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Rethinking science during your lunch break

Current Lunch Lecture Series explores: How might science and scholarship become more innovative, more global, more equitable, and conceptually richer if their so-called "margins" were no longer dismissed as marginal?


In 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote the famous and controversial saying „God is Dead”. With this sentence, Nietzsche did not only refer to the decline of religious belief in the rapidly changing era of industrialization and modernization, Dr Philipp Schwab explained in last week’s Lunch Lecture. He had also recognized an even more profound development: that mankind, spirit and intellect are not at the center of the (scientific) universe.

Schwab’s Lunch Lecture was the fourth of this semester’s series with the overarching topic “Shifting Perspectives – When the Margins Become the Center”. As is typical for our Lunch Lectures, and in the sense of the very subject, our speakers’ interpretations of and perspectives on the topic vary greatly. After Prof. Oliver Müller had introduced the rocky journey of Philosophical Anthropology from the margins to the center at the semester kickoff, Prof. Andreas Mehler provided insight into the necessary and welcome Decentering of Global Political Science. The difficulties of funding mechanisms for experimental research projects were the focus of Prof. Cecile King’s lecture. She pointed out how the funding structures of medical research exclude and marginalize research on diseases that do not affect large groups of people.


“The End of Metaphysics” – a philosophical example

“How were we able to drink up the sea?
Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon?
What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun?”

(Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 1882)

Nietzsche wrote these words as a witness of an epistemological crisis – the decentering of metaphysical holistic approaches and core beliefs. Societal upheavals, scientific innovation and the rise of empirical sciences contributed to the emergence of new paradigms. These developments marked a questioning of traditional hierarchies and a process of decentering. In the midst of it, metaphysics – the philosophical discipline seeking to comprehend the ultimate causes of being and to ground them within an overarching system – struggled to claim its position as the center of epistemology. Singularity, contingency and becoming as crucial aspects of being, which had been addressed by Søren Kierkegaard, challenged the holistic and systemic approach of metaphysics and demonstrated the need for new guiding principles.

The idea of one fundamental grounding of scholarly knowledge production was widely discarded. This epistemological decentering made way for new perspectives and discussions. In his lecture, Philipp Schwab encouraged the audience to look upon movements of centering and decentering in philosophical thoughts and arguments since. Although metaphysics clearly gave way in the center of first scientific and then philosophical thought, its heritage lives on as the demand for recentering and grounding of knowledge.

Until the end of January, there will be a Lunch Lecture each Thursday. On January 24th, Prof. Daniel Leese will discuss the emergence of new paradigms of governance or rulership in the global political and economic order, which might be induced by China’s Rise from the Academic Margins. Finally, on the 31st of January, Dr Anne-Laure Briatte will inform us about Shifting Perspectives in History: Women’s History, Gender History and Intersectionality.

We are looking forward to the upcoming talks and kindly invite you to join us for some midday food for thought.


Every Thursday in January 12.15 - 13.00 pm

Freiburg University, KG I, Lecture Hall 1015

Video recordings of the previous lectures available online