About the Inaugural Lecture
This inaugural lecture takes issue with the widespread negative views of religion in Dutch public discourse. To many contemporaries it seems that religion is relevant only in so far as radicalised believers pose a threat to our security; intellectually, however, religion is deemed of negligible importance. Against such negative views, the lecture underscores the intelligence of religion. Religions offer sophisticated systems of thought that are valuable indicators of fundamental cultural presuppositions we can ill afford to ignore
As a case study, the lecture focuses on written consolation for death. It compares ancient consolation with today’s grief therapy and theory. Approaching them as comparable therapeutic traditions improves understanding of both the ancient and the modern material. The ancient therapeutic tradition is intellectually on a par with the discussions we conduct today, and can in fact help us address issues we tend to overlook. The Dutch discussions around physician-assisted suicide are a good case in point.
The lecture outlines a research programme revolving around three central tenets: (1) an inclusive take on its research material; many authors and schools that have customarily been studied as ‘philosophers’ are relevant; (2) the reinstatement of the importance of continuing traditions and their subtle modifications against the prevalent overemphasis of individual ‘big’ agents of change. With this focus, a theology and religious studies approach can open interesting perspectives for other disciplines; (3) the agency of religious texts and ideas; this is why research on texts has an important heuristic function for our understanding of ritual and material culture.
Christoph Jedan is Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at University of Groningen. At NIAS, he studied Greco-Roman thought on the question of when and how a life can be considered ‘fulfilled’ or ‘complete’?