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Humanism and Philosophy


This chair group has been led since 1 October 2023 by Prof Christoph Henning, Professor of Humanism and Philosophy, who works with the group to further develop the research agenda. Under the leadership of his predecessor Prof Dr Anja Machielse, the chair group focused on two interrelated research areas: humanism and social resilience.


The research group researches the foundations and principles as well as the history of humanism. Here, humanism is understood as a combination of intellectual and artistic traditions in western culture that take a critical stance concerning religious, philosophical, scientific and political ideas, messages and practices. Our research is grounded in the concepts and values on which humanism is based. These, too, are critically examined and – where necessary – brought up to date. 

Social resilience

Humanism assumes that people are morally responsible for their own lives and that they use their freedom to develop themselves, with and for others, taking account of their social, historical and cultural embeddedness. To fulfil this moral idea implies a humanistic art of living: a practice of thinking, researching, celebrating and supporting human life, based on humanist values.

Humanism also acknowledges the fundamental vulnerability of human life, however. It is sensitive to human finitude and our susceptibility to dramatic life events and circumstances.  Coping with vulnerability implies social resilience: the ability to achieve human dignity and autonomy, also and especially in situations of social pressure and vulnerability. Through our research, we aim to strengthen the social resilience of individual persons and to contribute to social recognition and inclusion at the collective level of communities and institutions.

Research questions

Humanism and social resilience are linked together through research into contemporary issues concerning meaning in life and the building of a humane society: moral resilience, social isolation and loneliness, meaningful ageing, community building, sustainability and humaneness. A critical focus in all our research is the influence that cultural narratives have on personal experiences and meaning-making.

View staff members of this group.
View research projects.