Monday, 30 November 2015

Gordon Richard speaks about 'Mithras between Persia and Rome'

Abstract of today's workshop paper:

The Iranian origin of the Roman cult of Mithras, once a fact, is now generally regarded as a mere shibboleth. A LAR-inspired approach, however, cannot aim in historicist spirit to adjudicate such issues, but focuses rather on the fact of appropriation itself. What value did the idea of ‘Persia’ have for the efforts of the small-time leaders (‘religious providers’, in Weberian terms, ‘mystagogues’) of religious associations configuring a deity named Mithras, invictus Mithras, Sol invictus Mithras …? As a ‘Persian’ deity whose cult first appears in the West c.80-100 CE, Mithras slipped into a complex frame already prepared by Classical, Hellenistic and Roman discourses of ‘intra-cultural connectivity’, by virtue of which the figure could shift effortlessly between Us and Them. ‘Persianism’ provided such small-time ‘mystagogues’ with the codes for specific experiences, forms of embodiment, expressive media they required to provide interesting religious experiences in implicit competition with other similar agents of the holy.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Portrait of Italian Jewish Life (1800s-1930s) - edited and published by edited by Tullia Catalan, Cristiana Facchini

Cristiana Facchini also published in the recent issue of Quest the article:

Six Authors in Search of a Narrative

Luigi Luzzatti
Luigi Luzzatti (1841-1927)
Fondazione CDEC, Photographic Archive, Giorgio Sacerdoti’s Collection.

“Few Italian political men are so well known, at least outside the Peninsula, as Luigi Luzzatti. At home his untiring political, economic and scientific activity and his long parliamentary career have kept him constantly in the public eye. Abroad he is known because he negotiated important commercial treatises and represented Italy at international congresses, while his writings have had the honor of being translated into several languages. […] He is the most encyclopedic man of the Kingdom.” more here

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Hella Dietz publishes monograph on Polish Opposition Movements

Dr Hella Dietz, former Fellow of the Max Weber College and winner of the "Prize of the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland" published her monograph on Polish opposition movements with the publisher Campus Verlag (Polnischer Protest: Zur pragmatistischen Fundierung von Theorien sozialen Wandels).  
The study examines two Polish protest movements, Solidarnosc and the lesser-known Workers' Defence Committee (KOR), and shows alleged paradoxes of Polish society. In her monograph, published in the series "Theory and Society" („Theorie und Gesellschaft“), she bases her research on sociological theories of American pragmatism and the protests and human rights research.
Dr Dietz is currently Research Associate at the Institute of Sociology at the University of Göttingen. Her research interests include theories of action, American pragmatism, theories of social movements, critical theory, the sociology of emotions, the European Studies and research on human rights. Her Habilitation project revolves around the essence of narrative sociology. From 2003 to 2007 she received a scholarship from the Study Foundation Klaus Murmann of the Foundation of German Business, and then spend another year as Gastkollegiatin at the Max Weber College, Erfurt. For her dissertation, entitled "From the opposition of values ​​to the values ​​of the opposition - a pragmatist reconstruction of civil society opposition in Poland" (Von der Opposition der Werte zu den Werten der Opposition – eine pragmatistische Rekonstruktion der zivilgesellschaftlichen Opposition in Polen), which she completed in September 2007, she was awarded the 3rd prize of the "Prize of the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland" for promoting outstanding innovative dissertations. This prize is awarded for studies of Polish history and culture of nationwide outstanding dissertations and master's theses in the humanities and social sciences since 2012. Her new monograph on the Polish protest is a revised and expanded version of this thesis.

Contact: PD Dr. Bettina Hollstein (

Dietmar Mieth on "Perfectioning and Bettering Human Beings"

Yesterday, the working paper by Dietmar Mieth on "Perfectioning and Bettering Human Beings" has been discussed at the Max Weber Center, Erfurt.

