Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Mikhail Khorkov is giving a working paper on 'Cusanus in Erfurt: A pre-history of the reception of the works of Nicolaus Cusanus at the Carthusians in Erfurt'

The present paper is part of my research project on the history of the Cusanus reception in the Erfurt Carthusian monastery in the 15th century. The focus of this project is not only on the texts of Nicholas of Cusa, but also on the motifs and context of their reception, especially on the debate on the nature of the mystical theology and the interpretation of the earlier medieval mysticism. In this paper, the first controversy of Nicholas of Cusa with the Erfurt Carthusians on the interpretation of wisdom is examined.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Paper of the month 'Knud Haakonssen on 'To know yourself – that’s a whole crowd! Ludvig Holberg as a case study of multiple authorial personae'

The MWK blog has seen a sharp increase in uptake of readers over the past weeks, and it is getting more and more recognized around the world. This month alone, we had more visitors than in the entire year of 2015.

This growing interest in what the MWK is doing and posting on its blog is due to an increasing number of subscribers at the MWK, but also from around the world, and the content the members of the MWK are providing. This map gives you an insight into who is reading the MWK blog, the darker, the more readers. As you will quickly see, there are far more readers in the US than, for example, in Germany. Straight after the US come Russia and Germany, but with a good readership also in France, Turkey, Ukraine, India and Brazil:

Last month's also has front runners of entries - and congratulations to Knud who has been the most read paper of November ! - underlining the interest in questions of natural law around the world.


Bjørn Schiermer Andersen presents a working paper on 'Max Weber on Creativity: Towards an Alternative Theory of Action in Weber's Work'

The present paper aims to unearth an alternative theory of action in Weber. Centering on the three concepts of creativity, personality and Sachlichkeit in Weber's work, I argue that one finds action theoretical impulses at these instances which are principally at odds with the Kantian, subject-centered, formalistic and dualist perspectives pervading much of his work. I aim to show how so-called object-orientated attitudes surface at these instances, attitudes that rests on fundamentally different epistemological and ontological assumptions than the Kantian ones. The paper consists of two parts. In the first, critical or 'negative' part, I contour the most Kantian passages in Weber's work and demonstrate the fatal theoretical and empirical consequences they entail. In the second, "positive" part I start by investigating Weber's understanding of creativity, highlighting its object-orientated impulses. I then demonstrate how his conceptualization of personality changes in the course of his work, likewise due to the emergence of object-oriented attitudes. Thereupon, I seek to show how Weber's ideas of creativity and personality fuse in his concept of Sachlichkeit and how the latter concept leads his late methodological work in a decisively Anti-Kantian and anti-dualist direction. Concluding, I discuss in more general terms the sociological relevance of this alternative 'theory' of action found in Weber.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Georg Gangl presents a working paper on 'Narrative Explanations. The Case for Causality'

Questions around the explanatory status of narratives have recently resurfaced in various forms in discussions in the philosophy of history and historiography (PHH) and several disciplines of the social sciences. Two theoretical developments seem particularly noteworthy: Firstly, the push towards postnarrativism in PHH and the discussions its theoretical innovations have been creating (Kuukkkanen 2015; Roth 2016), and secondly a strengthening interest in what has been called “the narrative construction of reality” in the social sciences in the broadest sense construed (for an overview see Hyvärinen 2006). Postnarrativism with its emphasis on colligatory concepts and epistemic values has broached the topic of the potentially explanatory role of narrative again without fundamentally leaving the theoretical terrain of classical narrativism and, other than its name suggests, the discussion about the narrative construction of reality is mostly a discussion about narrative as a more or less necessary form of depiction of reality. Both discussions might come together in a fruitful manner or both may even be grounded in what Arthur Danto called the “descriptive metaphysics of historical existence” (Danto 1968: vii); in a philosophy able to express the link between fundamental elements of our historical being and their depiction in the form of narrative. The concept of “narrative explanation” (Danto 1968: 236) stands for this philosophical project.

