Call for papers: The Search For Moral Common Ground

21 until 23 March 2022

In the current political, cultural, and moral climate, constructive debates about morality are rare. On the one hand, positions are highly polarized. On the other hand, there seems to be a significant relativistic tendency. Can we still have meaningful conversations about matters of morality? We invite theologians, philosophers and others working in the field of humanities or related disciplines, interested in the theme of Searching Moral Common Ground, to submit their proposals for a paper presentation at the Moral Compass International Conference.

Conference theme

In the current political, cultural, and moral climate, constructive debates about morality are rare. On the one hand, positions are highly polarized. On the other hand, there seems to be a significant relativistic tendency. Can we still have meaningful conversations about matters of morality? Is there a shared moral language between representatives of opposing positions? Is there a shared ‘moral compass’ that could guide conversations about morality? Does moral common ground exist in a world with so many different religions and ideologies? If we do find each other in shared ideas about matters of morality, is this only on an abstract level, such as an abstract idea of human rights? Or is it only on a practical level, such as the consensus about the need for accessible health care or freedom of speech? Or on all of these levels? How do we balance our search for a shared moral framework while taking into consideration the particularity of people’s moral frameworks? What are the role and importance of religion and theological reflection in these matters?

Themes

The Moral Compass Project of the Protestant Theological University invites researchers in the fields of theology, religious studies, and philosophy, as well as sociology and anthropology, to join us in exploring such (meta-)ethical questions in the conference The search for moral common ground. In particular, we are interested in contributions to the following three subthemes.

  • Subtheme 1: Empirical research with regard to the topic of moral common ground

    We welcome contributions that discuss empirical research with regard to moral diversity and moral common ground. We are mainly interested in contributions that shed light on the relevance of the results of such research for further issues pertaining to the topic of moral common ground - viz. the attainability and desirability of moral common ground, how to increase convergence on pertinent moral issues, how to further such convergence while remaining sensitive to deep (cultural) differences, and so forth. Questions to be explored here could be, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Which moral values are shared by people living in different (specific) cultures?
    • How deep is moral diversity, both within (specific) cultures and between (specific) cultures?
    • What are important causes of polarization with regard to morality?
    • What is the role of religion both in fostering as well as in bridging moral diversity?
    • What methods or practices stimulate convergence on pertinent moral issues?
    • How relativistic are we with regard to morality? Is moral relativism declining or on the rise, both in our own culture, and worldwide?   
  • Subtheme 2: A shared moral compass?

    We welcome contributions that discuss the idea of a moral compass and the question of to what extent it can be thought of as shared. Questions to be explored could be, but are not limited to, the following:

    • What capacities are involved in coming to know good and evil, right and wrong? Can such capacities be conceived in terms of a moral compass?
    • How do notions such as conscience, natural law, intuition, virtue, etc., relate to the idea of a moral compass?
    • Are such capacities in some sense ‘natural’? Should they be thought of as evolved and/or cultivated? Or do we have to conceive them as divinely infused?
    • Which conditions impair the proper functioning of such capacities? To what degree does sin bear upon them?
    • Should we be sceptical about the idea of a (shared) moral compass, and if so, why?
  • Subtheme 3: Fundamental reflections on moral common ground

    We welcome contributions that contain fundamental philosophical and/or theological reflections on  the idea of moral common ground. Questions to be explored could be, but are not limited to, the following:

    • How should we understand the very idea of ‘moral common ground’?
    • Should we conceive of moral common ground in terms of an ‘overlapping consensus’?
    • Does the search for moral common ground require giving up (or bracketing) the particularity of one’s (substantial) ‘worldview’?
    • What kinds of theological narratives enable Christians to search for moral common ground?
    • How is (belief in) the existence of God related to moral common ground?
    • What is the relation between moral common ground and human rights?
    • How important is it to reach moral common ground? Is it something human beings should aspire to?
    • Does the search for moral common ground exclude moral relativism?

