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The Theme


In his encyclical Caritas in veritate (2009), Benedict XVI has emphasized that economic, social and political development, which is directed toward the common good, cannot be simply directed toward a business mindset; it must also integrate "the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of the gift" (§ 36). Benedict adds that this this demand will not be brought from the outside to the attention of the economy, rather is a desideratum of economic thinking itself.

Thanks to the gift and its furtherance in reciprocity, economic efficacy, social justice and political stability intrinsically unite. By contrast, an economic order that denies the absolute priority of the gift, would not only be a source of social injustice and political instability, but so too would ultimately annihilate itself.

The absolute priority of the gift and the givenness which is to be thought of especially from a phenomenological perspective is, since the 80s, the concern of the French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion. His main work pursuant to this concern is Étant donné. Essai d’une phénoménologie de la donation (1997); further, his second book, in which he shows that the gift is neither reducible to reciprocity nor gratuitousness itself, alongside of which it is often defined.

Much more, he suggests a radical definition of the gift according it its unconditional givenness alone.

This declaration Marion emphasizes further, especially in an article bearing the title "La raison du don“ (2003), which investigates the phenomenon of fatherhood, and in his work Certitudes négatives (2010), which assesses the phenomenon of sacrifice and forgiveness. The corresponding texts will be treated in the Master Class in the German language.

Absolute priority of the gift before reciprocity and the givenneness, before all preconditions: With this thesis from Étant donné we have at once before us one of the philosophical premisses of the encyclical Caritas in veritate. From this vantage point, the intention of the research seminar consists in the reconstrual of the philosophical argumentation that underlies this thesis, and then to confront it again with three types of development: from the view of the economy, of legal policy, and of theology. To the accomplishment of this end, the following scholars shall contribute:


- Thomas Alferi, philosopher and theologian, translator of Étant donné


- Olivier Artus, theologian

(Author of Les lois du Pentateuque. Points de repère pour une lecture exégétique et théologique, Paris, Cerf, 2005)


- Elena Lasida, economist

(Authoress of Le goût de l’autre. La crise, une chance pour réinventer le lien, Paris) Albin Michel, 2011


- Émilie Tardivel-Schick, Philosopher

(Author of La liberté au principe. Essai sur la philosophie de Patočka, Paris, Vrin, 2011)