You are here: Home PhD Fellows

PhD Fellows

Michael Raubach

My project is exploring how the social imaginary of ‘freedom’ changes in the mid-twentieth century in response to two intersecting cultural movements: the secularization of the West and the disruption of structuralism by post-modernity. These are certainly not exclusive categories, but they are also not coterminous. As such, I think it will be important to take them on their own terms as somewhat independent interrelated fields of understanding, ‘life-worlds’, which the average contemporary westerner is being conditioned by and participating in. The secularization thesis presented by Taylor in A Secular Age (2007) will be vital to this study, as well as the work of Talal Asad in Formations of the Secular (2003). Both these authors understand secularization through the interactions of material and ideological forces in given times and places that variously produce ­the epistemological approach, the political activity, the social theory, and the self-conceptions, and I think it is these that also condition how freedom is understood in the concomitant theological contexts. The post-modern idea of the displacement and deconstruction of bodies – whether of knowledge, power, sociality, sexuality, etc. – through the disassemblage of the metanarratives that purportedly constructed these bodies both challenges the notion of any one ‘secularity’ writ large across the West but also seems to be a causal force that opens up large cultural spaces in which various social revolutions like secularization emerge. As a piece of written work, these ideas and sources will come together in a systematic theology of freedom read through the work of 20th-century theologians like Jürgen Moltmann and Miroslav Volf. In addition to these, I will also conduct a reading of Origen’s writings on freedom. The purpose of this is to show ways in which theological challenges like theodicy and solutions like apokatastasis arise within the particular grammar of one or the other definition, and if so how the possibility of a shift in the understanding of liberty as a result of cultural transformations complicates these theological ideas. The conclusion of this work will be a theological restatement of the idea of freedom – synthesized from the work of theologians, church fathers, and scripture – that will offer what the political and philosophical definitions fall short of: true freedom.

The project is advised by Prof. Anders-Christian Jacobsen at Aarhus University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

­

­             

                  Michael Raubach
               raubachm@cas.au.dk

 

 

Laurel Lied

My name is Laurel Joy Lied and I am a theologian and historian originally from the US. In Spring 2016 I completed an M.Phil in Medieval Studies at the University of Oslo, examining trends and tendencies behind the creation and development of Christian vocabulary within Old Norse during the medieval period. Now I am returning to my first academic passion of theology and church history. I had previously completed a MAR in Theology at Yale Divinity School in 2014.

My PhD project, part of a larger project on Origin’s impact on Western thought, will explore the influence and accessibility of earlier (primarily German) pietistic thought on a lay Danish audience, especially through hymnody. I will investigate and trace what types of anthropological models were present in the devotional literature published, or widely available, in Denmark in the late 17th and 18th centuries. I will argue that any anthropological understanding is dependent upon and revealed through the normative forms of spiritual life, practices, and development described in this literature.

This research project operates across several different academic fields, including theology, intellectual history, and church history. I hope to explore more deeply the process of the reception history of both actual texts and theological ideas as they travel across geographic, linguistic, and socio-economic borders. More importantly, I hope to bring to light the spiritual disciplines and practices of 18th century Denmark as a resource for investigating the history of pastoral care and the role of spirituality as a shaper of culture, a vital theme for the modern world.

The PhD project is located at Aarhus University and falls under the supervision of Professor Anders-Christian Jacobsen.

 

 

 

 

­

              

                     Laurel Lied
               laurel.lied@cas.au.dk

­­

Johannes Renders

During my academic training at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, I developed an interest and specialized in researching spiritual/philosophical questions with anthropological methods. In my sub-project, I approach the idea of human freedom as a zone of awkward engagement between the dominant Danish public discourse and its Muslim voices. I explore this zone performing ethnographic fieldwork with a Foucauldian gaze, looking at how secular and religious rhetorics both intersect and speak cross purposes, revealing the power dynamics at play in the formation of specialized knowledge on freedom, while paying attention to the way my own intervention and training as an anthropologist figures in these dynamics. By researching how human freedom is spoken of in the Danish-Muslim community, my intention is to produce an ethnographic account consisting of fragments of discourse, evoking in the receiver a possible world of commonsense reality, provoking an aesthetic integration with a therapeutic effect. In other words, by relating my own transformational fieldwork experiences and conceptual development, make a possibly unfamiliar conception of human freedom familiar, always keeping an eye on the mechanisms of its discursive formation. With my project and particular brand of ethnographic storytelling, I situate myself in a strongly reflexive anthropological tradition that engages issues in ethnographic authority, representation, and legitimization, involving as well authors such as Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, and Jacques Derrida to explore the mechanisms of discourse and problematize the academic production of knowledge. 

