College of Fellows

Interdisziplinäre Anthropologie

Die berühmte kantische Frage „Was ist der Mensch?“ lässt sich heute nicht mehr stellen, ohne den Menschen in seiner Situiertheit und Zugehörigkeit zur Welt zu erfassen. Sie betrifft deshalb grundsätzlich das menschliche Dasein im Ganzen und bringt verschiedene Disziplinen miteinander ins Gespräch. Vor allem aber betrifft die Frage nach dem Menschen den Fragenden immer auch selbst, so dass auch die Antworten auf diese Frage ihrerseits historisch und kulturell situiert sind. Dadurch gewinnt die Frage nach dem Menschen jenseits der existentiellen und sozialen Dimensionen auch eine globale gesellschaftspolitische Relevanz. Wir greifen diese Themen („One World Anthropology“, „The Comparative Anthropology of Worlding“) in einzelnen Veranstaltungen auf und versuchen, Brücken zwischen verschiedenen Disziplinen zu schlagen.


Summer Lecture "The multiple births of naturalism" mit Philippe Descola - 01.06.2022

Datum: 01.06.2022, 19:00 Uhr
Veranstaltungsort: Alte Aula, Münzgasse 30

The Summer Lecture is a public event open to anyone interested in the topic, no registration required. Please note that the lecture will be held in presence, and will not be webcast online.

Descola rejects the strict distinction between nature and culture that has prevailed in "Western" thought and refers to "naturalism" as one of several different "ways of worlding". In his lecture he discusses the multiple births of naturalism.

On 1 June 2022, French anthropologist Professor Philippe Descola held the Summer Lecture 2022 “The multiple births of naturalism”, organised by the College of Fellows at the University of Tübingen. Descola’s lecture gave a profound, detailed, and concise insight into his comparative anthropological research, which focuses on the description of four major ontologies – animism, totemism, analogism, and naturalism – and their lifeworldly basis which he describes with the term ‘worlding’.

In his lecture, Descola focused on the "multiple births” of naturalism, pointing towards aspects of naturalistic thinking inherent already in ancient thought. At the same time, he sketched the unique historical emergence of naturalism in modern (natural) science as a way of tackling the rich yet ‘chaotic’ relations of analogism. While outlining differences between the ontologies, Descola also touched upon common features. In particular, he highlighted transitions between analogist and naturalist knowledge, which both share the notion that singularities can be linked in networks of multiple relationships, as mixed entities with intrinsic differences. He thus provided a framework both for understanding the emergence of scientific thought in Europe as one decisive form of worlding, as well as for an understanding of naturalism’s formative influences on the world in which we live today. Even if Descola rejects an all too simple alternative, as to think of a way out of the naturalist mode of worlding, his comparative insights call for a rethinking of strict dichotomies within the ontology of naturalism, especially those of nature and culture, and of humans and non-humans.

Descola’s well-attended Summer Lecture was the first large event organised by the College of Fellows, officially inaugurated in April 2022 as a platform for interdisciplinary research and networking among international research fellows at the University of Tübingen. The lecture was accompanied by a five-day workshop (30 May – 3 June) for international PhD students, who discussed Descola’s work with him, and explored its theoretical applications and stimulating potentials in their own contributions across several desciplines. Both events have been part of the activities of the Focus Group “Interdisciplinary Anthropology” at the College of Fellows.

Workshop "The Comparative Anthropology of Worlding" mit Philippe Descola, 30.05. - 03.06.2022

Venue: College of Fellows, University of Tübingen, Germany

Application Deadline: 1 March 2022

Organization: Niels Weidtmann, University of Tübingen, Germany


“The comparative anthropology of worlding”

Anthropologist Philippe Descola says of himself that he was ill-prepared for the field work for which he lived with the Achuar in Ecuador in the 1980s. Poorly prepared, however, not because of his own failings, but because of the self-evident way in which he took for granted the distinction between nature and culture at that time - a distinction which anthropology has always worked with and which had hardly ever been seriously questioned until then. The matter-of-course nature of this distinction, however, not only prevented (and still prevents) a genuine understanding of societies such as that of the Achuar, but also suggests a fatal misunderstanding of these societies. Since nature and culture cannot be easily separated in their case, they are called “primitive peoples”, who still remain in the prehistoric and pre-cultural stage of human development. Descola points out that such a description is completely mistaken. Instead of being trapped in their immediate natural environment, the Achuar recognise in most animals and plants their own personalities with whom they can communicate at least rudimentarily and whose interests they must respect. The nature-culture-border does not carry here.

