Fellowship Questions

For Templeton Fellowships at the NDIAS

The NDIAS is dedicated to fostering and supporting integrative scholarship addressing ultimate questions, especially those which transcend disciplinary boundaries. As with the NDIAS Residential and Graduate Fellows, so too, the Institute encourages its Templeton Fellows to focus on questions of value in their analyses, to integrate diverse disciplines, and to ask how their findings advance civilization.

The Institute offers all of its fellows the opportunity to engage not only in analysis but also in evaluating what should be done, to analyze the world in substantive and collaborative ways, and to think through the implications of present behavior for the future of the world. Up to two Templeton Fellows will be selected annually for full academic year (10 month) fellowships. Fellows remain in residence at the University of Notre Dame during their fellowship.

In their Templeton Fellowship applications, applicants must identify the question and sub-question (from those below) to which they will respond, along with the hypothesis or hypotheses central to their proposed research projects.

1. What is human creativity and how does it manifest itself?

One of the most fascinating phenomena in the development of the world is the appearance of something radically new that could not be predicted on the basis of earlier states of affairs. Such creativity occurs early on in the evolution of nature: new body plans of organisms are a good example. But it often is the result of the work of the mind, although even here unconscious thought processes play a decisive supporting role to conscious choices. The dynamic entrepreneur in the economy, the charismatic leader in politics, the prophet in religion, the genius in science all exemplify the power of creativity, often proposing new norms for society at large.

Scholars responding to this question are asked to address one of the following sub-questions:


• In what sense do humans create entities such as moral norms and in what sense do they discover what has been created by God?

• What favors the development of creative individuals?

• Does the evolution of organisms reveal a creative side to nature?

• How do the natural and social sciences explain the progress of human creativity and how may this progress be enhanced by human action?

Biologists, psychologists, economists, historians of science and religion, philosophers, and theologians are particularly invited to apply for this topic. 

2. What is the place of the human mind in nature?

The human mind is one of the most mysterious phenomena. On the one hand, it is immediately accessible in the first-person-approach. On the other hand, it is not at all clear how, given the laws of conservation, it can have a causal impact on a physical object, even on the body correlated with it. But even if the body-mind-problem has tormented philosophy since the 17th century, the 18th century has witnessed the rise of what in German is called “Geisteswissenschaften,” which is only superficially translated as “humanities.” Literally, they are the sciences of the mind, because they often assume that there are laws that govern the workings as well as the historical development of the mind. How do these laws relate to the other laws of nature? A reflection on this issue seems decisive to reintegrate the humanities into a broader vision of reality.

Scholars responding to this question are asked to address one of the following sub-questions:


• Traditional rational theology has typically examined nature to gain insights about God. From Herder and Hegel onward, new forms of rational theology emerged that attempted to understand God by studying the capacities of the human spirit and human development. Given the enormous growth of knowledge in the humanities in the past two centuries, can there still be a rational theology of the human mind?

• How do the laws of nature relate to the laws specific to the human mind?

• One of the most important capacities of the mind is its relation to norms and values. How does this capacity fit into nature? Does it entail that nature is more than mere facts?

• The human mind builds upon mental activities, many of which are already found in the animal world. How does the human mind synthesize and transcend these mental activities?

Neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, historians in the broad sense of the term, philosophers, and theologians are particularly invited to apply for this topic.

3. How do the life sciences and the humanities contribute to an explanation of the unique features of humans?

Philosophical anthropology, as it developed particularly in Germany (Scheler, Gehlen, Plessner), was one of the most interesting philosophical schools of the 20th century. Its main representatives tried to render justice to the special position of man in nature while fully subscribing to the Darwinian account of the descent of man from other primates. Our biological and anthropological knowledge has increased enormously in the last decades, but it is time to focus again, on this new basis, on the question of what constitutes the essence of man. In this context, methodological reflections on how natural sciences and the sciences of man have to cooperate become crucial.

Scholars responding to this question are asked to address one of the following sub-questions:


• Which activities are uniquely human?

• Is there a metaphysical reason why the world would not be “complete” without humans?

• Do the various methods of the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities lead to a convergent picture of humanity?

Biologists, anthropologists, social scientists, and scholars in the humanities, including philosophers and theologians, are particularly invited to apply for this topic.

4. How can the plurality of religious traditions be integrated with a philosophical monotheism?

The plurality of religions is both an argument for, and against, a religious worldview. It is an argument for, because the omnipresence of religions among human cultures shows that humans are by nature religious beings. At the same time contradictory propositions cannot be simultaneously true, and many religions have tenets that contradict those of other religions, sometimes of their own. One of the major tasks consists in making sense of religious plurality without either denying substantial differences between religions or falling into the superficial solution that all religions are equally valuable. The idea that God directs the evolution of religions according to a plan is attractive for philosophical monotheists.


Scholars responding to this question are asked to address one of the following sub-questions:

• The plurality of religions and moral traditions has led to widespread moral relativism, a development with significant intellectual and social implications. How can an alternative to moral relativism be articulated that simultaneously renders justice to the fact that many moral and religious traditions do exist?

• What is common to the various religious traditions?

• Is there any logic in the evolution of religion? In what sense were certain steps of religious consciousness necessary before higher levels of religion could be achieved?

Philosophers, social scientists, and theologians are particularly invited to apply for this topic.


Thank you for your interest in the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study's fellowship program. As the grant period associated with this fellowship type concluded in 2016, there are no Templeton Fellowships at the NDIAS being offered at this time. Please direct any questions you may have on the fellowship program to Carolyn Sherman at csherman@nd.edu.


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