Human beings constitute the research domain of many different disciplines. The natural sciences study the human body and the material basis of human behaviour and mental activity. The social sciences establish regularities in individual and social behaviour. The humanities study artistic, literary and cultural expressions of human beings. Finally, there are normative disciplines like law and ethics that see human beings as agents with responsibility and dignity.
The human being is therefore studied as an organism, as a being that creates meaning and culture and as an accountable agent. Apart from those academic perspectives, each of us operates with an implicit understanding of him- or herself in different practical roles. Although all these perspectives on what it means to be human interact with each other, the question how to deal with this diversity remains insufficiently reflected.
The goals of the programme are 1) to identify those academic debates where there is an urgent need to transcend the boundaries of a discipline towards a more general perspective on the human being, and 2) to examine the theoretical and methodological resources of the humanities for articulating and developing forms of practical self-understanding. By 'practical self-understanding' we refer to the reflective capacity of human beings to integrate the diverse ways in which they can think about themselves into a coherent (or even consistent) perspective that is able to offer normative orientation. This capacity forms the basis of not only a large part of our everyday experiences, but also of many of our social, cultural and political institutions