Interdisciplinary Workshop

Faculty of Theology, Nicolaus Copernicus University
in cooperation with
the Department of Christian Philosophy, University Innsbruck

19-21 October 2016
For centuries the human person was considered the pride of creation and the human person’s special status was intimately linked to his or her soul. The traditional concept of the human soul, however, has come under heavy attack in the light of the success of scientific explanations of brain functions and our cognitive capacities. Consequently, the last two centuries have seen the concept of the soul gradually replaced by that of the mind. Since mental processes are intimately connected with brain functions, many naturalistically oriented scientists and philosophers argue that our cognitive capacities can be fully explained by neurobiological processes leaving no theoretical room for a “soul”. This naturalistic approach is enhanced by medical evidence showing that people suffering from brain damage very often experience deep changes in their personality and reasoning.

Most (secular) philosophers identify the concept of the soul with a religious worldview and an utterly dualistic understanding of the human person. In the scholastic tradition, however, the soul was embedded in a holistic and hylomorphic understanding of the human person, and was regarded as the seat of all vital capacities: vegetative, sensitive, and rational. The soul was thus primarily a guarantor of the unity of the human person throughout the various biological and mental changes occurring over her lifetime.

Our workshop aims to address the question whether this Aristotelian-Scholastic understanding of the human soul is still viable or whether it has been superseded by more adequate scientific concepts. Our workshop will contribute to the dialogue between representatives of this traditional philosophical account of the human person and modern science.

We will focus on the following main topics:

  1. What are the merits and limits of the Aristotelian-Scholastic concept of the soul, in the light of modern science?
  2. Is there anything that secures a special ontological status for the human person? If so, does it emerge from our rational capacities or is a broader concept required to elucidate it?
  3. What guarantees our personal unity and identity over time – an unchangeable soul or a properly working mind resulting from proper biological functioning?


Keynote speakers:

Włodzisław Duch (UMK, Poland)

Antonella Corradini (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan)

Daniel De Haan (Cambridge)

Jason T. Eberl (Indianapolis, USA)

Georg Gasser & Josef Quitterer (Innsbruck, Austria)

Javier Sanchez-Canizares (Pamplona, Spain)

Mateusz Hohol (Copernicus Center, Cracow, Poland)

Jerzy Vetulani (Cracow, Poland)

Philip Larrey (Pontifical Lateran University, Rome)


Venue: Center of Dialogue in Torun, Poland

We kindly invite short papers related to one of three above mentioned topics. The proposals should be in English (including abstract, title, and academic affiliation) and sent to by 30 April 2016.

More information: