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Photo: Universität Paderborn, Gerrit Mauritz

The Notion of Free Will as a Key Theological Concept. A Critical Engagement with Libertarianism, Determinism and Compatibilism

The research project, which is funded by the German Research Assocation (DFG), aims at a philosophically as well as theologically justified notion of free will. Its main topics are:

  • A critical analysis of contemporary debates in (analytic) philosophy on the concept of free will (libertarianism, determinism, compatibilism)
  • A discursive mediation between various forms of thought and approaches towards the debates on free will, especially from analytic and transcendental philosophy
  • A reconstruction and critical analysis of contemporary theological concepts of free will
  • A formulation of a coherent theological notion of free will which takes into account both philosophical and theological insights in the debates on free will
A summary of the project can be found here.

The notion of human free will is a key concept for Christian dogmatic and apologetic theology. Hence, the reflection of this concept is an original task of theology, provided that it claims rational acceptability for its use. However, this task has been neglected or even ignored in contemporary theological discourse. It seems uncertain if and how the often implicit conceptions of freedom could be sustained in a systematic analysis. The research project aims at filling this gap with a new reflection of the theological uses of the concept of freedom, with special emphasis on contemporary philosophical debates. The main goal of the project is to compare and evaluate concepts of human freedom from transcendental philosophy and theology with the insights and objections of analytic philosophy, thereby achieving a wide and at the same time thorough engagement with different concepts of freedom, which thus far have been considered little or not at all in theological discourses. On such basis, it seems possible to critically evaluate the use of a libertarian concept of freedom in comparison to the dominating trend towards compatibilism, physicalism and naturalism. This new conception of freedom is then to be examined in concrete theological applications such as the relation between revelation and reason as well as theological concepts of God.

Project leaders:
Prof. Dr. Klaus von Stosch
Prof. Dr. Saskia Wendel

Research assistants:
Dr. Martin Breul
Dr. Aaron Langenfeld


Duration of the project: 2015-2018

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