Keynote speakers

  • Gabriël van den Brink, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    Gabriël van den Brink is Professor of Philosophy at Centrum Ethos at Vrije Universiteit. He has published more than 45 books related to different aspects of Dutch social life. In 2006 he was appointed as a full professor in Social Administration at the University of Tilburg. In 2009 he started as the president of the Tilburg School for Politics and Public Administration. After his retirement in Tilburg he switched to Centrum Ethos in order to teach philosophy. 

  • Jennifer Herdt, Yale University Divinity School, USA

    Jennifer Herdt is Gilbert L. Stark Professor of Christian Ethics at the Yale University Divinity School. She has published widely on the history of modern moral thought, notably on virtue, natural law, moral agency, and ethical formation. One of her recent publications is Forming Humanity: Redeeming the German Bildung Tradition (Chicago, 2019). She is a senior member of the research team for Collaborative Inquiries in Theological Anthropology, a multi-year project funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

  • Sabine Roeser, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands

    Sabine Roeser is Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Professor of Ethics at TU Delft. Her research covers theoretical, foundational topics concerning the nature of moral knowledge, intuitions, emotions, art and evaluative aspects of risk, but also urgent and hotly debated public issues on which her theoretical research can shed new light, such as nuclear energy, climate change and public health issues.

  • Rebekka A. Klein, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany.

    Rebekka A. Klein is Professor of Systematic Theology at the Faculty of Protestant Theology at the Ruhr University in Bochum. For her research, she was awarded the Hanns Lilje Science Prize for Freedom and Responsibility in 2019 and the Karl Heim Prize in 2009. In 2011, she was the only Protestant theologian to be awarded one of the Volkswagen Foundation's Dilthey Fellowships. Her main areas of work include political theology and the theory of democracy, theories of God's weak power, love of neighbor and altruism, and vulnerability and bodily subjectivity as paradigms of a new interdisciplinary anthropology. She is co-editor of In Need of A Master. Politics, Theology and Radical Democracy (DeGruyter, 2021) and author of Sociality as the Human Condition: Anthropology in Economic, Philosophical and Theological Perspective (Leiden, 2011).

    Rebekka A. Klein is Professor of Systematic Theology, Christian Dogmatics and Ecumenical Theology at Ruhr-University Bochum. She is also director of the Institute of Ecumenical Theology in Bochum. She is co-editor of In Need of A Master. Politics, Theology and Radical Democracy (DeGruyter, 2021).

  • Nicholas Adams, University of Birmingham, UK

    Nicholas Adams holds the Chair of Philosophical Theology at the University of Birmingham. His two principal areas of research are the impact of German Idealism on Christian theology together with the investigation of philosophical problems in inter-religious engagement.Among his publications is Eclipse of Grace: Divine and Human Action in Hegel (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013).

  • Michael Banner, Trinity College, Cambridge, UK

    Michael Banner is Dean, Fellow and Director of Studies in Theology and Religious Studies at Trinity College. He was previously the Director of ESRC Genomics Forum and Professor of Ethics and Public Policy in Life Sciences in the School of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, University of Edinburgh, and from 1994 to 2004 F.D. Maurice Professor of Moral and Social Theology, King’s College, London. He gave the 2013 Bampton Lectures in Oxford. These lectures were published in 2014 by Oxford University Press as The Ethics of Everyday Life: Moral Theology, Social Anthropology and the Imagination of the Human.

Call for Papers

We invite theologians, philosophers and others working in the field of humanities or related disciplines, interested in the theme of Searching Moral Common Ground, to submit their proposals for a paper presentation at the Moral Compass International Conference.

Guidelines for submitting proposals

Determine for which subtheme you wish to submit a proposal. Please register your name and e-mail address in the form below, and add your proposal with a title and an abstract of max 350 words describing the content of the proposed paper. Include also your name, e-mail address and current position or affiliation, if any, in the file.

Deadline for submitting your proposal is October 1, 2021.

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