The project will be conducted at Aarhus University under the supervision of Prof. Lene Kühle.

 

 

 

 

­

­            

                 Johannes Renders
          johannes.renders@cas.au.dk

­

­

Elisa Zocchi

My name is Elisa Zocchi; I come from Italy, and I graduated in Philosophy at the Catholic University of Milan. Philosophical anthropology has always been my main interest. I wrote my Bachelor thesis (2013) on the Event in Heidegger’s thought and my Master thesis (2015) on the role of affectivity in his philosophy, with a special focus on the relation between moods and transcendence. I have studied for short periods in Germany and France; for my MA I spent a year at the Theology Faculty of Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck

My PhD project is exploring the reception of Origenian ideas in modern Catholic theology, with a particular focus on Hans Urs von Balthasar. The goal of this project is to understand why Origen became so important for authors like Balthasar, who lived in a very particular moment in Catholic Church history and will play a fundamental role in the theology around the Second Vatican Council. Authors like de Lubac and Rahner, some among the many interlocutors of Balthasar, will be analyzed in relation to Origenian ideas. Balthasar’s study of the Fathers is, however, no easy retrieval: Origen is not simply brought back in the XX century but treated as an interlocutor when trying to solve the peculiar problem as the relations between nature and grace or between economic and immanent Trinity. All these issues will be analyzed in light of Balthasar’s reading of Origen, starting specifically from his anthology Spirit and Fire. This will offer a clear insight into how a particular interpretation of Origen will remain important, for Balthasar, when shaping his own theology. The main evidence is given by the notion of spiritual senses, which plays a pivotal role in Balthasar’s Glory of the Lord. Providing a better understanding of the value of corporeality and aesthetic, this doctrine also opens up the mystery of God who shows himself and at the same time hides. The mystery of the divine incarnation, the center of Origen’s Logos-Theology, is indeed what for Balthasar opens up the dramatic relationship between divine and human freedom (Theo-Drama).

The PhD project is entitled The reception of Origenian ideas in modern Catholic theology and falls under the supervision of Professor Dr. Dr. Alfons Fürst at Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster.

 

 

 

 

 

­

              Elisa Zocchi

                     Elisa Zocchi
              zocchi@uni-muenster.de 

Renze Klamer

My name is Renze Klamer, 32 years old, from The Netherlands. I am thrilled to start this new project because it elegantly combines my two master degrees: I studied Theology at the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Leuven and Human Resource Management at the Rotterdam School of Management.

My project is the last in the ITN project on Human Freedom and Dignity, focusing on how and to what extent these two values are used in modern organizations. In it, I expressly want to combine the fields of Theology, Management and Business Ethics.  Various research methods will be used: qualitative methods (interviews and focus groups) to gain insight into how these values are conceived, quantitative analysis to assess the extent to which these values actually play a role in organizations and theological reflection on the role that autonomy and dignity should play when thinking about work.

Work is a central domain in the lives of many people. It can be a great source of personal dignity. A place where people feel valued and find purpose. But at the same time, the workplace can also host many threats to individual dignity.  Whether that be from horrible bosses, disrespectful clients, or monotonous labor, indignity comes in many shapes and sizes. And almost by definition, the workplace stands in tension with human dignity and autonomy. With dignity because employees are not considered as ends in themselves, but means to the organizational goals. And with autonomy, because most work is done in hierarchical settings, where at least some freedom and autonomy is sacrificed.

I am very blessed to work with a great consulting firm throughout this whole project: Etikos. They help organizations to reflect ethically on managerial and cultural problems. The owner, Christina Busk, will act as co-supervisor and advise on the organizational research.

The PhD project, located at Aarhus University, is called The values of individual freedom and dignity in modern organizations and falls under the supervision of Professor Anders-Christian Jacobsen.

