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Religion and Society

When research bears fruit: the provocations of the Uomo-Polis-Economia project

A research project called Uomo-Polis-Economia

 

(Man-Polis-Economy) has been underway since 2006 at the Studium Generale Marcianum with the participation of the Fondazione di Venezia (the Venice Foundation). It has recently released its first findings, published in two collections that bring together contributions by a variety of writers, with both volumes edited by Mgr Gabriel Richi Alberti. The first is titled Al cuore dell'umano. La domanda antropologica 1 (At the Heart of Being Human. The Anthropological Question 1); the second is Sentieri dell'umano. La domanda antropologica 2 (Human Paths. The Anthropological Question 2), (Venice: Marcianum Press, 2007).

 

Conceived as a three-year training and research programme, the project has assembled a multi-disciplinary team that includes Stefano Cazzanelli, Andrea Enzo, Giulio Goggi, Leopoldo Sandonà, and Claudia Volpato. All five share time, space and means during the Studium's regular academic life, each supported by a full-time scholar from the same institution. By means of close interaction between scholars from different backgrounds, they aim at achieving a certain interdisciplinary understanding of some of the more sensitive issues in today's culture. At the core is the anthropological question that leads to research based on the unity of the subject, one that is favoured and promoted by the academic institution for the purpose of achieving an organic communication in which a multifaceted reflection finds a real moment of synthesis and unity.

 

The two volumes alternatively present the reflections by the aforementioned researchers and some world-renown scholars directly involved in the project, i.e. people like Giovanni Salmeri, Angela Ales Bello, Réal Tremblay, Bruno Hidber, Juan Manuel Blanch Nougués, Giuliano Segre, Francesco Salamini, Carlo Soave, and Cesare Mirabelli whose discussions revolve around key issues relating to the anthropological question. Against this background stand two issues that are fundamental in today's cultural environment, namely the fragmentation of knowledge and the progressive marginalisation of human beings who are increasingly conceived as a neutral or almost insignificant factor (just think of some theorisations on environmental ethics that paradoxically leave humans out).

 

In the first volume the first issue addressed is about humans as seen in a philosophical perspective that relates to the supposed end of humanism. Next comes the issue of sexual differences (insofar as humans are seen as a necessary precondition for ethics and are dealt with in Sren Kierkegaard's ideas), followed by theological reflections over the foundations of a theological bioethics that includes a look at the question of evil and at Nietzsche's claims that the will can be "redeemed" by transcending the concept of the truth of being.

 

In the second volume a set of "paths" or guidelines for inquiry are presented as they apply in three distinct fields of study. The focus here is on the Law, particularly on the new generation of fundamental rights and on a certain iconography that confirms the transformations that have occurred in our attitudes towards the law from the Middle Ages till the Modern Era. After this then the world of science takes centre stage as the relationship between biology and anthropology is stressed and a new proposal is made to integrate humanistic and scientific "cultures". Last but not least, economic issues are addressed as the authors identify a profound unity between ethics, economics and politics as early as in Adam Smith's theoretical construct.

 

In reading these contributions the reader gets the impression that the various authors are engaged in a dialogue, making a successful effort to converge along a shared multidisciplinary axis, throwing their ideas and thoughts in a process of given and take that is articulated around the interaction of seasoned scholars and promising researchers with the former inspiring the latter to go further in a collective endeavour full of hope from which much can still be expected.

 

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