Here the abstract:

In the tradition of the Christian religion we find a lot of ambivalent perspectives within ethics. These traditions often demonstrate a teleological concept of the world. The dream of perfection is always present, but mainly restricted to the individual concept of life even if this concept is often generalized. How does religious teleology respond to the technical teleology of the modern world? The technical teleology has developed without recognizing or feeling the finitude as a (positive) condition of humans. Nevertheless we have in the sciences traces of religious options. On the other side the covenant with God's teleology is replaced by the secular covenant of modern societies with science, technic and economy. In contrast to the different forms of cooperation between religious motifs and technical development religious traditions often opt for against methods of enhancement and ideas of transhumanism. The objections are often coming from arguments against an attitude of “playing God”. History shows that these objections are often not justified. But even within these ambivalent objections one may find insights which make sense in an actual ethical debate: as “principles of precaution” and feelings for the limits of human finitude. One question of a critical theory of religion is whether we can find just and good insights even as part of a wrong position and decision (pace T.W.Adorno).

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Veit Rosenberger: Divine Diets: Food and Drink of the Early Monks

Today, Veit Rosenberger is presenting his paper on 'Divine Diets: Food and Drink of the Early Monks'
Here follows his abstract:
Late Antiquity offered a significant variety of monastic lifestyles. On the one hand, there were the ideal monks like Antony (as described by Athanasius) or the ascetics following the rules set up by Benedict and/or his forerunners. On the other hand, a large number of monks lived on their own, without rule or abbot, like the Sarabaites mentioned in the Regula Benedicti. Whereas it was, as we know from Augustinus, no problem to give up sexuality, eating and drinking formed a lifelong challenge, because the body simply needed food and drink on a regular basis. Therefore, notices about the diet and fasting practices reflect a number of conflicts of the early monks: inter alia the limits of personal choice, competition with other ascetics, personal closeness to God, and the concept of heresy. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

New issue of 'Religion in the Roman Empire (RRE)' published

The new issue of the journal, a publication based at the Max-Weber-Centre, Religion in the Roman Empire has been published, Volume 1, Number 2, 2015.

The issue contains:

Rubina Raja, Lara Weiss, The Role of Objects: Meanings, Situations and Interaction; pp. 137-147(11)
Richard Gordon, 
Showing the Gods the Way: Curse-tablets as Deictic Persuasion; pp. 148-180(33)
Ioanna Patera, 
Objects as Substitutes in Ancient Greek Ritual; pp. 181-200(20)
Andreas Kropp, 
The Tyche of Berytus: A Phoenician Goddess on Civic Coinage; pp. 201-218(18)
Hallie G. Meredith, 
Engaging Mourners and Maintaining Unity: Third and Fourth Century Gold-Glass Roundels from Roman Catacombs; pp. 219-241(23)
Alison Cooley, 
Multiple Meanings in the Sanctuary of the Magna Mater at Ostia; pp. 242-262(21)
Drew Wilburn, 
Inscribed Ostrich Eggs at Berenike and Materiality in Ritual Performance; pp. 263-285(23)

The electronic access you will find here. 

Veronika Hoffmann on 'Thinking about Religious Doubt: First Attempts and Clarifications'

Veronika Hoffmann is going to speak on 11 November 2015 (10:15am) at the Max-Weber-Center, Erfurt, on 'Thinking about Religious Doubt: First Attempts and Clarifications'

Abstract: Traditional Christian theology connects faith with certainty. Religious doubt poses a serious threat to faith and is thus viewed as highly problematic. Contemporary theological positions tend to question this kind of connection. Alternative views understand religious doubt as safeguarding faith against fundamentalistic tendencies or as a helpful tool for the purification of faith. The research project explores these conceptual changes regarding religious doubt. It uses Charles Taylor´s concept of a „secular age“ as a diagnostic tool to connect the theological debate with cultural changes.



