William Schweiker

Enhancing Life and the Forms of Freedom

Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of Theological Ethics
The University of Chicago, The Divinity School
Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

Capstone Conference Keynote

Friday (8/4) 3:45-4:45PM

Enhancing Life and the Forms of Freedom

What precisely do we mean by “enhancing life?” There are many answers to that question found throughout history and in contemporary life. Based on the work of The Enhancing Life Project, this keynote lecture seeks to set out a conception of enhancing life in relation to several “forms” of freedom found within the dimensions of human and non-human life. It does so, first, in order to refute the popular idea that “enhancement” is merely the biomedical technology extension of life against death or the increase of human power in the face of frailty. Second, the lecture develops a conception of enhancing life as the deepening of life’s freedom and complexity that bridges natural causality and human moral freedom. The lecture concludes by showing the importance of religious sources for articulating the meaning of enhancing life.


Capstone Conference Talk

Sunday (8/6) 1:50-2:10PM

Vital Humanism and the Enhancing of Life

This paper seeks to show the ways in which a vital humanism, that is, a humanism grounded in human situated and embodied freedom, contributes to enhancing life in ways that are of crucial, vital importance in our historical situation. The paper begins with a brief description of the current debate about the standing, distinctiveness, and importance of human worth. In the second step of the argument, I set forth four basic principles of humanistic thought gleaned from contemporary and classical humanistic thinkers. The concluding step of the paper brings these principles to bear on the question of enhancing life in our global age.


Capstone Conference Research Laboratory

SATURDAY (8/5) 9:30-10:40AM

Integral Ecology: Enhancing Human and Non-Human Life

The task of this Research Laboratory is to provide perspectives from philosophy, history, theology and anthropology about the possibilities for engaging in each other’s lives and in the natural world. Rather than exploring ecology and just the sum of its parts, we explore fundamental aspects of and “integral ecology.” That is, we examine the ways environments and social relationships organize, inspire, and vitalize each other. The laboratory will also look across different societies to explore the ways these integral interactions are mediated by material infrastructures and cultural belief systems. In doing so, we seek to reflect on the webs of mutuality, interdependence, and exchange that can and do enhance the integral coexistence of human and non-human life.

Research Laboratories allow audience members to interact with a panel of ELP Scholars and Interlocutors in addressing a problem of public relevance. We invite active participation from audience members in the creation of new knowledge.

Academic Biography

William Schweiker is the Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chicago. His scholarship and teaching engage theological and ethical questions attentive to global dynamics, comparative religious ethics, the history of ethics, and hermeneutical philosophy. A frequent lecturer and visiting professor at universities around the world, he has been deeply involved in collaborative international scholarly projects, and will serve as President of the Society of Christian Ethics (2015-2016). His books include Mimetic Reflections: A Study in Hermeneutics, Theology and Ethics (1990); Responsibility and Christian Ethics (1995); Power, Value and Conviction: Theological Ethics in the Postmodern Age (1998); Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics: In the Time of Many Worlds (2004); Religion and the Human Future: An Essay in Theological Humanism (2008, with David E. Klemm); and, most recently, Dust that Breathes: Christian Faith and the New Humanisms (2010). Professor Schweiker has published numerous articles and award-winning essays, as well as edited and contributed to six volumes, including Humanity Before God: Contemporary Faces of Jewish, Christian and Islamic Ethics (2006).  He is also chief editor and contributor to A Companion to Religious Ethics (2004; 2nd expanded edition forthcoming), a comprehensive and innovative work in the field of comparative religious ethics. He is currently working on a forthcoming book with Wiley-Blackwell, titled Religious Ethics: Meaning and Method. His research for The Enhancing Life Project is on the integral flourishing of life.



Project Executive Summary