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Concerning maternity – part II. Ethical and existential concerns at the beginning of life

Symposium with keynote speaker Prof. dr. Christina Schües 

Friday 19 January 2018


University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht 

Every human is brought into the world through the women’s body. While we all know this fact, surprisingly little research has been conducted on mothers’ perspectives on what this means, both ethically and existentially. What is good care at the beginning of life? Childbirth is a relational and existential experience. What does new life mean on various levels, such as identity, relations, institutions and society? The main question of the symposium will focus on borders of meaning and responsibility. When does life come into existence, in conception, pregnancy or labor? What kind of meanings and responsibilities matter, of whom and to whom? 

The keynote speaker is Prof. dr. Christina Schües, professor at University of Lübeck. She is the author of ‘Philosophie des Geborenseins’ (‘Philosophy of being born’, 2008). The title of her lecture is: ‘Birth - When does responsibility begin?’

A response to the keynote will be given by Jonne Hoek, PhD candidate from the University of Twente. His contribution is entitled: ‘Technology and the beginning of life: responsibility, vulnerability and limit-situations.’

The symposium is the second and final part of the launch of a new research project that focuses on existential and ethical questions at the beginning of life conducted by Inge van Nistelrooij & Joanna Wojtkowiak.  


Admission is free, but registration is required. Please use the button below to register for the symposium.


 9.30 AM Arrival, coffee and tea

10.00 AM Welcome by today’s chair Inge van Nistelrooij

10.10 AM Keynote lecture by prof dr Christina Schües, professor at University of Lübeck

Birth - When does responsibility begin?


In light of today's reproductive technologies and genetic testing, new questions of responsibility are raised about the beginning of human life. In this context responsibility is considered in a temporal sense: in which practical matters and contexts, and to whom do we ascribe responsibility? However, the concept of responsibility also needs to be considered in regard to its relational and responsive aspects. If we take pregnancy as a "singular plural state" and if we understand birth as a "mediated immediacy" and as the beginning of a concrete relation, then we can show that responsibility emerges from a relational and generative structure that is thought from the perspective of natality. This perspective develops the idea of welcoming the child as a praxis of responsibility. Perhaps the real question might be: When does responsibility end? 

11.00 AM Q & A, conversation with the keynote speaker

11.30 AM Coffee and tea break

12.00 Response by drs Jonne Hoek, PhD candidate at University of Twente

Technology and the beginning of life: responsibility, vulnerability and limit-situations 


Technologies mediate the beginning of life. By making use of ultrasound, cryopreservation, contraception, gamete-selection and many other technologies, parents-to-be, caregivers, doctors, children, and our society as a whole engage with new existential terrains. How do new responsibilities materialize here? How do technologies make us vulnerable, and which vulnerabilities should we maybe cherish? And can the limit-situation of new life – traditionally understood as a transcendent beginning – keep its relevance in these technological times? These questions I will explore bringing together Christina Schües’ phenomenology of natality with contemporary voices in the philosophy of technology.

12.15 PM Q & A, discussion with audience and dialogue with both speakers

12.50 PM Conclusion

1.00 PM End of symposium

Contactpersoon Inge van Nistelrooij,
Locatie University of Humanistic Studies, Kromme Nieuwegracht 29, Utrecht
Datum 19-1-2018
Openingstijden 10:00 - 13:00 uur
Toegankelijkheid mensen met een beperking Please contact the information office:, 030 2390100
Toegangsprijzen Free, but registration is required