Senior Fellow: July 2016–September 2016
Research Project: Between Fascination and Scepticism: Charismatic Authority Figures in Religion and Philosophy
Almut-Barbara Renger’s work at the Maimonides Centre is based on foundational studies resulting from her research on one of the most distinctive social forms of religious community, the so-called master–disciple relationship. Expanding on these studies, the project investigates issues of ambivalence and scepticism toward religious and philosophical authority by pursuing one of the central research objectives of the Centre: the examination of whether the method of enquiry, as implied in the term ‘scepticism,’ could be regarded as an anthropological constant in the context of an alleged dialectic difference between ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ philosophy and culture. In light of this objective, the project examines the extent to which attitudes and approaches comparable to the sceptical posture and practices of Greco- Roman antiquity as outlined by Sextus Empiricus can be identified in the cultural and religious history of both Europe and Asia. It is through its comparative perspective, which takes the sceptical posture of antiquity as its starting point and tertium comparationis, that the project makes a valuable contribution to the Centre. Its enquiry is not intended as an attempt to arrive at normative statements concerning the languages, cultures, religions, and world-views it focuses upon in interdisciplinary discussions. Rather, using analytical descriptive approaches to enquire into similarities, parallels, and analogies, the aim is to avoid generalisation and to open up scope for differentiation.
Almut-Barbara Renger is professor of ancient religion, culture, and their reception history at the Free University Berlin.