Committed to the descriptive method of anthropology, Descola pleads to discard any form of ontological preconception when visiting foreign societies. The different life-worlds are not adequately understood if they are merely classified as different cultural interpretations of “the” one nature. Instead, the life-worlds, for their part, first establish the ontology and thus also the understanding of man and the world that corresponds to them. Descola summarizes this with the term “worlding”. He names four different forms of such worlding: naturalism, animism, totemism, and analogism. The ontology of naturalism, which is generally assumed by modern sciences, is on an equal footing with the other forms. Which ontology is valid is determined by the life-world, but not does a presupposed ontology give the correct understanding of the life-world.

In political terms, Descola opens up new possibilities for linking the rights of nature not only to the resource requirements of man. But how is it possible to give non-humans access to the political sphere? What does that mean with respect to current debates on climate change and conservation? A philosophical difficulty that arises from Descola's work can be summarized in the question of the possibility of plural ontologies. How do we escape the arbitrariness of relativism without simply assuming a universalism again? Furthermore, are there other forms of worlding besides those pointed out by Descola? Shall we conceive them as four completely separate categories to describe the continuities and discontinuities between humans and non-humans? Or are they rather something like Weberian ideal types – useful for thinking, but hard to turn into iron boxes?

These and other questions we would like to explore in the Workshop.


This workshop will enable discussions with Philippe Descola about his ideas and contributions across several themes. It will be of interest to participants from a wide range of disciplines. There will be an opening session on day one. Day two to four will consist of an initial overview paper by Professor Descola, which is followed by participant contributions and discussions. The school ends with a closing session and a wrap-up of topics on day five. Participants are also invited to attend a public lecture by Philippe Descola during the week.

Participants must present a 15-minute paper that critically discusses one of the themes and/or questions of the workshop. Engagement with current research questions and issues are particularly welcome as well as connections with current PhD projects.

This workshop is open to doctoral students from all disciplines (applications of master students will be considered in exceptional cases).

Applicants should supply the following documents:

  • Application form
  • CV (2 pages max)
  • 300-word expression of interest
  • Paper title and 300-word abstract

Applications should be sent until 1 March 2022 the latest to infospam or to our postal address:

College of Fellows
Geschwister Scholl Platz
72074 Tübingen

A letter of admission will reach successful applicants by the end of March.

There is no program fee.

The CoF will assist participants in finding inexpensive accommodation.

Arbeitsgemeinschaft "Phänomenologische Anthropologie: Sprache, Ethos, Endlichkeit"

Eine wissenschaftliche Arbeitsgemeinschaft des Forum Scientiarum der Universität Tübingen und des Departments für Philosophie der Universität Cluj in Kooperation mit den Universitäten Bologna, Messina, Wien und Zagreb.

Wissenschaftlicher Beirat / ständige Mitglieder:  

Prof. Dr. Francesco Cattaneo (Universität Bologna), Prof. Dr. Virgil Ciomos (Babes-Bolyai Universität Cluj, Rumänische Akademie, Fundatia Colegiul Noua Europa), Prof. Dr. Ion Copoeru (Babes-Bolyai Universität Cluj), Prof. Dr. Giuliana Gregorio (Universität Messina), Dietmar Koch (Universität Tübingen), Prof. Dr. Igor Mikecin (Universität Zagreb), Akad. Rat Dr. Alina Noveanu (Babes-Bolyai Universität Cluj), Dr. Radu Turcanu (Psychotherapeut, Paris), Prof. Dr. Georg Stenger (Universität Wien), Dr. Philipp Thomas (Universität Tübingen), Dr. Niels Weidtmann (Universität Tübingen)