 

 

 

 

 

­

               

                  Renze Klamer
            renze.klamer@cas.au.dk

Ilaria Scarponi

My name is Ilaria Scarponi, and I am a philologist from the University of Bologna, Italy. In 2015, I completed a MA in Ancient Christian Literature, where I focused on Jerome’s Prefaces to the Scriptures. In this instance, I first encountered the issue of Origen's reception on the part of later authors; in fact, studying Jerome's Prefaces was cause for reflection on the relationship between Jerome's translations and Origen, the brilliant author of the Hexapla.

My PhD project will explore how Origen’s ideas regarding the subjects of human freedom and free will continued to have an impact in the aftermath of Augustine’s writings and how he, despite his official condemnation in the 6th century, continued to inspire a number of early Western thinkers. My work will be based on the study of the texts by authors who represent important milestones of Origen’s reception during the medieval period such as Cassian, Fulgentius of Ruspe, Gregory the Great, Bede, Gottschalk and John Eriugena, in order to obtain a clear vision of their understanding of the human condition and to analyse and reason their debt to Origen. I believe the analysis of the works by these authors in the light of Origen shall provide interesting and innovative results. Moreover, the notions of human freedom and free will are – today more than ever – a relevant and fruitful cause for reflection.

The PhD project is entitled The reception of Origen from Augustine until Eriugena. It is located in University of Reading, UK, and is supervised by professor Karla Pollmann.

­

 

 

 

               

                   Ilaria Scarponi
           i.scarponi@reading.ac.uk

Andrea Bianchi

My name is Andrea, and I have completed my studies in Philosophy and in Peace and Conflict Studies, both at the University of Vienna, Austria, and at the University of Bradford, UK. My interests have always been on exploring the most basic philosophical assumptions of our thinking and on how these influence the culture we live in. With this PhD project, my goal is, in the same way, to contribute to the exploration of how our culture has been influenced over the centuries by different theorizations of the basic notions of freedom and free will.

The provisional title of my PhD project is “Origenian influence on Dutch Arminianism”. By carrying it out, I would like to uncover the role and the extent that the ideas of Origen from Alexandria (185-254) have had on theological-philosophical debates of the seventeenth century, particularly regarding controversies that were based or had implications on different ways of understanding the notion of “freedom” (very popular at that time especially through protestant reform discussions on divine grace and predestination). More specifically, among the variety of actors and groups of that time, a special focus will be placed on the influence of Origenian ideas of freedom and free will on Dutch Arminian theology. In order to accomplish this task, my primary focus will be on the writings of Jean Le Clerc (1657-1736), a very influential but highly under-researched literate, philosopher and Arminian theologian. The little research produced on Le Clerc’s relation to Origen’s idea of human freedom and on his overall consideration of Origen's thoughts has been unable to put together a coherent picture in this regard; the result is thus a controversial literate that is both amazed by and highly critical of Origen at the same time. 

Although I will have to travel around now and then, for the project's courses and other conferences, seminars, etc., my work will mainly take place at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy, and will be supervised by Prof. Elena Rapetti.

 

 

 

 

 

                 

                    Andrea Bianchi
           andrea.bianchi1@unicatt.it

Kristian Bunkenborg

With this project, I have just embarked upon an academic venture both daring and subtle. Focusing on the writings of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, the project intends to highlight the limits of rational thought with regard to the conceptions of human freedom and dignity.

Through my years at the Theological Faculty in Copenhagen, my focus has consistently revolved around the field of Literature and Theology with a tendency towards the political actualization of the theoretical frameworks. With my master’s thesis Religious Representations of Reality in Post-Apartheid South Africa, I indicated a relation between the political language in South Africa and biblical narrative, a relation similar to the connections between judicial and religious language in Israel observed by Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem.

The project at hand consists of a double approach; firstly, through Lessing’s philosophical writings. This investigation revolves around Lessing’s Great Ugly Ditch, and how it relates to modern conceptions of necessary and revealed truth in connection to the present debate on free will and dignity. The second part is concerned with his fictional writings, where his plays are analyzed to show how Lessing attempts through fiction the leap that his logical writings could not. Lessing asks the question: what can the study of a revelatory religion contribute to a modern anthropology? This question is also at the forefront of the collected ITN project. In Lessing, we find an eloquent advocate for the necessity of a theological approach to the questions of free will and human dignity. We also find a critical skeptic who points to the limitations of theoretical knowledge and calls for humility and consideration in the structuring of arguments. With these qualities, the study of Lessing’s position should help strengthen and qualify the present debate on free will, dignity, and human rights.

The project, supervised by Prof. Daniel Cyranka, is entitled “Human freedom and dignity in the late 18th-century debates on revelation, religion, and the human” and is located at the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg.

 

 

 

 

 ­

                 

                   Kristian Bunkenborg
     kristian.bunkenborg@theologie.uni-halle.de

Karen Felter

“The human person is a unique composite – a unity of spirit and matter, soul and body, fashioned in the image of God and destined to live forever.” The quote from Pope John Paul II indicates the mysterious bodily condition of the human being that has occupied theologians, philosophers, and scientists for centuries.

I have a keen theological interest in the relation between body and spirit, and in exploring the body as an epistemological source that challenges gendered cultures and practices, social construction and political power, ideology, and the historical production of norms. When I graduated as cand.theol. in 2014 from the University of Copenhagen it was with a thesis that explored the intersection between New Testament Studies and Gender Studies.

With this PhD project I have the opportunity to explore the relation between body and spirit in a different light: As it occurs in a historical source from the 17th century England. My PhD project focuses on Anne Conway (1631-1679) and how she views the intersection between human freedom, spirit and body. Conway was part of an influential group of philosophers called the Cambridge Platonists, who drew on an Origenian concept of freedom in which there is no dichotomy between mind and body. At the core of their liberal philosophy was Origen’s notion of freedom and the capability of moral self-determination. Based on this idea, the Cambridge Platonists forged the first Anglican rational theology in the footsteps of Origenism and Platonism and thus turned out to be forerunners of the concept of human autonomy and agency during the Enlightenment.

 

My study will be conducted at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Dr. Alfons Fürst.

 

 

 

 

 

­­­

                  

                        Karen Felter
              donskovf@uni-muenster.de

Giovanni Tortoriello

As an Early Stage Researcher in ITN Project The History of Human Freedom and Dignity in Western Civilization, I will investigate the influence of Pico della Mirandola’s thought on the Reformation. The Count of Mirandola is one of the prominent and most disputable philosophers of Italian Renaissance. Although some of his works were published posthumously by his nephew Gianfrancesco, the impact of Pico’s thought on Renaissance culture goes beyond Italian boundaries.

In the Oratio on the Dignity of Man (De Hominis Dignitate), considered as a sort of Renaissance manifesto, Pico exalts human freedom, philosophical research, and the natural desire of knowledge that goes beyond a national culture. Inevitably, a man of such intellectual fervor raised a strong interest in scholars. Interpreting the complexity of his thought is an unavoidable starting point to understand a period at the same time fascinating and contradictory as Renaissance.

Focusing my efforts on the reception of Pico’s thought during the period of Reformation, I hope to give an original contribution to the understanding of the cultural context in which one of the most significant events in European History took place. The project is entitled A new vision of mankind: Pico della Mirandola’s thought and is under the supervision of Professor Friedemann Stengel at the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg.

 

 

­

         

                Giovanni Tortoriello
      giovanni.tortoriello@theologie.uni-halle.de

Elisa Bellucci

Which seeds contributed to shaping the so-called German Radical Pietism strand? My research seeks to explore and clarify the context, the framework and the influences that played a key role in Eleonora Petersen’s thought.

My name is Elisa Bellucci and I graduated in philosophy from the Catholic University of Milan. My studies focused on 17th-century authors, especially Descartes. Both my bachelor and master thesis inquired his thought. I want to analyze the thought of different authors from a historical point of view - in my opinion, the best way to understand ideas.

The main purpose of my research is to clarify the sources of Eleonora Petersen’s thought, as well as of Radical Pietism strand in general. Since Eleonora Petersen became acquainted with Pietism by frequenting the two main exponents of conventicles movement in Frankfurt, Spener, and Schutz, I will first focus on the historical relationship between these authors. By exploring the ideas that shape Eleonora’s thought and their link with Spener’s and Schutz’s ideas, I will take into consideration also the social and political framework wherein she developed them. I will thus explore the influences of different fields of thought on her works. Among these, the link with the Orthodox-Protestant theology, who referred mainly to the Aristotelian Philosophy; the link with Jews and with the Jewish text of Cabbala; and also, the reference to Origen. The main contribution that this research can bring is, first, to clarify the historical development of these authors’ ideas and doctrines, mainly Eleonora Petersen’s, and, second, to shed more light on the part that Pietism played in the society of 17th and 18th century.

