we reject all of it?

The Western world morally struggles with aspects of its history and the controversial legacy of it today.  It needs much discussion!  Here is your opportunity to take part in that.


Good to know: We take pride in putting the fun back into serious philosophy through our friendly and respectful discussions involving different levels of experience of philosophy.  The Lit & Phil Philosophy Forum is all about collectively exploring interesting and exciting ideas from different viewpoints … not winning arguments!

The focus paper by Keekok (available here) should be read before the Forum to enrich and guide our discussions. You’ll get a lot more out of attending if you read the paper beforehand. Also, for this session, there is a subsidiary focus paper containing summaries and questions for our discussions. This second paper can be used as a short introduction for pre-reading, and/or a summary for post-reading.

We are usually oversubscribed, so if you book but find out later that you cannot attend, please cancel your ticket to free up a place for someone else. Thank you.

dr keekok lee

Dr Keekok Lee

Keekok Lee is a graduate in philosophy of the University of Singapore, the University of Oxford and the University of Manchester. Since retiring from teaching at the University of Manchester in 1999, she has continued to be active in research and publication. Her books include Plato and Democracy Today: 20/20 Reith Lectures.

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