The scholarly dialogue and exchange of ideas in e/αc takes place in conferences, not only in individual conferences focusing on one particular discipline and topic (e.g., ethics and sports), but also in regularly occurring conferences with broader thematic foci, such as the Mainz Moral Meetings (MMM).
The Mainz Moral Meetings are a series of conferences that began in 2009. In cycles of four conferences, individual questions related to ethics are examined from interdisciplinary and international perspective(s). The first cycle of conferences (MMM 1–4) dealt with norms in early Christian ethics and the ethics of antiquity, whereas the second cycle (MMM 5–8) considered the forms employed for explaining ethics, with a particular interest in literary and non-argumentative approaches to ethical reflection (such as, e.g., narrative ethics or doxological ethics). The third cycle of conferences (MMM 9–13) investigated questions concerning “Ethics and Time.” The most recent cycle (MMM 14ff.) explores the theme "To eat or not to eat. Ethics of Food-Cultures," focusing particularly on food and guilt, food and power, life and death, taboos related to food, and abstinence from food.
Conference attendance for interested guests is possible. Please contact the leadership Team for further information.
Fasten, Hungerstreik und Veganismus. Ethik des Essensverzichts
The most recent MMM in the series "To eat or not to eat. Ethik der Esskulturen" took place on May 10, 2023 in the Atrium Maximum of Johannes Gutenberg University. This conference focused on the ethics of abstaining from food. Renowned academics from various disciplines discussed religious fasting in Judaism (Prof. Dr. Andreas Lehnhardt) and Jainism (Dr. Andrea Luithle-Hardenberg), veganism (Prof. Dr. Kurt Remele and Dr. Friederike Schmitz), politically motivated hunger strikes (Dr. Maximilian Buschmann) and fasting to die (Prof. Dr. Michael Coors).
Conference on June 2-4, 2022
Creation Concepts and Creation Care in Early Judaism, Early Christianity, and beyond
To eat or not to eat. Ethik der Essenskulturen / Ethics of Food-Cultures
In antiquity as well as today, "to eat or not to eat" does not represent two possible choices. In order to live, we must eat. The two biblical accounts of creation focus accordingly on food as the divine gift to the earth. What human beings eat, how they eat, with whom they eat, and the significance they attach to each of these aspects constitute what it means to be human. A person’s culture of food, which begins with its making and production, is shaped by this individual’s relationship to the world. Ethics are also reflected in the culture of food as a fundamental world relationship that keeps people alive. Thus, the new cycle of the Mainz Moral Meetings is dedicated to the theme "Ethics of Food-Cultures" and simultaneously recognizes that ethics begins with the basic human need for food. The 14th Mainz Moral Meeting aims at delineating this field and tracing different ethical aspects of meals in antiquity. Themes within the fields of sociology of the body, the worlds of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, pagan mysteries, and early Jewish apocalyptic will be in focus. Based on this, bridges will be built to current ethical discussions. By means of lectures with responses from different fields of expertise, space will be given to an intensive discussion among the participants.
Digital Mini-Symposium on May 17, 2021
Selbstbestimmt sterben - geht das? Die soziale Dimension von Sterben und Suizid in Antike und Christentum
Since the repeal of Section 217 StGB of the German Criminal Code by the Federal Constitutional Court in 2020, the issues of assisted dying and assisted suicide have once again been the subject of intense debate in Germany. The Research Center "Ethics in Antiquity and Christianity" (e/αc) saw this as an opportunity to contribute its specific expertise to this debate and focus in particular on the "social dimension" of dying and suicide by means of a historical-hermeneutical comparison. On Monday, May 17, 2021, from 2:15-4:00 pm, a digital 'mini-symposium' was therefore held under the title "Selbstbestimmtes Sterben – geht das? Die soziale Dimension von Sterben und Suizid in Antike und Christentum." Presentations were given by Bochum-based practical theologian Prof. Dr. Isolde Karle, Cologne-based ancient historian PD Dr. Dagmar Hofmann and e/ac members Prof. Michael Roth, Ulrich Volp, and Ruben Zimmermann. The event was moderated by Prof. Dr. Esther Kobel from e/ac. 90 people took part in the event and were actively involved in the discussion afterwards.
