Conference Human Freedom and Dignity: Innovative Humanities

Origen’s values of human dignity and freedom in theological and philosophical traditions: the results displayed

The History of Human Dignity and Freedom in Western Civilization, research collaboration between universities and non-academic organizations across Europe, funded by the European Union's H2020 research and innovation program, presents the results of the study conducted with the aim to trace the roots and transformations of Origen’s values of human dignity and freedom in theological and philosophical traditions. The results will be presented during the conference ‘Human Freedom and dignity:  Innovative Humanities’.

In modern western societies, the ideal human being has the right to choose and express his own beliefs and convictions and to be treated as an autonomous and dignified individual. But such ideas are not shared by all – and never were. The long history of the values of human freedom and dignity has been formed through a continuous battle between two theological and philosophical traditions going back to Origen of Alexandria (c. 185-254) and Augustine of Hippo (354-430). Origen saw humans as free, valuable, and dignified beings, while Augustine saw them as predestined, sinful, and bound to servitude. This battle between the negative and positive views on humanity continued in various contexts from antiquity to modern times.

For the last four years, the large international research network has engaged 14 PhD fellows 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 focused on the reception and assimilation of the theological ideas expounded by the church father Origen from the 3rd century Alexandria. 

The History of Human Dignity and Freedom in Western Civilization research has produced invaluable knowledge on the subject from a historical viewpoint, but their results can also provide an interesting perspective on how ancient philosophical and religious tenets still shape principles of moral and human conduct in our modern society.

The results will be shared on its final conference that will take place in Pécs, Hungary from October 30 to November 3, 2019. 


Wednesday October, 30

17.45-18.00: Greetings György Heidl (Diocese of Pécs)  – Elena Rapetti (UCSC Milano)

18.00-19.00: Public Opening Lecture: Jiří Schneider (Executive Director “The Aspen Institute Central Europe”)

19.30 Dinner

Thursday October, 31

9.00- 12.00 Discussion panel

Peter Martens (St. Louis University), Chair

Participants: Anders-Christian Jacobsen (Network Coordinator, Aarhus University), Jiří Schneider, Karla Pollmann (University of Bristol), Ben Ryan (Head of Research at Theos), Sara Contini (University of Bristol), Valeria Dessy (Aarhus University)

  • How to assert the relevance of the Arts and Humanities in a disruptive world
  • What is “progress” in the Arts and Humanities
  • Application and Commercialization in higher education – opportunities and limits
  • How to organize successful inter- and multidisciplinarity in challenge-led research clusters

12.00-13.00 Lunch

Presentations from ESRs I

14.00- 16.00 Morten Kock Møller (Charles University Prague) - Ilaria Scarponi (University of Bristol). Respondents Marco Rizzi (UCSC Milano) - Lorenzo Perrone (Università di Bologna)

16.00-16.30 Coffee break

16.30-18.30 Sara Contini (University of Bristol) - Valeria Dessy (Aarhus University). Respondent Samuel Fernandez (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

19.30 Dinner

Friday November, 1

Presentations from ESRs II

8.45-9.45 Karen Donskov Felter (WWU Münster). Respondent Anders Borre Gadegaard (Lutheran Church of Denmark)

9.45-10.45 Elisa Bellucci (MLU Halle-Wittenberg). Respondent Daniel Cyranka (MLU Halle-Wittenberg)

10.45-11.00 Coffee break

11.00-12.00 Andrea Bianchi (UCSC Milano). Respondent Andrea Scazza (Drop In/SerdP Reggio Emilia)

12.00-13.00 Kristian Bunkenborg (WWU Münster). Respondent Iben Damgaard (University of Copenhagen)

13.00 Lunch

Excursion: Guided tour of the Bishop Palace, Mosque of Pasha Qasim, Cella Septichora

19.30 Dinner

Saturday November, 2

Presentations from ESRs III

9.00-11.00 Giovanni Tortoriello (MLU Halle-Wittenberg) - Elisa Zocchi (WWU Münster).Respondent Thomas Leinkauf (WWU Münster)

11.00-11.30 Coffee break

11.30-12.30 Johannes Renders (Aarhus University).Respondent Simon Stjernholm (University of Copenhagen)

13.00 Lunch

14.00-16.30 “Café Origéniste” organized by Karla Pollmann

  • Highlights and surprises in our academic investigations regarding the history of human freedom and dignity in Western civilization
  • What is the impact of this interdisciplinary and reception-oriented approach to Origen (and to a lesser degree Augustine) on the discipline of theology and on our understanding of religion?
  • Challenges and opportunities of the ITN for the ESRs regarding the combination of the academic and the non-academic component
  • How can we build on the project results and can make them fruitful for further academic work and for further impact in non-academic contexts?

16.30-17.00 Coffee break

17.00-17.30 Alfons Fürst (WWU Münster), Insights and new ideas from the project

17.30-18.00 Anders-Christian Jacobsen (Network Coordinator), Closing remarks

19.30 A typical Hungarian soirée (wine tasting and dinner)