Koordination / Leitung: 

Niels Weidtmann (Universität Tübingen), Dietmar Koch (Universität Tübingen), Alina Noveanu (Babes-Bolyai Universität Cluj)

Beschreibung der Tätigkeiten der Arbeitsgemeinschaft:

Die AG sucht den Kontakt zu Spitzenforschern aus all jenen Bereichen, die an einer philosophisch-interdisziplinären Diskussion zu anthropologischen Fragestellungen interessiert sind, und stellt ein offenes Diskussionsforum sowohl für junge als auch etablierte Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler sowie für Studierende dar.

Inhaltlicher Ausgangspunkt der gemeinsamen Arbeit ist die Frage nach der Stellung des Menschen zur Welt und in der Welt. Die AG will allerdings keine metaphysischen Antworten suchen, sondern strikt phänomenologisch-deskriptiv arbeiten. Das bedeutet auch, dass die verschiedenen Beiträge der Einzelwissenschaften daraufhin geprüft werden, was sie zur Klärung des in der Erfahrung beschreibbaren Phänomens beitragen können. Als Leitfaden der Diskussionen dienen zentrale Fragen der phänomenologischen Anthropologie wie beispielsweise die Frage nach der Bedeutung der Leiblichkeit des Menschen, die Frage nach dem Verhältnis des Individuums zur Gemeinschaft, Fragen zur Endlichkeit des Menschen u.v.a.. Darüber hinaus stehen die unterschiedlichen Prägungen im Zentrum, die diese Fragen und die darauf jeweils gefundenen Antworten innerhalb der geschichtlichen Entwürfe in Europa und jenseits des Kontinents erfahren haben. Dadurch gewinnen Themen, die klassischerweise im Bereich der philosophischen Diskussion abgehandelt werden, jenseits der existentiellen Dimension auch eine gesellschaftspolitische Relevanz.

Zur Erreichung der genannten Ziele plant die AG alle zwei Jahre Tagungen zu organisieren zu wissenschaftlich relevanten Themen, die in den philosophisch-interdisziplinären Bereichen der phänomenologischen Anthropologie, Psychologie, Medizin, Sprachwissenschaften und der politischen Philosophie aktuell diskutiert werden. Zudem soll der Dozentenaustausch zwischen den beteiligten Universitäten gefördert werden. Durch die Beteiligung von Studierenden an den Projekten der AG möchten wir zudem auch sie auf die beteiligten Universitäten aufmerksam machen und zu einem Austauschstudium ermuntern. Darüber hinaus hat die AG bereits vor fünf Jahren einen Arbeitskreis „Phänomenologie und Psychoanalyse“ an der Universität Tübingen ins Leben gerufen, der seither drei Mal im Jahr tagt und anthropologische Fragen jeweils sowohl in phänomenologischer wie auch in psychoanalytischer Perspektive diskutiert. Am Arbeitskreis nehmen neben zahlreichen praktizierenden Psychoanalytikern auch Studierende der Universität Tübingen teil.

Die Tagungsergebnisse werden den Teilnehmenden zunächst im pdf-Format zur Verfügung gestellt; eine Auswahl der Beiträge wird für eine Publikation vorgeschlagen (zur Finanzierung der Publikationen werden Anträge sowohl bei Stiftungen in Deutschland wie auch jeweils bei den  Partneruniversitäten gestellt).

Lecture "Schopenhauer's Buddhism: Nothingness, Negativity, and Compassion" mit Prof. Dr. Eric S. Nelson, 03.05.2022

Venue: Online, Tuesday, 3 May 2022, 1 pm CEST (UTC + 2)

Organisation: The Philosophical Interdisciplinary Cluster “Phenomenological Anthropology: Language, Ethos, Finiteness” of Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj, Romania, and Tübingen University

Registration: To participate please register via e-mail:; you will then get the ZOOM-link sent to you

Description: Schopenhauer was fascinated by Indian philosophy throughout his life and often showed particular interest in Buddhism. In this paper, I will explore the philosophical motivations operative in Schopenhauer’s interpretation of Buddhism and how this encounter shaped his thinking of nothingness, negativity, and compassion.

