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The History of Human Freedom and Dignity in Western Civilization

  • From antiquity to modernity

About the Project

The ITN “The History of Human Freedom and Dignity in Western Civilization” is a research collaboration between 6 universities and 9 non-academic partner organizations across Europe. The project will trace the historical roots and transformations of the modern conception of humans as dignified and free beings, especially as met with in theological and philosophical traditions.

The ITN has two major aims: To train ESRs and to investigate the philosophical and theological traditions behind the modern Western conception of humans as free, valuable, and dignified beings, and how these traditions developed chronologically and geographically. The network will focus on the reception and assimilation of the theological ideas expounded by the church father Origen from the 3rd century Alexandria. He argued, among other things, for human freedom, dignity, and capacity to master sin, but his views lost to those of Origen’s mighty opponent – Augustine of Hippo – whose conception of humans was based on the doctrine of original sin, and who emphasized a predetermined fate, no free will, and human servitude.

Follow the link to read more about the project and the individual PhD positions: 

Read the full project description

Project Partners and Participants

The ITN is a collaboration between Aarhus University, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Univerzita Karlova v Praze, and University of Reading.

The ITN also cooperates closely with nine non-academic partner organizations: Mohr Siebeck Verlag, Franckesche Stiftungen zu Halle, Verlag Walter de Gruyter, Lutheran Church of Middle Germany, Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, Aschendorff Verlag, Dar al-Kalima College of Arts and Culture, The Diocese of Pécs, Christian Heritage Institute, and Etikos Aps. The entire ITN is supported by a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB).

Read more about the SAB, partners and beneficiaries

In addition, we have established fruitful collaborations with a number of external researchers and other networks - find them here.

Finally, 14 ESRs are engaged in the ITNs research. You can read more about them on this page - here you will also find the trailer to the upcoming movie about Freedom, created by one of the ESRs.

Upcoming events


14-16: Origen and the Origenian tradition on progress (Rome)
27-31: Contours and Expressions of the Self in Ancient Mediterranean Cultures (Jerusalem)


2: Colloquium Adamantianum II (Cambridge)
13-16: Origen’s Platonism (Los Angeles)


7: Beierwaltes Seminar III on Origen and Christian Platonism (Cambridge)


20: Beierwaltes Seminar IV on Origen and Christian Platonism (Cambridge)


29-30: Verurteilung des Origenes – Kaiser Justinian und das Konzil von Konstantinopel 553 (Münster)


PhD course in Human Resource Management (Aarhus) - dates will follow

This list is regularly updated. A PDF of main events (only updated every three months) is also available here.




2018.03.22 | Research news, Events

Origen - from Chile to England

At the University of Reading, ESRs Ilaria and Sara as well as other lucky PhD fellows were treated with a three-day full immersion into Origen, when Professor Samuel Fernández from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile came to visit in mid-February. Sara Contini has shared her experiences with us in this report.

2018.03.20 | Knowledge exchange

New audios: ESR presentations from the network-wide seminar II

In late February (2018), some of our ESR presented aspects of their research on the network-wide seminar in Drübeck. Based on 10-page articles about a research-related topic of their own choice, each recorded presentation lasts about 15-20 minutes - listen and enjoy.

2018.03.13 | Knowledge exchange, Events

Beierwaltes Seminars on Origen and Christian Platonism - call for papers

Dr. Christian Hengstermann has arranged two seminars in Cambridge on Origen and Platonism to take place in July and October 2018. PhD fellows and postdocs are invited to give papers on their current research.


This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 676258.

Program: H2020 ITN-HHFDWC-676258
Participants: 14 PhDs, 6 universities and 9 non-academic partner organizations
Period: 48 months
Grant: EUR 3,651,149
Starting date: January 1, 2016
Countries: DK, DE, IT, CZ, GB, IL, HU
Coordinator: Aarhus University, Denmark



Network Coordinator

Anders-Christian Jacobsen

Professor with Special Responsibilities


Birgitte Bøgh (administrative coordinator), or +45 50 56 54 66


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Revised 22.03.2018