Danto, the original author of the term narrative explanation, might in fact just be the right starting point when it comes to matters concerning the philosophical substance of narrative. As much as the term narrative explanation has in fact raised eyebrows and caused philosophical wrinkles when it was first coined by Danto in the middle of the 1960s in the midst of the discussions about the applicability of Hempel’s Covering-Law-Model to historiography (Hempel 1942), today there is certainly some intuitive appeal to it coming from both, quarters of the philosophy of science ranging from the philosophy of biology to the philosophy of historiography and the social sciences in general (Beatty/Carrera 2011; Roth 2016; Hyvärinen 2010). Narratives, there is no doubt in any of the two fields of discussion just mentioned, are employed in both ordinary discourse and various different sciences when it comes to the description of change, process, and development, and they are, in those fields at least, customarily also thought of as being explanatory of those phenomena.

Initially, Danto’s aim in his main publication on the issue, Analytical Philosophy of History (Danto 1968), was to “demonstrate an equivalence between explanation as construed by Hempel, and narratives” (Danto 1995: 71), as he remarks in reflections written exactly thirty years after the initial publication of that book, but no such equivalence could generally be established and in the years that followed the initial publication of his book Danto was among the first to concede that much. It turned out that epistemologically as well as ontologically narratives just could not be squared with the rigid premises imposed by the Covering Law Model; neither could the complex form of argumentation provided by narratives be assimilated to the strict and generalizing argument form of deductive logic nor did a notion of causality based on the Humean idea of constant conjunctions of events and a concomitant symmetry between explanation and prediction prove to be any useful in dissecting the complex and multi-layered causal chains found in the narratives of historians, and shortly after the discussion about the application of the Covering Law Model to historiography reached a dead end in the end of the 1960s the whole discursive terrain underwent a significant transformation. Just think of the initial publication of Hayden White’s Metahistory in 1973 (White 1974), neglecting with its emphasis on linguistic and stylistic concerns in narrative construction any form of explanatory issue at hand. However, freed from the strict limitations of the Hempelian model the question of the explanatory purview of narratives remains acute. - Is there any such thing as genuinely narrative explanations, including potentially historiographical narrative explanations?

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Aarhus University and Universität Erfurt agree MoU on an ongoing exchange of scholars

The newly signed Memorandum of Understanding between Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet, Aarhus University) and Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies (MWK, Universität Erfurt) is a new highlight for both institutions and the Universities of Aarhus and Erfurt. Already in the past fruitful exchanges have taken place with workshops, conferences, seminars and papers given by colleagues of the respective other institution. These continuous cooperations have now led to a formalising of the relationship. The two colleagues who have headed and represented the institutions are Professor Rubina Raja (director of UrbNet) and Professor Jörg Rüpke (vice-director of Max-Weber-Kolleg). They have paved the way for this Memorandum that secures the foundation for expanding the academic partnership. The agreement seeks to promote an ongoing exchange of scholars at both junior and senior level, with the intention of sharing expertise and fostering joint projects.

As part of the collaboration agreement, Professor Jörg Rüpke has been awarded a 5-year renewal of his adjunct professorship at Aarhus University, now affiliated with UrbNet. A number of research and teaching stays has been planned, during which Rüpke will offer lectures, contribute to conferences as well as co-organise and co-teach (with Rubina Raja) a series of doctorate courses on historiography.

Qian Zhao presents a working paper on 'Individualization, Cultural Entrepreneurs and Socio-technological Innovations in China: An Empirical Study'

In the topics related with contemporary China, a universal recognized aspect is that China is in transition. Since the economic reforms in 1978, the socioeconomic stature of China is dramatically different from previous. My project tends to examine the changing Chinese society from the perspective of individual in facing with the tremendous socio-economic changes.

This research starts from the current debate of Chinese individualization. Some scholars argued the Chinese individual bears a strong flavor of possessive individualism while no longer uphold the core values of social collectivism, as the primacy of collective interests over those of individuals. It is problematic if we take this statement as granted. It is also too simple to category China society in the individualism/collectivism dualism. This research’s first purpose is to review Chinese individual as discussed in the literature, identify controversies and debates and consider some critical issues of individualism/collectivism. By focusing on a singular but symbolic group – China young cultural entrepreneurs, the second purpose is to propose conceptual and research strategies in substantiating issue of individualism/collectivism in youth, exploring the changes of behaviors and values under socio-technological innovations in the empirical study.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Maik Patzelt gave a working paper on 'The Significance of Religious Experience in Seneca’s Works: The Case of the Silent Prayer'

This contribution aims to argue that Seneca attempts to promote a religious experience as well as the essential technique to that end. Whereas his philosophical views elaborate a concept of divine proximity, the religious experience of divine presence is realized through ritualized practices of ecstasy. Seneca elaborates a ritualized technique of silent prayer that fulfills, cognitive psychologically speaking, all conditions of a so-called ‘mystical’ prayer. The prayer style as well as its experience is quite hidden behind a special narratological structure, which the following approach has to reveal. This structure is characterized by the opposition of the silent prayers with those prayers of the ‘wrongdoers’. Seneca strategically opposes two sorts of experiences this way.

Bernhard Kleeberg gave a paper on 'Do executives think straight?'

„Do you and your executives think straight? Or do you solve problems by ‚intuition‘?“ – thus asks an article published in the economic journal Fortune in 1953. It marks a significant transition in respect to rationality, which at the time is increasingly seen as deeply connected with emotion, motivation, and situationality. Straight thinking no longer seems to be the objective of modern man, but intuitive, creative, “wild” thinking as it is practiced, for instance, in brainstorming sessions. This new kind of rationality is related to the virtues of the emerging figure of the executive manager, whose immediate and creative response to challenges of the market becomes fundamental for postindustrial society. Aiming at a political epistemology of rationality of the mid 20th century, the paper relates these debates to contemporary studies of group constellations and individual cognition in experimental psychology.

Bernd-Christian Otto presented a working paper on '"Perfectioning" in learned discourses on magic of the 20th century'

The present paper is devoted to the phenomenon of changeability in the history of ‚Western learned magic‘ and focuses on a particular – conceptual as well as ritual – shift which took place, so the paper argues, at the turn of the 20th century. The paper is derived from a lecture I gave during a Ringvorlesung on the topic of ‚Perfektionierung des Menschen‘ earlier this year. It will appear in a volume that assembles selected lectures of said Ringvorlesung, and thus stands next to papers on genetics, embryo screening, or transhumanism.

The paper first sketches out my current understanding of ‚Western learned magic‘ (ch. 1), and therafter (ch. 2) attempts at outlining the relationship between ‚Optimierung‘ and ‚Perfektionierung‘ in the pre-modern ‚learned magic‘ discourse (I mainly operationalize these two concepts on the level of ritual goals: inner-wordly Kontingenzbewältigung vs. self-deification or apotheosis). Chapter 3 provides the main part of the analysis: the three discussed examples – the Hermetic Order oft he Golden Dawn; Aleister Crowley; and the so-called ‚moonchild experiments‘ by Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard – are intended to illustrate the presumed shift from ‚Optimierung‘ to ‚Perfektionierung‘ in the 20th century ‚learned magic‘ discourse. The final chapter (ch. 4) attempts to provide a range of explanations for this seemingly crucial shift in the history of ‚Western learned magic‘.

Claudia D. Bergmann presented a working paper on 'Last Things Last: The Meal Scene on the Last Page of the Ambrosian Bible'

The paper is part of the research project on Biblical Food Motifs – Contemporary Customs: How Medieval Culture Influenced the Depiction of Food and Eating in Illuminated Jewish Books from Ashkenaz.

