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The 1814 lectures

“Freedom” - a Contentious Concept with Universal Pretensions. A lecture series organised by the Committee for Research on the Norwegian Constitution of 1814 in the framework of the bicentenary commemoration.

In connection with the Bicentennial Celebration of the Constitution in 2014, the Research Council of Norway is in charge of a research initiative (2010-2014) whose objective is to enlighten the importance of democracy and the constitutional state, both historically and in the present day, as well as to address future challenges.
Emphasising the need for comparative and international perspectives of these issues the Expert committee in charge of the Councils initiative, is launching a seminar series, “The 1814 lectures”. Distinguished international experts in political philosophy, science and history are asked to shed light on the historical complexity and ambiguity of a central term in all constitutions, the seemingly clear-cut term freedom.
Freedom and its synonym liberty, has been the evasive target of definition in many legal and political debates since the French revolution and before. Being an open and fragile concept, it is a core concept in political attempts to create the good society, but also historically linked to a risk of political abuse and distortion into its opposite. The edge between free and un-free is not as sharp as is often assumes to be. Freedom is a concept which is not that matter of course it often presumes to be. As a key concept of democracy it must remain a continuously contested concept without final definition, an open concept in an open society. At the same time it is a concept to cherish fondly
Freedom is thus, a contested concept with universal pretensions. In order to get a more realistic understanding of the historical richness of the term, for good or for bad, there is obviously a need to historicise the term, to destabilise any teleological understanding of it, and to map out its genealogy. This is the issue that the Committee wishes the 1814 lectures to illustrate.

The 1814 lectures took place at the University of Bergen, University of Oslo, Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and will be held at the University of Tromsø. The lectures are webcasted.