Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker-Zentrum

ERC-Project "Text and Idea of Aristotele's Science of Living Things"

The project "Text and Idea of Aristotele's Science of Living Things” (TIDA) is led by Prof. Klaus Corcilius, who has received a five-year grant from the European Research Council for this purpose. 

The goal of the project is a new overall interpretation of Aristotle's science of living things. The project breaks with the methodological interpretive approach that has dominated research on Aristotle's so-called "psychological" writings, and in particular on his famous treatise "De anima," over the last five decades. According to that approach, these writings are to be counted as belonging to the philosophy of mind. Contrary to this trend, TIDA aims to show that De anima is not concerned with philosophy of mind as such, and that such an approach would indeed be alien to Aristotle's way of thinking; rather, the De anima is primarily concerned with defining the first principle of a much broader science of living things (humans, animals, and plants). TIDA aims to work out how the De anima and other related writings share explanatory work in the scientific explanation of the phenomena of living things, to then show what Aristotle's science of living things has to say about the fundamental questions of the philosophy of mind. How does Aristotle approach the questions and problems of philosophy of mind from his biological perspective? 

Methodologically, TIDA consists of a close cooperation between philosophers and philologists: Aristotle's treatise On the Soul (De anima) and related treatises are to be subjected to a new and comprehensive philosophical interpretation; at the same time, the original Greek text of De anima is to be made available in a way that meets current standards of textual criticism. TIDA is based on the conviction that only a the closest collaboration between philosophers and philologists will lead to robust results. The end result of the project should be improved original texts and a new and philosophically more informative perspective on Aristotleʼ science of living things.

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Risk, Responsibility, and Making Sense of Data: Understanding Ways of Knowing in/outside of Anthropology during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Volkswagen Stiftung: Corona Crisis and Beyond – Perspectives for science, scholarship and society

Lauren Cubellis, PhD, MPH

Sheena Bartscherer, MA


This project considers how the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic has shaped possibilities for making sense of data, both in and outside of the sciences. The pandemic has generated an unprecedented situation in which the pressure on data to inform, guide, and correct emerging policy procedures and financial investments is immense. This data is multi-faceted and malleable, sourced from a wide-variety of experts, clinics, and research settings, and moves quickly, influencing institutional responses at state and local levels. Crisis situations can serve to generate innovative and unforeseen possibilities amid great uncertainty, and the consequent negotiation of variable situations demands adaptable forms of risk assessment, and responsive understandings of responsibility and social participation. In this case, scientific and public perspectives regarding the pandemic have become newly plastic when taken up in the context of crisis, foregrounding questions such as: how should changing rates of infection be evaluated? How do policy makers, in consultation with health care providers and scientists, establish meaningful thresholds for response? How do individuals and communities adjust their work and care practices to account for constantly changing information and instructions? One of the critical questions this project will ask is how such data are translated into actionable practice in everyday life, by both researchers and laypersons, and what are the consequences for establishing reliable ways of knowing in the face of protracted uncertainty.

            Drawing on media reports and academic literature, as well as extended interviews and conversations with anthropologists working internationally on questions of risk, temporality, and solidarity, this project addresses the complex task of understanding responses to emerging data and shifting social relations during the Covid-19 pandemic. It considers how the development and distribution of vaccines holds not only epidemiological significance, but also reverberates through social, familial, and professional relationships and differentiates the accessibility of social participation. It examines how risk – imagined differently by scientists, politicians, and individuals – is negotiated in the face of a massive public health crisis and changeable data. It asks how responsibility, and similarly, concepts of social solidarity, are newly shaped in response to these pressures. Finally, it turns a reflexive gaze on the practices of social scientists during this time, interrogating what qualitative methods offer in the face of a crisis at once intensely quantified and deeply social, and questions the boundaries we once held between the self as scientist and the self as participant in life in pandemic times.