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Fall Semester 2020 Ringvorlesungen

Lectures on Humans, Health and Pestalozzi’s Legacy

The University of Zurich’s latest round of public Ringvorlesungen explores what it means to be human, education in the age of technology, health in a digital society, and gender in the Middle Ages. The lecture series kicks off on 15 September.
Nathalie Huber
What has become of Pestalozzi's legacy in today's technology-oriented times? The lecture series of the Volkshochschule Zürich and the Commission UZH Interdisciplinary provides an educational panorama.

In the Fall Semester, the University of Zurich reopens the doors of its lecture halls to the public. Public events complying with the relevant hygiene measures can once again take place. The latest round of public Ringvorlesungen kick off on 15 September and can be attended either on site or viewed as podcasts.

The lectures shed light on relevant topics from a wide range of subjects and address key aspects that concern us all. 

Understanding humans

What does it mean to be human? Scientists and clerics have attempted to answer this question for millennia, and their ideas have long complemented each other’s fields. Since the Enlightenment, however, the idea of humankind has mainly been shaped by the natural sciences. And yet, the methods and findings of this line of research must also be scrutinized. For example, is there such a thing as free will, or are our actions defined by the neural activity in our brains? And if, as some brain researchers believe, our actions are predetermined, how can we then be held accountable for them? 

Organized by the Commission UZH Interdisciplinary, this lecture series gives renowned experts a platform to shed light on what it means to be human, touching on anthropological aspects such as freedom, faith, evolution, knowledge, law, economy, technology and death.

Education in the age of technology

The Volkshochschule was founded about a century ago, with the aim of providing people with a comprehensive education and equipping them for the challenges of our times. What has become of the ideals of the past and the legacy of Pestalozzi in today’s age of technology? The series of 10 lectures, organized by the Volkshochschule Zürich and the Commission UZH Interdisciplinary, serves up a cornucopia of educational topics, from holistic ideals to techno-utopianism. Attendees will learn, for example, whether humans are generally primed for a digital world, or how artificial intelligence can help make education more efficient and individual.

Health in a digital society

Health care provision through mobile digital devices, or mobile health, is setting new standards. Mobile measuring devices, for example, enable us to keep track of various body functions, such as our pulse, blood pressure, blood sugar or calorie burn rate. This innovation comes with the promise of giving us more control over our health. But is this true? And if so, what might be the price for our trust in sensory measurements and artificial intelligence? These and other questions, including the issue of electronic patient files, will be addressed by international digital shapers and out-of-the-box thinkers in the lecture series of the Digital Society Initiative.

Gender in the Middle Ages

How were male and female gender roles defined and passed on in the Middle Ages? Which female and male role models are conveyed in religious and literary texts? What liberties to act did men and women have in the Middle Ages? Answers to these questions are provided in the Ringvorlesung of the Center for Medieval Studies Zurich. The lecture series includes topics such as gender-specific ideas of humility in the Middle Ages, gender order in sports and games, women in the works of Boccaccio, or concepts of femininity in medieval Japan.

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