This award recognizes sociologists who have made outstanding contributions to the history of sociology throughout their career, or who have made ground breaking innovations or produced significant bodies of scholarly work in the history of sociology.
Members of the committee this year were:
  • Grégoire Mallard, Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland [chair]
  • Donald N. Levine, University of Chicago
  • Edward A. Tiryakian, Duke University
 The recipient of the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award is:
Hans Joas, University of Chicago and former director of the Max-Weber-Center, Erfurt

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Philippe-Louis Vien: The magnificent training: Walter Bagehot and Max Weber on Parliamentary politics

Between the hagiographies following the wake of Marianne Weber’s Lebensbild, Mommsen’s Wegbereiter thesis, and the works of those, indirectly writing against the first two receptions, who see in him an insightful political scientist, Max Weber’s political thought is the object of three massively different interpretations. With the help of Pocock’s theory of political language I intend to shed lights on the English influences of Weber’s conception of modern politics. In this I follow the intuitions of Günther Roth in his Work on “Weber The Would-beEnglishman”. But where his writings are based on the economic history of Weber’s extended family, I want to investigate the structure of his political thoughts as to reveal how Weber’s political ideas, if often described as unique and extraordinary in the German context of his time, are based on interrogations and themes that would appear as common for late-Victorians. In order to identify the common tensions upon which a shared political language is articulated, I compare Weber’s writing on politics with those of two iconic Victorian political authors, namely Walter Bagehot and John Stuart Mill. From their (I) historiography, to their conception of the parliamentary institutions, be it their roles as tools of State administration (II) or in their influence on the political education of the nation (III), or in their relation to (IV) Statesmanship, what reveals itself is a common conception of modern politics, a common view on the necessity of strong parliamentary institutions in modern states, and a common adherence to the short lived brand of agonistic liberalism.
Vien's paper given at the Max-Weber-Kolleg on 2nd November 2015 is the first real attempt at outlining some of the intuitions I have about the influence of Victorian political thoughts on Weber’ own one. Build upon the specific conception of Statesmanship that derives from Victorian parlamentarianism, the content of this text will most probably find its place in what is projected as the 7th chapter of Vien's PhD thesis. In its present form, this text is no chapter yet. In the hope of publishing it as a scholarly paper, he decided to concentrate his argumentation exclusively on Bagehot and Weber, and completely leave aside John Stuart Mill from the discussion. Aside from the validity of its demonstration, the main element concerned with in this paper is the sequencing of its arguments, or, if one may say, its stratégie d’exposition. One can see two ways of writing down such a piece. The first one is a theme-by-theme approach, proposing both authors’ views on a specific theme in a joint section and presenting my different themes in succession. The second option is to brush two distinct and separate overall pictures of my authors’ thoughts and comparing these two portraits. One can see how a theme-by-theme approach allows for a more detailed analysis of the subjects at hand, but one fears it detaches the reader from the overall picture, making it hard for him to recognize the comprehensive thought system he is being presented with. Vien opted for the second option, first presenting an author’s thought and then the other’s, but he would be really interested in the reader's views on all of that. 

Rahul Parson speaks on "Towards Indic Idioms of the Individual: Tolerance, (Im)partiality, and Individualization in two Jain Intellectual Lineage"

His paper given today discusses some preliminary observations about how difference, impartiality, and the figure of the individual operate in the works of four Jain thinkers. I look at two intellectual lineages to get a sense of how the typology of the individual or vyakti embodies, refracts, and transmits religious and philosophical views (darśana). The individual’s intentions, partiality, environment, and position on the spiritual Stufensytem (guṇasthāna) informs how a religious teaching manifests. This is part of a broader discussion about religious variation, difference, and accommodation in Indic religions. The individual is at the center of this discussion of ‘tolerance’ because some Jain thinkers posit that religious difference is the product of individualized religious variation. In the recognition of historically constant and reoccurring unique vyaktis (individual, manifestation, expression), these thinkers reconciled the singularity of essential religious truth with the multitude of views regarding what that truth could be. The vyakti, as a typology, is a figure who allows for variety without being at variance with Jainism. While these Jain thinkers use the figure of vyakti and variation for different agendas, they all evince a qualified accommodation and recognition of difference, which emerges from a core Jain philosophical principle of non-absolutism.