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uni'wissen 01-2012_ENG

Joas still has a few other pots on the stove. What will be cooking in the next one or the one after that? At the moment he is preparing a ­series of six lectures on the relationship between the history and criticism of religion. “Sometimes I dig through a paper, a project, and realize that this mine is very rich. But in the process of ­digging I see that there is another tunnel leading away from it that promises to be very interesting. It take note of it and then go back there again later. In this way, I look back and see continuity of a kind I never would have been able to predict.” Joas hardly ever knows what tunnels he will stumble upon beforehand and how promising they will turn out to be. But that is what the ­creative moment of surprise in scholarship – which he loves and attempted to define more closely in an earlier book on the creativity of ­human action – is all about. notion of transcendence developed and God or the gods were positioned outside of all worldly things. “That was a historical watershed,” says Joas. “Up to this time, political power could be perceived as divine. But the idea of transcen­ dence suddenly enabled one to think: The leader is only human like me. Maybe he was installed by the gods, but he can’t be godly himself.” Joas looked for other thinkers before Jaspers who thought that the point at which religion and poli­ tics began to separate was an important step for human development and examined the new ­alliances that appeared as a result. Collaboration with Leading International Experts Even more important than the historical classi­ fication of the idea, however, are the concrete cases themselves: When and in which societies did such transformations take place? Further­ more – and here is where one of the many ideas in Joas’ work comes full circle – to what extent is our understanding of human dignity influenced by the changes witnessed during the Axial Age. In order to answer these questions, Joas and Bellah engaged the help of numerous experts. For example, in order to determine whether ­Confucius was a source for the desacralization of political power it would have been necessary to read many texts, most of which were written in Chinese. “And then we probably would have made ourselves look foolish anyway for over­ looking important information or something that was lost in translation. It is thus wise to be on the lookout for the world’s leading Confucius experts from the outset and get them on board,” explains Joas on the genesis of the volume. Was Confucius a source for the desacralization of political power? Hans Joas collaborates with ­leading international experts in order to answer questions like these. Photo: Increa/Fotolia Prof. Dr. Hans Joas Joas will be a permanent fellow at the Freiburg Insti- tute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) until the spring of 2014. The sociologist ­studied among other places at the Free University of Berlin, where he also com- pleted his habilitation. From 1987 to 1990 he served as a professor at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Then he was offered a chair at the John F. Kennedy ­Institute for North America Studies and the Institute of Sociology of the Free Uni- versity of Berlin, where he remained until 2002. After- wards he accepted a ­position as Max Weber ­Professor in Erfurt, where he headed the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cul- tural and Social Studies ­until March 2011. In addition to his work at FRIAS, he has held a visiting profes- sorship at the University of Chicago, USA, since 2000. Joas’ research interests ­include historically oriented sociology of religion, the sociology of war and vio- lence, and social philosophy. Further Reading Bellah, R. N. (2011): Religion in human ­evo­lution. From the paleolithic to the axial Age. Cambridge/USA. Taylor, Charles (2007): A secular age.­ ­Cambridge, MA. Joas, Hans (2000): The genesis of values. ­Chicago, IL. 27