Conference on September 19-22, 2019
Ethics in Titus
On September 19-22, 2019, an international conference on the implicit ethics of the Letter of Titus took place with the support of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.
Conference on May 15-16, 2019
CRISPR/Cas - Der Designte Mensch?
Conference on November 10-11, 2017
Biblical Ethics and Application
Does the Bible still play a role in a Christian’s daily life, in forming a moral character, in providing an orientation for the moral statements of Christian communities such as the churches, or even in social values and norms? Or can the biblical texts serve as a source of stimulation for forms of ethical thinking and reflection (e.g. narrative ethics, metaphorical ethics)? How can one refer to texts of the Bible in moral conduct and ethical debate? Where are the limits of such an application? The general issue will be approached from three different perspectives: 1) a text-immanent linguistic, narrative or rhetorical approach to describe the literary devices and signals whereby a text formulates a more generalized perspective. 2) A socio-historical approach to reconstruct the probable or intended impact of this text on the explicit readers, as well as early Christian or later discourses. 3) A hermeneutical approach dealing with the use of the biblical text in contemporary ethical debates interacting with current ethical theories or moral philosophy. The symposium is held in honor of Prof. Dr. Dr. Jan G. van der Watt, Hoogleraar Exegese van het Nieuwe Testament en Bronteksten van het Christendom, Radboud University, The Netherlands on the occasion of his 65th birthday. He developed pioneering work on Ethics in Johannine Literature, which will be of special interest in the symposium as well.
12th Mainz Moral Meeting on May 17, 2017
Die Zukunft in der ethischen Reflexion / The Future in Ethical Reflection
"I'm more interested in the future than in the past, because the future is where I intend to live," Albert Einstein supposedly once stated, who at the same time is accredited a quite different note about the future: "I never think of the future – it comes soon enough." Is the future of any relevance for ethics? How much future expectation does ethical reflection require, and at what point is it carried away by ideologies?
The third cycle of the Mainz Moral Meetings (MMM 9-13) organized by the e/ac is themed "Ethics and Time". After extensive debates on the role of the past (MMM 10) and the present (MMM 11) in ethical reflections, we are now considering the future and its relevance for ethical discourses. But why, of all things, should we consider the remote and past times of antiquity to understand the importance of the future for ethical reflections? Because it quickly becomes apparent that utopian, dystopian, eschatological, and apocalyptic narratives of the future show an astonishing consistency over time. The future back then has often already become our current past. Our future expectations, our fears and hopes, however, are fed by similar metaphors and imaginations as they were in the ancient times. Can past future expectations be the magistrae vitae of our current future hopes and fears? The future also enforces certain responsibilities upon us, our present ways of living affect our future and the future of later generations, but, at the same time, the future remains to some extent open and in many ways unpredictable. The twelfth MMM concerns itself with the challenges of an unpredictable but vulnerable future and our present responsibilities. There will be one talk respectively on the ethics of the Old and the New Testament; a rather current topic will be treated in a jurisprudential paper on the "Possibility of Norms," and the theological approaches to "Future Ethics" will be covered by the speakers from the department of (Systematic) Theology.
Ethik der Gegenwart / Contemporary Ethics
By placing the present at the center of the discussion, attention is given to the fundamental temporal tense for the present is the realm in which our life takes place. The past and the future can only become a part of the constitutive realm of our lives through the present, namely as the past in the present and the future present. At the same time, however, there is a present danger that ethical reflection, as a result of its interest in the future goal (of an action), may underemphasize the present in the light of the future. As such, the here and now simply becomes the “not yet.” Along these lines the philosopher Gerd Haeffner has written, “What does it mean to live in the present?… A negative answer can easily be offered. One who lives in the past or the future is one who does not live in the present. One who lives in a fantasy and not on the basis of a present awareness is one who does not live in the present.” We are obviously incapable of opening ourselves to our counterparts or to the present if we do not reside in the present. A past that has not been overcome or a future fantasy to which one flees appear to be two sides of the same coin. In neither instance is the present in view. The loss of the present results in the loss of the recognition of one’s counterpart and his or her needs. For this reason, the question of the appropriate forms and means through which the present can be considered becomes a central ethical question. Such an inquiry into the consideration of the present is not intended to replace the interest in shaping the future but rather to provide it with a foundation. What view of the present permits a realistic view of the future? In what ways do the biblical accounts perhaps contribute to a view of the present that is able to see that which is vital and determinative?
