Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Kathi Beier gives a working paper on 'Thomas or Aristotle? The concept of virtue as part of a conflict of the faculties'

Being the first draft of the first chapter of my next book project on the concept of virtue in Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, the paper outlines the project’s main aims and discusses some of the major objections raised against it’s underlying idea that the doctrine of virtue in Thomas Aquinas is Aristotelian. It tries to show that the differences in culture and religion between the fourth century B.C. and the thirteenth century of the middle ages does not preclude to consider Aquinas’s ethics as following Aristotle. Nor does the concept of grace that Aquinas includes in his theory of the virtues.

Carsten Herrmann-Pillath is going to present a working paper on 'Dilthey and Darwin Combined? 19th century Geisteswissenschaft for 21st century Cultural Science'

This paper explores the relevance of Dilthey’s conceptualisation of the ‘Geisteswissenschaften’ (human sciences) for Cultural Science. In a nutshell, I argue that Cultural Science is Dilthey plus Darwin. In this effort, I define the Geisteswissenschaften as ‘performative sciences’: Taking economics as an example, I show that the Geisteswissenschaften are sciences which are ontologically productive in creating and performing the object of their research. That means, they are inherently normative since they entail critical reflexivity as a major mode of research. Following Dilthey, Geisteswissenschaften are deeply historical, which implies that their disciplinary structure is evolving together with their objects. Therefore, I argue that the 19th century division of disciplines needs to be thoroughly overhauled in the 21st century, including the division between economics and sociology, which is a left-over from 19th century nation-state development. New disciplines, with Cultural Science and Technosphere Science as prime examples, must be established to cope with the challenges of our times: where human agency, culture and technology have blurred long-established boundaries separating nature, culture and society; where identity and meaning have become global, fluid, contested and reflexive phenomena; and where nature (the environment) and culture (cities) are inextricably interrelated in the dynamics of the emergent Anthropocene system.
The paper is my contribution to the relaunch of the journal ‘Cultural Science’. I was one of the founding members of the ‘Cultural Science’ initiative launched in Brisbane in 2008 (see https://culturalscience.org/).

Emiliano Urciuoli is going to present a working paper on ' The (Good) People Next Door - Neighborhoods, Urban Religion and Early Christ-Religion'

Archeologists agree that “the spatial division of cities into residential zones is a universal feature of urban life from the earliest cities to the present” (Smith 2010). Yet, ubiquitous and longstanding though they may be, city-centered research on “urban Christians” has thus far paid little attention to neighborhoods. A neighborhood-focused analysis of the communication of early Christ religion within imperial cities is a most recent analytical enterprise. House-based descriptions have been largely preferred and taken as though they can tell the whole truth about the city life of Jesus followers and, eventually, the “citification” of their cult. As is often the case, the prolific writer Tertullian comes to the rescue: in a fleeting passage of his Apology, he states that, when it comes to “benevolence” and “good actions”, “we Christians, are the same to the Emperors as we are to our neighbors (Idem sumus imperatoribus qui et vicinis nostris)”. Good deeds Christians did and/or claimed to do for emperors are well known (payment of taxes, military enlistment, prayers, sometimes even sacrifices). What about the neighbors? What can we know about what a Jesus follower did for her/his vicinis? Introducing some contextualizing snapshots of neighborhood issues and explaining the potential of a neighborhood-scaled analysis conducted with an Urban Religion approach, this paper’s aim is to probe how material evidence from Greco-Roman urban environments and literary texts produced by Jesus followers have been critically surveyed in order to sharpen or question the knowledge on early Christ religion as viewed from a street-level perspective. Some final notes will show the extent to which our “sources” can be further surveyed in order to shed more light on this crucial aspect of an urban religion and eventually answer the following question: how did the need to establish neighborly neighboring relationships in densely populated urban districts affect Christ religion and its self-representation?