The research project sees itself as interdisciplinary. It will discuss the biblical roots for selected food items and food-related activities, investigate depictions of communal meals in early Jewish medieval manuscripts in Ashkenaz, and ask the question how these visual depictions of acts of (communal) eating betray knowledge of early Jewish literary traditions as well as medieval Jewish and Christian (meal) cultures. The main pictorial source for this proposed project are the following early Ashkenazi illuminated manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries: the Ambrosian Bible: c. 1236 probably from Würzburg or Ulm (MS B 32 inf., Bibliotheca Ambrosiana, Milan); the Birds’ Head Haggadah: c. 1300, probably from Würzburg (Israel Museum, Jerusalem); the Leipzig Mahzor: c. 1310, from Southern Germany possibly Worms (Ms Vollers 1002, Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig). The list of 14th and 15th century Ashkenazi manuscripts that will also be taken into consideration includes, but is not limited to: the Darmstadt Haggadah: from the 14th century (COD.OR. 8, Universität- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt); the Ashkenazi Haggadah: c. 1460, probably from Ulm (Add 14762, British Library); the Washington Haggadah: written by Joel ben Simeon from Cologne in 1478 (United States Library of Congress). While the project “Biblical Food Motifs – Contemporary Customs: How Medieval Culture Influenced the Depiction of Food and Eating in Illuminated Jewish Books from Ashkenaz” does not propose to be a comprehensive overview over the topic, it intends to present representative case studies that illustrate the topic.
This is a sub-project of the research project on 'Dynamics of Jewish Ritual Practices in Pluralistic Contexts from Antiquity to the Present'

Gunnar Folke Schuppert is presenting a working paper on 'the language of law in the "concert of language of politics"'

Research on the universal, the world- or, as it seems to have become the conceptual name for it – of global history – are the fashion of the day. This also applies to the global history of ideas, which is considered one of the facets of global history. As far as this branch of a globalized history of ideas is concerned, a number of different approaches are possible. Some prefer to deal with the emergence and dissemination of ‘big ideas’, others - such as Martin Mulsow - hold such a narrowed concepts for little meaningful. Probably the most popular methodical approach, however, is the history of ideas as an entangled history, in particular looking at ‘intermediaries, translations, and networks’. A third methodological approach is to use ideas as a history of language, which means languages ​​used in public discourses, for example, as common good, in order to establish a good and just order and in general terms for a ‘Good Government’. Necessary elements, for example, are the languages of theology, of philosophy but also those of law. The latter leads us to the topic of this working papers, namely the role of language of law in the political discourse, be it the pre-modern, the early modern period, or – in which we are particularly interested in - the present. We suggest that we can learn something about the present when we think about what language of law brought it about.

Jana Ilnicka presented a working paper on 'Relatio in Meister Eckhart's vernacular writing, as found in a re-discovered manuscript (Eisenach Ms. 1361)'

In this paper I am concerned with a Quaestio about 'relatio' in the newly found manuscript of Wartburg. This manuscript contains several texts (the extant is not established yet), which, according to their content, can be attributed to Eckhart alone, one of which is the present question about
relationship. It is here published for the first time and needs further exploration, for which this paper is the first attempt.


Meister Eghart und ouch ander meister sprechent /2 daz zwei ding sind in gode: wesen und widersehen /3 daz da heisset relacio:

nu sprechend die meister /4 daz des vader wesen /5 den sun in der godheit niht gebird:
Wan [da] der vader nach sinem \/ [m.r.: wesen] sicht niht anders danne in sin bloßes wesen /6 und schouwet sich selber da inne /7 nah aller siner kraft /8 und da schouwet er sich blos an den sun /9 und an den heiligen geist: und sicht da niht wan einkeit sines selben wesens
Wen aber der vader ein widerschouwen und ein widersehen haben wil /10 sin selber in einer ander person /11 so ist des vader wesen in dem widersehnenne geberend den sun
/12 und wand er im selber in dem widersehen so wol gauellet /13 und im daz widerschouwen so lustelich ist /14 und wand er alle wollust hat eweklich gehebt /15 darumbe so muost er /16 dis [wist] widersehen
<1> Meister Eckhart and other  Meister too state,  that there are two things in God: being and respect, that is called relatio.
[The counter-argument:]
Now the Meister say that the being of the Father does not give birth to the Son in the godhead.
[The argument:]
<2> If the Father sees according to his being he does not [see] anything except into his bare being and regards himself  in there according to his entire power, and he only sees himself in the Son and in the Holy Spirit, hence he does not see anything but oneness of his very being. 
If, however, the Father wants to have a regard and respect of himself in another person, it is the Father's being which gives birth to the Son in this respect.

<3> And because he is so delighted about himself in this respect, and the retrospection is so desirable for him and because he had such desire for eternity, therefore he must have this respect
<1> 'being and relation'

<2> respect is constitutive for persons in God

<3> eternity of relation

<87v> eweklichen hauen:
darumb so ist der sun ewig als der vader /2 und von dem wolgeuallen und von der minne /3 so vader unde sun ze samen havend /4 so hat der heilig geist sinen urspring:
und nun disv(?) minne zwichchen dem vader und dem sun ist eweklich gewesen: darumbe so ist der heilig geist / als ewig als der vader und der sun: und hand die dri person niht wan ein bloßes wesen und sind allein underscheiden an den personen: wan des vaders person ward nie des suns noch des heiligen geistes person: und alle drie \/ [m.r.: sind] ein ander vremde an den personen / und sind doch ein in dem wesen
for eternity.

The Son is, therefore, as eternal as the Father, and he has the desire and the love jointly with the Father, from where the Holy Spirit has its origin.
Hence, the love between Father and Son has existed for ever.
Hence, the Holy Spirit is as eternal as Father and Son. And the three persons have only one simple being and are different only with regards to the persons. The person of the Father, namely, was never that of the Son nor the person of the Holy Spirit. And all three are alien to each other with regards the persons, although these are one in being.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Jörg Rüpke presented a working paper on 'Gelebte Religion und gebotene Religion: Überlegungen zu Transformationen im römischen Reich'

The Roman Empire covers a period in which religious transformation shaped the history of religion in late antiquity of the Mediterranean basin, Europe and Western Asia. Despite and perhaps particularly because of the many details which are left to us from this epoch, it is a big challenge to create models of description for this period of transformation. This working paper takes as its outset two anithetical sides. On the one side it starts from a lived ancient religion perspective, in which individual adaptation of religious traditions and the resulting dynamics are looked at, so that group formation are only seen as ensuing follow ups. On the other hand the big political area of the Empire is interpreted as the structural framework in which new norms of religious activities are formed.

Cécile Stephanie Stehrenberger is presenting a working paper on 'Praktisches Wissen, Wissenschaft und Katastrophen. Zur Geschichte der sozialwissenschaftlichen Katastrophenforschung, 1949-1989'

During the second half of the 20th Century several US-American social science „disaster research groups“ conducted field studies after earthquakes, factory explosions and “racial riots”. Their aim was to provide practical knowledge that could be applied in the planning and managing of future disasters of both peace- and wartime nature. In this paper, I will elaborate on how this research goal conflicted with some scientists’ aspirations to develop more theoretical knowledge, and how, more generally, it endangered disaster research’s “scientificity”. I will also show how the generated research results came to be ‘impractical knowledge’, which was difficult or impossible to apply. Furthermore this paper analyzes the scientific practices that were involved at different stages of the knowledge production process and contributed to disaster research’s ‘precarious’ character.