Workshop on December 11-12, 2015
Scholars from a variety of disciplines (especially theology, literary studies, and philosophy) participated in a workshop considering the connection between poetics and ethics. The interdisciplinary focus was overtly advanced by the structure of the workshop, which included tandem-presentations, responses, and interdisciplinary panel discussions. Shared views became apparent during the course of the discussions, including the sentiment that it is outdated to exclude the question concerning the relevance of ancient phenomena for contemporary contexts. It also became clear that the participants agreed that ethics is based upon an aesthetic perception and worldview and thus not self-evident but rather necessitating hermeneutical reflection. One criterion considered and discussed during the workshop was that aesthetic perception lead to ethics and a changed viewed of the self at the point when it takes another into consideration.
In sum, one can look back upon a workshop with English- and German-language presentations by scholars from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France in which space was created for fruitful discussion in the overcoming of linguistic and disciplinary barriers.
10th Mainz Moral Meeting on November 2-3, 2015
Ethik der Erinnerung / The Ethics of Memory
It is often only in retrospect that actions are evaluated and become the subject of ethical inquiry. Here, erroneous decisions or violent acts frequently exercise an immense influence in the present in that the experience of trauma or the feelings of guilt retain a present potency. In presentations by Prof. Dr. Jan Assmann (Constance, Egyptology/Cultural Studies), Prof. Dr. Christoph Horn (Bonn, Philosophy), Prof. Dr. Matthias Konradt (Heidelberg, New Testament), Prof. Dr. Martin Walraff (Basel, Patristics), and Dr. Christine Schließer (Zurich, Theological Ethics), MMM 10 brought this retrospective, temporal dimension of ethics to the fore.
Conference on June 26-27, 2015
Sport und Ethik / Sport and Ethics
On June 26-27, 2015 a conference organized by the research group Ethics in Antiquity and Christianity (Prof. Roth and Prof. Volp) and entitled “Performance and Success in Sports, Church, and Society” took place.
“Performance leads to success and success is based on performance.” This is the promise of bourgeois society: status is allocated on the basis of one’s own work and performance. And yet, this measure of success appears to be waning in contemporary civil society even as the performance principle is retained (for the moment) in sports. The sporting world is a world unto itself in which the attempt is made to achieve as precise a comparison of performance as possible. Sports can be valued as one of the few remaining realms in which the connection between performance and success is retained, and so it is surprising that a critical distancing from the performance principle in sport is often found in the church or theological positions. In fact, the sporting world is reproached for its pursuit of performance and achievement.The goal of this conference was to bring about interaction between the differing discourses concerning sports. As such, from the perspective of the philosophy of sports the question of the experience of an athlete was brought into focus, from an ethical perspective the performance principle was considered, and from the perspective of sports psychology the tension between the ideal and reality of sports was contemplated. Of particular import were historical perspectives, including the use of sports metaphors by Paul and in early Christianity, as well as the question of the significance of Christianity for the mindset of performance and advancement.
The papers presented at the conference were later published in a volume edited by Michael Roth and Ulrich Volp, entitled Gut, besser, am besten. Ethische und historische Relfexionen zu Leistung und Erfolg in Sport, Kirche und Gesellschaft (Leipzig, 2016).
9th Mainz Moral Meeting on January 22, 2015
Die scheinbare Zeitlosigkeit der Ethik / The Apparent Timelessness of Ethics
Human actions occur in time and for this reason, temporal concepts affect the contemplation of moral actions. Reflecting upon a particular action involves a retrospective aspect in terms of the completed action, a present aspect in terms of decision, and a prospective aspect in terms of the consequences. At the same time, the Enlightenment restricted ethics to rational argumentation and the ethical subject so that distant horizons and supra-generational perspectives fell out of view. Ethics thus became an apparently timeless endeavor. The consequences of such a reduction are not only evident in concrete interaction with history (e.g., the holocaust, environmental damage) and the future (e.g., demographic displacement, climate change) but also in the absence of meta-ethical categories in ethical descriptions and considerations.