Bio: Eric S. Nelson is Professor of Philosophy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He received his PhD from Emory University in 2002, and he joined the faculty of HKUST in 2014. He works on Chinese, German, and Jewish philosophy. He is the author of Daoism and Environmental Philosophy (Routledge, 2020), Levinas, Adorno, and the Ethics of the Material Other (SUNY Press, 2020), and Chinese and Buddhist Philosophy in Early Twentieth-Century German Thought (Bloomsbury, 2017). He has published over eighty articles and book chapters and is the editor of Interpreting Dilthey: Critical Essays (Cambridge University Press, 2019). He co-edited The Bloomsbury Companion to Heidegger (Bloomsbury, 2016), Between Levinas and Heidegger (SUNY Press, 2014), Rethinking Facticity (SUNY Press, 2008), Anthropologie und Geschichte: Studien zu Wilhelm Dilthey (Königshausen & Neumann, 2013), and Addressing Levinas (Northwestern University Press, 2005).

Workshop "One World Anthropology" mit Tim Ingold, 22. - 26.09.2019

Venue: Forum Scientiarum, Tübingen University, Germany

Organisation: Martin Porr, University of Western Australia, and Niels Weidtmann, University of Tübingen, Germany

The workshop was sponsored by the Udo Keller Foundation Forum Humanum.


Over the last decades, Tim Ingold has become one of the most influential, innovative and prolific writers in anthropology. His work has been transcending established academic and disciplinary boundaries, particularly between social and biological anthropology. Related to this theme is his critical long-term exploration of the relationships between human beings, organisms and their environment. Overall, Tim Ingold’s work is truly transdisciplinary and his thinking is impacting more and more areas of research and other intellectual and artistic fields in profound ways. He is both deeply engaged in debates about latest developments in anthropology, archaeology, education and social theory, but at the same time does not engage in a fashionable proliferation of theoretical concepts and terminologies.

In an introductory statement to a recent paper, Tim Ingold summarises the core of his understanding of the anthropological endeavour: “Anthropology is a philosophical inquiry into the conditions and possibilities of life in the one world we all inhabit” (Ingold 2018b, p. 158). Anthropology is philosophy, because it asks questions about the character of humanity, what it means to be human; it wants to understand humans and their lives. It is, however, philosophy with the people in it. It is philosophy that engages with other people’s learning and deliberations in the real world. Tim Ingold insists to conduct an anthropology that takes other people’s views and ideas seriously. As such, it is inquisitive, educational, mutually constitutive and open to wonder and surprise. It wants to allow questions about and insights into the conditions of people’s lives and the possibilities that different people’s lives contain. This endeavour is not aimed at establishing the hidden causalities of human existence (e.g. genes, memes, algorithms etc.). It does not want to restrict or narrow down the understanding of human life but makes visible the continuous emergence of difference, innovation and activity. This orientation is fundamentally linked to the understanding of life in general. Indeed, Ingold’s anthropology follows an encompassing view of life as the “potential of the circulations of materials and currents of energy” of the world (Ingold 2018a, p. 23). Life is not a secret ingredient of and within organisms, but, rather, organisms themselves are in life. This perspective has a range of consequences for the understanding of human beings’ relationships with the environment, their acts of learning, perceiving, growing and making as processes of mutual correspondence and constitution. Tim Ingold always emphasises a perspective of the situated and engaged being who is dwelling in a life-world. This orientation makes his anthropology not a detached and disinterested endeavour. Rather, his interpretation of anthropology also considers the philosophical aim of an exploration of how we should live. It also has important implications for academia and the university as a place of learning and education. Through its deep and serious engagement with other people’s viewpoints, considerations, practices and wisdom, anthropology gains a crucial significance for today’s world, the world we live in and for this world’s future.


  • Ingold, T. (2018a). Anthropology. Why it matters. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Ingold, T. (2018b). One world anthropology. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 8(1/2), 158-171.