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Constructing a Global Religious Heritage: Karl Jaspers and the Idea of an Axial Age

Benjamin Schewel
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Wednesday, April 08, 2020
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12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Benjamin Schewel, Ph.D.
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Wednesdays at the Center

This presentation examines the attempt of the German philosopher, Karl Jaspers, to construct a global religious heritage in the aftermath of the Second World War. He did so by describing the middle centuries of the first millennium BCE--during which Greek philosophy, Hebrew prophecy, Buddhism, Upanishadic Hinduism, and the classical schools of Chinese thought respectively arose--as the collective axis or turning point of human history. He then claimed that in the post-war period, globalizing humanity faced a similar predicament that plagued the most advanced civilizations of the day just prior to the axial age, and so envisions the future appearance of a second, albeit very different, axial revolution. This presentation describes the origin and aims of Jaspers's argument and also considers its viability in light of current events, especially the rising threat of climate change.

Benjamin Schewel is a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He also serves as a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia and the Centre for Religion, Conflict, and Globalization at the University of Groningen.

This presentation is sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies. A light lunch will be served. Parking is available in nearby Trent Rd. and Erwin Rd.