This conference is the first of four dealing with the theme “Ethics and Time,” conferences in which past, present, and future perspectives will programmatically be considered. This introductory conference seeks to define the boundaries of the discussion explore the general temporal dimension of ethics.
Doxologische Ethik / Doxological Ethics
MMM 8 reflected upon “doxological ethics.” To what extent is a ground of action set forth in the speech act of praise? For instance, when one sings a hymn praising creation, is there not a recognition of its value and an indirect and implicit appeal to preserve it? A poem or a song of praise thus has both a dimension of expression and a dimension of appeal along with a further connection to a rationale in that the hymn has an addressee (e.g., the creator). For this reason, great hymns in the history of Christianity, such as the Magnificat or the Canticle of the Sun by Francis of Assisi, have rightly played a formative role in ethics. In this conference the specifics of a doxological reflection upon moral action are to be considered on the basis of various texts along with the manner in which they point to a medium of aesthetically transmitted ethics.
Mimetische Ethik / Mimetic Ethics
The seventh Mainz Moral Meeting concerned itself with mimetic ethics. At the centre of this justification for and ground of ethics is the conforming of oneself or one’s actions to another person or ideal. Since Plato, mimesis has been understood as the appropriate means by which one can conform to the good, the beautiful, and the true. For Aristotle also, mimesis was a tool in the move away from becoming towards that of being precisely because that which is to be imitated is to be found in the realm of being. For this reason, mimesis was necessarily a conforming to the good and thus teleological in its orientation. The ethical potential here is patently obvious. Even though the term “mimesis” has also been utilized by modern and postmodern thinkers, in Jewish and Christian texts of late antiquity one finds the Platonic and neo-Platonic principle of mimesis as self-education through the engagement of and involvement with a worthy and virtuous counterpart. The one viewed to be worthy of imitation is, on account of his or her ethical qualities, the reason why a particular action or a certain lifestyle is necessary. Along these lines, mimetic ethics lays claim to being intimately connected with reality and constructs an ethic into the foundational order of things. Papers were presented by Johan Leemans (Leuven), Dr. Ron Naiweld (Paris), Prof. Dr. Nils Arne Pedersen (Aarhus), Prof. dr. Eve-Marie Becker (Aarhus), and PD Dr. Istvan Czachesz (Heidelberg).
Narrative Ethik / Narrative Ethics
Reflection upon and justification for actions in early Christianity is encountered not only in rational argumentation, such as is found in early tractates. Narratives and letters draw on other argumentative strategies that are worth uncovering. In so doing, it becomes evident that forms of speech are not insignificant vehicles for ethics but rather are significant modes of its expression. Moral reflection on the basis of narratives, metaphors, or hymns takes place in a categorically different manner than moral reflection on the basis of logic and argument. The questions concerning the differences, the advantages, or the limitations of metaphorical, narratival, mimetic, or doxological ethics are the topics of the symposia. Recent discussions in the fields of moral philosophy and ethics have brought to expression the limits of the rational, and a lively debate has developed concerning the manner in which the discourse concerning values can be advanced upon a different basis. Several edited volumes (Joisten; Hofheinz) and works (Fischer) on “narrative ethics” have been published, allowing this MMM to join an ongoing conversation. MMM 6 included two lectures on narrative ethics from the perspective of moral philosophy and literary studies. Subsequently the opportunities created by, as well as the limits encountered in, a narratological approach were explored on the basis of passages taken from the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. Finally, the ethical implications of narrative sections in the Letters of St. Antony were examined.
