The dignity, freedom and equality of all human beings; the right to self-determination, political participation, privacy and property; the obligation to solidarity; the rejection of torture and capital punishment – these all remain central fundamental values for Switzerland.

Until approximately twenty years ago, discussions and debates tended to focus on the question of how best to realize such vital Enlightenment concerns. More recently, however, new geopolitical and digital challenges have urged those both inside and outside the academy to rethink – and re-justify or revise – understandings of the precise content and meaning of Enlightenment values, and of their ongoing relevance and necessity in the twenty-first century.

Proceeding from the conviction that the Enlightenment is neither ‘dead’ nor needs ‘abolishing’, representatives of all four faculties have established a university-wide, interdisciplinary research network. Critically combining historical, empirical and normative approaches, the network seeks to both develop new perspectives on diverse interpretations of the historical ‘Enlightenment’, and to formulate original responses to urgent present-day issues concerning nature and the environment, politics and democracy, economy and technology, which affect not only individuals, but also political communities, societies and, indeed, humankind as a whole.

Our gaze will thus be turned to an era that sets in before the ‘first modernity’, as outlined, for instance, by Ulrich Beck: the European and North American Enlightenment. This broadening of perspective suggests itself for the exploration of contemporary conditions for the realization of social and political plurality and critical thinking. The positive revaluation of diversity and critique in scientific, aesthetic and political regards, as this emerges in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, came, in many contexts, to an abrupt end in the nineteenth century. The research network therefore returns to the earlier legacies of the Enlightenment, and probes their possible usefulness for us today.

Centre for Enlightenment, Critical Thinking, and Plurality



Prof. Dr. Christine Abbt, Prof. Dr. Boris  Previšić , Prof. Dr. Daniel Speich Chassé

Steering Committee

Prof. Dr. Christine Abbt, Prof. Dr. Malte-Christian Gruber, Prof. Dr. Martin Hartmann, Dr. Steven Howe, Prof. Dr. Peter G. Kirchschläger, Prof. Dr. Sophie Mützel, Prof Dr. Boris  Previšić, Prof. Dr. Daniel Speich Chassé


Koordination and contact

Dr. Steven Howe

T +41 41 229 54 23 
F +41 41 229 53 25