The social relationship between theology, philosophy and sociology

Interdisciplinary seminar in Trent

12-13 December 2014: “The social relationship: theory and potential in the debate with philosophy and theology.”


From the expression, “God is relationship,” as affirmed by some theologians, to the assumption that “all starts from relationship,” sustained by sectors not secondary to contemporary sociology,  and across the various philosophical schools that have not focused their analyses on the relational dimension, the relational paradigm seems to bridge, more than ever, profoundly distinct disciplines.


For some time now, some scholars of IUS’s Social, Human Sciences and Communication department and the sector for Research on Values, Membership and Democracy Sociology Department of the University of Trent have been working on this crucial loop. It led to the creation of this initiative to allow a confrontation between the values this paradigm holds within the single settings and nurture a less superficial and more attentive usage of the implications and consequences that emerge for further study.


The sessions of the interdisciplinary seminary – the scientific organisation of which was jointly conducted by Salvatore Abbruzzese (UniTN) and Bernhard Callebaut (IUS) – started on Friday, the 12th. In his opening speech Callebaut said that the decision to focus on the social relationship at interdisciplinary levels arose from the need to «progress in the comprehension of the social relationship, a concept that apparently sounds familiar but which we are unable to define as deeply as we would wish.» The analysis of the social relationship– Abbruzzese adds – introduces us to «a new anthropology» and «implies the need to open oneself to a new dimension, definitively breaking through the confines of purely utilitarian and contractual logic ».


Seminario sociologia Trento


The two central lectures of the seminar, presented by Pierpaolo Donati, sociologist of the Bologna University (“The vital relationship and its enigma: prolegomena of relational sociology”) and Piero Coda, theologian and philosopher (“Christian Revelation and Trinitarian Ontology”), stood as the theoretical fundaments on which the dialogue was woven. The first brought to light the enigma underlying the social relationship which Donati defines as “vital,” according to the specific sociological methodology; the second placed at the disposal of the works the relational principles elaborated by Trinitarian ontology in light of Christian revelation. 


In the afternoon, the lectures of Giulia Paola Di Nicola of Chieti University (“The propulsive value of reciprocity in interpersonal relationships”), Adriano Fabris of Pisa University (“Relationships and communication”) and Daniela Ropelato of IUS (“Democratic quality and the relational dimension
of participation”), set the trend for specific investigations of the relational paradigm for studies in the fields of sociology, philosophy and political sciences.


The event concluded on the 13th with an Expert Meeting in the form of one-to-one dialogues which highlighted, along with the research threads that already emerged, also incentives offered by professors already involved in related fields, who were willing to conduct a real exercise of interdisciplinary encounters, open to reciprocal contamination. 
A big group of IUS students participated in the Seminar. One of them summarized the climate of intellectual exchange: «...the experience of mutual esteem, the awareness of how our ideas were enriched and the joy of working together, were signs of the sense of novelty that characterized the entire meeting.»


by Paolo Frizzi

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