5th Mainz Moral Meeting on January 17, 2012
Metaphorische Ethik / Metaphorical Ethics
The biblical texts are filled with metaphorical language, even in ethical contexts. Church fathers, such as John Chrysostom, received these texts and expanded upon them with their own metaphors. “You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world” are the opening words to the Sermon on the Mount, a sermon often viewed as containing the foundational teaching of Jesus. Yet how is ethical persuasiveness achieved through metaphors? How does this metaphorical speech become the justification and ground for an ethical declaration? What are the differences between metaphorical and rational reflection on an action?
Papers were presented by, amongst others, Prof. Dr. Jens Herzer (Leipzig), Prof. Dr. Ekkehard Mühlenberg (Göttingen), and Prof. Dr. Christoph Gregor (Müller).
4th Mainz Moral Meeting on February 2, 2011
Tugend und Tugendbegriff in griechisch-hellenistischer Philosophie, biblischer, jüdischer und frühchristlicher Theologie / Virtue and the Concept of Virtue in Hellenistic Philosophy, Biblical, Jewish, and Early Christian Theology
The fourth Mainz Moral Meeting was dedicated to the issue of virtue and conceptions of virtue in antiquity, the Bible, and early Christianity. Thus, the fourth MMM was also concentrated upon a particular theme as conceptions of virtue were considered from a variety of perspectives.
After several decades in which the discussion of “virtue” was largely dormant there has been a recent renaissance in the scholarly dialogue concerning “virtue” with some even speaking of a paradigm shift in this field. Virtue and the conception of virtue were dominant in ethical theory from antiquity into the late Middle Ages. In the Reformation, however, different ethical paradigms emerged, which questioned the validity of an undifferentiated conception of virtue. At the same time, the ethics of virtue survived in both civil society and the Christian churches.
Conference papers were delivered by, amongst others, Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Blümer (Mainz), Prof. Dr. Maximilian Forschner (Erlangen), Prof. Dr. Dr. Eckart Otto (Munich), and Christian Hengstermann (Münster).
3rd Mainz Moral Meeting on July 14, 2010
Der Grundbegriff „Leib“/σῶμα und die Begründungszusammenhänge antiker christlicher Ethik / The Basic Concept of “Body”/ σῶμα and the Grounds of Ancient Christian Ethics
The third conference in the Mainz Moral Meetings series continued in the vein of previous conferences and their attempts to set forth that which identified and justified ancient Christian ethics. Here the focus was upon the concept of the human body (σῶμα) and its corporeality with its anthropological, theological, ethical, and cultural implications.
Presenters at the conference included, among others, the New Testament scholar David Horrell (Exeter in Great Britain), the Systematic Theologian Frederick Aquino (Abilene in the USA), and the Italian New Testament Scholar Lorenzo Scornaienchi (Zurich). Countries represented among the conference participants included Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Great Britain, and the USA.
2nd Mainz Moral Meeting on November 13, 2009
Leben zur vollen Genüge – Lebenskunst. Der Lebensbegriff als ethische Norm in Antike und Christentum / Life to the Fullest—The Art of Living. The Term ‘Life’ as Ethical Norm in Antiquity and Christianity
The second meeting in the series of conferences Mainz Moral Meetings was entitled “Life to the Fullest—The Art of Living. The Term ‘Life’ as Ethical Norm in Antiquity and Christianity.”
Conference papers were delivered by, amongst others, the president of the Protestant Church in the Rheinland and assistant council president of the Protestant Church in Germany Nikolaus Schneider and Frau Prof. Dr. Maren Niehoff from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
1st Mainz Moral Meeting on July 8, 2009
Gut, Güter, Güterabwägung / Good, Goods, Weighing Competing Goods
The first conference in the series of Mainz Moral Meetings was entitled “Good, Goods, Weighing Competing Goods” and considered the question, among others, of how the weighing of good and evil can occur beyond the confines of a purely principled or fully utilitarian approach to ethics.
The conference included numerous participants and several presenters, including the South African New Testament scholar Jan G. van der Watt, who read a paper on “Goods, Values and Actions: A Brief Structural Description of the Process of Action Creation in New Testament Writings.” Van der Watt is the author of more than 20 books, bible translator, and honorary professor in numerous departments of theology around the world. He is particularly known for his work on the Gospel of John and the ethics of early Christianity, along with contextual exegesis in the South African context.