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Autumn Conference on human nature and the life sciences

Monday, 26 September 2011

Contemporary philosophy of the life sciences has a strong focus on moral problems caused by research and application in these fields, especially in medicine and biology. In these debates one will often find a partial lack of awareness for anthropological presuppositions woven into the argumentation. At this year’s Autumn Conference of the Europäische Akademie Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler on 22 September about 35 participants discussed the question whether ethics of the life sciences needs an anthropological foundation. At the Gustav-Stresemann-Institut in Bonn they debated whether and how anthropology – as a method or a set of substantial assumptions – can and should be part of applied ethics, in particular medical ethics.

In his lecture Professor Sturma (Bonn/Jülich) argued that ethics should be based on a substantial theory of the human life form. He questioned, however, that this foundation could be provided by an anthropology and instead recommended a theory of the person. Professor Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert (Hagen) partly objected this view and outlined an anthropology of medicine. She stressed, though, that a medical anthropology should not be construed as a special anthropology of the “ill” person. Professor Hucklenbroich (Münster) gave an introduction into the theory of disease and emphasised its “prescriptive-conventional” elements by which anthropological presuppositions enter it. Priv.-Doz. Bruchhausen expanded this theme by giving examples from the history of medicine showing that anthropological theses have influenced medical theory through centuries.
The final talk by Professor Schramme (Hamburg) focused on the relation of anthropology and psychiatry. He argued that a psychiatric theory itself could be interpreted as “negative” anthropology describing the disease-related malfunction of human nature.


• Walter Bruchhausen (Medizinhistorisches Institut, Universität Bonn)
• Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert (Institut für Philosophie, FernUniversität Hagen)
• Peter Hucklenbroich (Institut für Ethik, Geschichte und Theorie der Medizin, Universität Münster)
• Thomas Schramme (Philosophisches Seminar, Universität Hamburg)
• Dieter Sturma (Institut für Philosophie, Institut für Wissenschaft und Ethik, Deutsches Referenzzentrum für Ethik in den Biowissenschaften, Universität Bonn und Institut für Ethik in den Neurowissenschaften (INM 8), Forschungszentrum Jülich)

Scientific Co-ordination:
• Felix Thiele (Europäische Akademie zur Erforschung von Folgen wissenschaftlich-technischer Entwicklungen GmbH, Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler)


For further information on the conferences of the Europäische Akademie please visit this page.

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