Roberto Alciati presents a working paper on 'Ars Ascetica from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages, 200-900 CE'

The current project aims to take up an old theme of research in the study of religion, and in particularly of the history of Christianity: asceticism. The aspiration is to set a new standard in terms of selection of available sources and selection of methods not commonly used in conversation with each other. This process should drive to a novel perspective for conceptualising and framing an astounding set of practices and believes, which is still waiting for its reassessment. By tradition asceticism has constituted a stock theme of great interest in religious studies, anthropology, sociology and theology, but rarely the various ascetic traditions have been interpreted from a large and multi-disciplinary viewpoint. Very few, then, are the theoretical and comparative researches, which focused on asceticism as a whole. On the contrary, many of the histories and critical analysis have assumed that the ascetic within a particular religious or cultural tradition was simple in character, and most have respected the artificially designated boundaries between particular religious systems or cultures (Christian, Jewish, Greek…). These historical-interpretive analysis on asceticism seem to be questionable in a very similar way to what we may see in the broader religious studies. If we look at the history of religions, in the last forty years the traditional way of dealing with this subject has been criticized over on two major grounds. First, it sets religious experience up as the perfect example of something unique or sui generis. Second, it constituted religion (and the religions) as a special aspect of human culture set apart from other aspects. Critics claimed that this approach isolated the study of religion from other disciplines and masked a tacitly agenda of a liberal ecumenical kind. Similar considerations should be extended to asceticism.
1. A methodological remedy
According to these premises, the first urge is to find a remedy for this (misleading) approach by orientating any theorizing act about asceticism beyond the discursive bounds of the traditional fields. In this manner, we shall bridge a traditional gap in scholarship, but at the same time add a novel perspective that has not previously been adopted in studying asceticism. In the wake of Peter Sloterdijk, I take asceticism in its primary Greek meaning as training (askesis). He defines it as programs of training in which he includes a wide array of phenomena that are not traditionally really taken in account in studies of asceticism, but in which the focus always has been directed on elements of renunciation and self-control. By this notion, Sloterdijk is able of proceeding from antiquity to modernity and, thereby, shed light on the presence of asceticism in multiple phenomena like coaching cultures, fitness, sports, art performances, selfstinging or anorexia. This pervasiveness of asceticism takes it to an extent in which every human being is called to develop her or his own individual life program. Sloterdijk, then, has an extraordinary appreciation of the relationships between such phenomena and those confined to a considerably smaller part of society in antiquity. Under this theoretical umbrella, the aim is not to offer a survey or catalogue of the forms of the ascetic life from the third to the tenth century of the Common Era, but, on the contrary, to enucleate the principal characteristics of this form of R. Alciati, Kolloquium MWK, 07.11.2016 2 life and the over-imposed historical debate, from late antiquity onwards. What the research program represents is mainly the effort to expand and radicalize the concept and valence of asceticism. The idea is to detach the practice – or the discourse about it – from its western Christian historicistic-theological moorings, to question and interrupt the apologetic agenda, with its assumptions about cultural exceptionalism and religion and spirituality as the privileged – if not exclusive – domain of activity and interest.

Tanja Visic is presenting a working paper on 'Ethnography of living arrangements, informal work and the transnational care: Experiences of domestic workers from the former Yugoslavia in Germany'

The main objective of the doctoral research project is to examine the phenomenon of care and domestic work from a perspective that combines a macro-level and micro-level using ethnographic approach based on case studies, thick descriptions and perspectives from the actor’s points of view. The text you are reading is doctoral dissertation description which is divided into five parts. The first part introduces the subject of research, main research questions and information about fieldwork that has been conducted so far. The next two sections outline main theoretical debates around domestic and care work within feminist theorization of care work, migration and globalization studies. In the fourth and fifth section I contextualize previously mentioned debates within Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav female labour migration indicating the research gaps in the field and potential contributions of my research project. Next two parts will inform you about research questions, levels of analysis, approach to the research and concepts which will be applied in the study. In the last part I will present multiple practices of data collection known as ethnography I use in the research, and shortly introduce the methodology, namely the challenges of feminist ethnography while focusing on production of knowledge about women lives in specific socio-cultural contexts.