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New chair in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics

Christoph Jedan on consolation and the intelligence of religion
07 March 2017

Prof. Christoph Jedan will deliver his inaugural lecture on Tuesday 14 March to mark his appointment as Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Groningen. The lecture is entitled: ‘A complete life: Consolation and the intelligence of religion’.

Prof Christoph Jedan
Prof Christoph Jedan

Intellectual relevance of religion

Jedan is eager to explain the relevance of the new chair: ‘As professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics one broaches a topic that requires some explanation in the current cultural climate. Widespread negativity has permeated the public discourse on religion in the Netherlands. Religion only appears to matter when it attracts negative attention and radicalized believers represent a threat to society; otherwise it is of no intellectual relevance. My role is to counter this type of negativity. The intellectual relevance of religion is exactly what I want to address. Religion gets us thinking. Religions formulate ways of thinking that are enlightening and inspiring, even if – or precisely because – you are not a worshipper of that particular religion.’

Difficulty with consolation

Jedan spent the last few months working at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) on a research project on consolation. ‘Death was a crucial focus of the ancient philosophers and theologians. There is a long tradition of texts that teach us how to cope with loss and grief, what is termed “consolation literature”. Their modern peers re-read these works under the theme of the art of living, but what is striking is that these modern peers make almost no mention of death. What strikes me is the difficulty that we in our academic culture seem to have with the notion that consolation is an important theme in these texts. This academic reticence towards consolation seems to reflect a broader cultural negativity about religion,’ he explains. ‘Consolation is often rejected as belonging to a long-lost past, rather than to modern-day society.’

Relevance of the past

One of Jedan’s current projects involves writing a ‘self-help book’ that once again will bring the ancient consolation literature to the attention of people today who are grieving or have suffered a loss. Although his research concentrates on consolation in various philosophical and religious traditions, the wider focus of Jedan’s research and teaching – as it was in his previous post of Associate Professor of Ethics – continues to be the virtue ethics of the Greeks and Romans, the relationship between religion and philosophy, and the overlap between politics and religion.

Curriculum vitae

In recent years, also in his role of Associate Professor, Christoph Jedan has conducted diverse forms of research into death and consolation, and has written about this in various leading publications. He studied philosophy, classical languages and theology in Wuppertal, Bonn, Cologne, Dublin and Münster, and earned a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Bonn (1999). After completing his PhD, he worked as a postdoc at the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge, before completing his Habilitation at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in 2006. Since 2012 he has been chair of the Department of Christianity and the History of Ideas at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Groningen. He was appointed Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics in the summer of 2015.

Inaugural lecture

On Tuesday 14 March, he will officially accept his appointment by delivering an inaugural lecture. The title ‘A complete life’ refers to the belief of the ancient comfort providers that a life can be ‘complete’ if considered from the perspective of virtues. In his lecture Jedan will compare the ancient consolation literature with current-day theories and discussions on loss and consolation, and will identify what the ancient thinkers can tell us about loss and consolation. Jedan: ‘In my inaugural lecture I want to expose a wide group to my past and present research. I hope to show what makes the study of this subject within a theology faculty so important and attractive. We study religion here in all its facets: not only do we conduct anthropological and sociological research, but we also do this! That is what makes our faculty so unique.’

  • Date: Tuesday 14 March 2017
  • Time: 3.30 pm
  • Place: Academy Building
Last modified:04 September 2017 1.39 p.m.
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