A workshop is taking place at the Max Weber Kolleg: 'History: Global and intersectional. A workshop with Bernhard Schär (ETH Zurich)'

May 16th, 4-6 p.m. at the Max-Weber-Center at the University of Erfurt, Seminarraum

Bernhard Schär has published extensively on Swiss colonial history and on colonialism and imperialism in general. His work departs from a global and entangled history perspective and engages in methodological and theoretical reflections on the possibilities and difficulties such approaches imply (also beyond the “case” of Switzerland). Such discussions will also be the main topic of our workshop with him in Erfurt. A special focus will be on the question of how historians (and other people interested in histories (of the present))can combine in their analysis a global history perspective with an intersectionality approach that investigates how different systems of oppression that are constituted along axes of differences such as gender, race and class, interlock. 

We will discuss secondary literature – texts written by Bernhard Schär and other historians – but also source material.

For more information, please contact: Cécile Stehrenberger, cecile.stehrenberger@gmail.com

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Petra Gümplová is going to present a working paper on 'Popular Sovereignty over Natural Resources'

The article Popular Sovereignty over Natural Resources discusses the concept of popular sovereignty over natural resources and its possible applicability to a broader account of natural resource justice based on a moral interpretation of international law. Leif Wenar’s recent proposal to entrench popular resource sovereignty as a counterclaim to illegitimate uses of natural resources by corrupt and authoritarian regimes serves as the starting point for the discussion of the possible meaning of popular resource sovereignty and its role in an account of natural resource justice. Three key aspects of Wenar’s conception are in focus: 1) the framing of popular resource sovereignty within the current system of sovereign territoriality, 2) the notion of collective ownership of natural resources as the content of popular resource sovereignty, and 3) civil and political rights as the key set of norms determining the conditions of legitimate exercise of resource sovereignty. The article argues that collective sovereignty claims over natural resources can neither be framed exclusively through boundaries of current sovereign states, nor understood in terms of full and unlimited property rights. Concerning civil and political rights, I argue we need to move past the liberal conception of legitimacy toward a more comprehensive human rights-based conception of justice serving as a standard for assessment of legitimacy of both sovereign and non-sovereign entities which have rights over natural resources.

Cécile Stehrenberger gives a working paper on 'Theorizing the “Global Hispanophone” as dynamics of (dis-)entanlgement. Suggestions from a History of Science perspective'


During the last two decades, a number of historians representing a variety of fields have advocated for or at least diagnosed a “global turn” in their respective (sub-)disciplines and areas of study. Among them were historians of science who developed conceptual thoughts on how scientific knowledge traveled, especially in the context of imperialism and colonialism, across national and regional boarders, and how it emerged as a result of such transmissions and the connection between the geographical and political areas, to which it contributed. Departing from their reflections, as well as from feminist and decolonial science and technology studies approaches, in this article, I propose an understanding of the Global Hispanophone as dynamics of (dis-)entanglement. I suggest that its scholars study how entities referred to as “Spanish” or “hispano” become entangled with others in cultural contact zones and how the resulting hybridity is concealed and purified in processes that I call disentanglement. Moreover, I argue that “Global Hispanophone” studies should analyze in what ways entanglements are being prevented in the first place. While I focus in this paper on the (dis-)entanglements of scientific knowledge, its basic assumption is that the dynamics that I elaborate on, can be explored also in regard to other forms of knowledge, and beyond the field of science.

Tullio Viola presents a working paper on 'Symbols and the Dynamics of Culture'

The paper presents the main lines of research I will be carrying on at the Max-Weber-Kolleg during the next two years. In particular, it describes the central argument of a book I intend to write, entitled "Pragmatist Theories of the Symbol". The book centres on a reconstruction of the concept of "symbol" in the four classical figures of North-American pragmatism (Charles S. Peirce, William James, George H. Mead, John Dewey). Its main aim is to show that the pragmatists had a coherent and theoretically robust understanding of this concept and of the dynamics underpinning it. Focussing on this somewhat undertheorized aspect of the pragmatist tradition may help us expand the purview of contemporary linguistic philosophy by re-orienting the debate toward a more encompassing reflection on culture. Moreover, it can provide us with new tools for understanding some of the classical philosophical problems involved in the study of cultural phenomena, such as the problem of the tension between universalism and particularism.