The project is entitled “debate on human freedom and dignity in the German strand of Radical Pietism – The sources of Eleonora Petersen’s ideas”. I will be working at the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg under the supervision of Prof. Friedemann Stengel.

 

 

 

 

 

­

­                  

                     Elisa Bellucci
          elisa.bellucci@theologie.uni-halle.de

Morten Koch Møller

My name is Morten, and I have studied Theology at the University of Copenhagen. I completed my master’s degree in Theology in 2013. In my thesis, I dealt with the exegesis of the ninth chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans in the writings of Origen, Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, and Augustine. The focus was on their respective understandings of the great dogmatic theme of the relation between divine grace, providence, and predestination on the one side and the human will on the other. The exegesis of Romans 9 was shown to be remarkably similar in the writings of Origen, Ambrosiaster, and Chrysostom as well as in Augustine’s early works. They saw Paul’s teaching in Romans 9 as being compatible with the doctrine of human freedom when understood in the context of divine foreknowledge. But later Augustine came to the conclusion that Paul’s words in this chapter could not be reconciled with the notion of human free will.

I will attempt to delve further into the theological anthropology of Origen and Augustine in my PhD dissertation in the context of the Innovative Training Network (ITN) “The History of Human Freedom and Dignity in Western Civilization”. In a comparative analysis of the anthropology of the two great patristic authors, I will try to ascertain how similar the views of Origen and the early Augustine were and to which extent the mature Augustine left his early view of the human will and thereby a more Origenian type of Christian anthropology. The emphasis will be placed on their exegesis of Romans 9 as this chapter is arguably one of the most important influences on Augustine’s doctrine of the relation between grace and the will. When Augustine’s “Wirkungsgeschichte” in Western Christianity is taken into account, this project can hopefully contribute to a deepened understanding of the image of man that eventually emerged in Western civilization. 

I am going to work as a PhD fellow at the Protestant Theological Faculty at Charles University in Prague under the supervision of Prof. Lenka Karfíkova.

 

 

 

 

 

                  

                Morten Koch Møller
                moller@etf.cuni.cz 

Joshua Roe

I completed my MPhil in Theology at the University of Oxford with a particular focus on the interaction between modern theology and philosophy. The thesis examined how Martin Heidegger appropriated the work of Duns Scotus (albeit including some apocryphal texts). It showed that the reception of Scotus informing Heidegger was fundamentally different to what scholarship on Heidegger and Scotus has assumed as characterizing Scotus’ ideas. During this program, I also carried out research on Immanuel Kant and Karl Leonhard Reinhold, as well as a comparison of phenomenological aspects in the works of Jean-Luc Marion and Karl Barth.

In addition to the work in philosophy and theology, I also have a master’s degree in European Studies from KU Leuven. In the thesis for this program, I used the theory of Pierre Bourdieu to analyze how Jacques Delors (EC Commission President 1985-95) was influenced by Personalism (especially Emmanual Mounier).

As a new PhD fellow in the project The History of Human Freedom and Dignity in Western Civilisation, my research will examine the extent and ways in which Kant’s philosophy has been influenced by Origenistic ideas. It will focus on philosophers, who both influenced Kant and drew directly on Origen’s work. These include: philosophers of history from the Wolffian and Leibnizian schools, such as Johann Jakob Brucker, Anton Friedrich Büschung and Johann Augustus Eberhard; as well as other figures from contrasting historiological traditions, such as Pierre Bayle and Jakob Böhme. The starting point for Kant’s ’religious philosophy’ will be ’Religion within the Bounds of Mere Reason’, yet this text is embedded in the ideas of the earlier critical works hence the wider context of Kant’s writings will also need to be addressed.

The project is based at the University of Münster, and the primary supervisor will be Prof. Dr. Dr. Alfons Fürst. 

 

 

 

­­­

­

­              

                    Joshua Roe
         joshua.roe@uni-muenster.de

All about Freedom

For a bit of fun, watch the trailer to the upcoming and soon-to-be reward-winning movie on Freedom, starring the ITN ESR Karen Felter: 

Comments on content: 
Revised 14.08.2017