Workshop Title:

Religious Sacrifice and Human Experience


October 17th, 2023 (CET)


University of Urbino (Italy)


  • De Maistre
  • Girard
  • Aquinas
  • Human experience in its entirety
  • Christianity and other religious traditions

Workshop Chair:

Prof. Andrea Aguti
Professor in University of Urbino (Italy)

Personal Bio:

Andrea Aguti is Full professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Urbino (Italy), Department of Economics, Society and Politics, where he teaches Philosophy of Religion. His research areas are Philosophy of religion, Moral philosophy, Philosophical anthropology, and Systematic theology. As a continental philosopher of religion, he is involved in bridging the gap between the analytic and continental philosophy of religion. He has published seven books, including two introductory volumes to the philosophy of religion, more than one hundred essays and articles in national and international academic journals, and edited several books. His latest book, Morale e religione. Per una visione teistica (Religion and Morality. Toward a Theistic View), 2021 argues that theism has an explanatory advantage in both the justification and motivation of morality. Since 2016, he has been President of the Italian Association for Philosophy of Religion (AIFR) and Co-editor of the yearbook of philosophy and theology "Hermeneutica". As President of the European Society for the Philosophy of Religion (ESPR), in the two-year period 2022-2024, he is organizing the 24th ESPR Conference to be held in Trento (Italy), 5-7 September 2024.

Workshop Committee Members:

Prof. Andrea Aguti, University of Urbino,

Prof. Ulrico Agnati, University of Urbino,

Prof. Cristiano Bellei, University of Urbino,

Dr. Damiano Bondi, University of Urbino,

Prof. Roberto Di Ceglie, Pontifical Lateran University (Rome),

Workshop Description:


Sacrifice as a practice aimed at honoring deities by offering them something as a sign of propitiation or worship is studied from the viewpoint of numerous religious cultures and scientific disciplines. Theology and philosophy as well as evolutionary biology, sociology, economics, literary studies, political and military theories, gender studies, and such like, are involved in research on sacrifice. Unsurprisingly, the views of sacrifice that have emerged from the abovementioned studies are numerous and exceedingly varied. Decades of debates in which thinkers such as Bataille, Derrida, Nancy, Girard, and Žižek have offered substantial reflections on religious sacrifice have provided very little assistance in clarifying sacrifice in itself. Some even say that we still need to make it clear what we mean by 'sacrifice'.

Goal / Rationale:

The extraordinary variety of approaches to the theme of sacrifice is itself a problem, on which one should focus. Outstanding thinkers such as Joseph de Maistre and René Girard interpreted the whole human history in sacrificial terms. However surprising this may appear to be, something analogous may be said of Christian theologians such as Augustine of Hyppo and Thomas Aquinas, according to whom sacrifice seems to shape the entire experience of believers and cannot be seen as a mere ritual. From this, another problem emerges. The fact that sacrifice seems to shape human experience in its entirety does not seem applicable to religion as such. At the same time, it does not seem to regard only Christianity. Our workshop intends to focus on these issues by proposing new reflections on the aforementioned authors in the light of a comparison between Christian religion and other religious traditions.

Scope and Information for Participants:

Applications are invited on topics which include, but are not limited to, the following subjects: Is there any connection between the variety of approaches to sacrifice and the fact that outstanding thinkers such as Joseph de Maistre and René Girard have interpreted the whole human history in sacrificial terms? Can the same question be posed regarding Christian theologians such as Augustine of Hyppo and Thomas Aquinas, according to whom sacrifice seems to shape the entire experience of believers and not just a mere ritual? And does the fact that sacrifice turns out to be more than mere ritual only regard Christianity, or is there a substantial convergence between different religious perspectives?


The workshop aimed to reflect on the significance of sacrifice as a religious act and an intellectual and moral experience. The keynote speakers had two main objectives: firstly, to show the difference between the Christian conception of sacrifice and that of ancient religions and, therefore, to understand the former as a paradigmatic example of rationalizing the relationship between human beings and the divine. This rationalization process within the religious realm has provided the basis for universalizing the sacrifice's experience and acquiring its relevance in the moral sphere.

The second objective was to discuss René Girard's theory of sacrifice, which has been very influential in recent debates. In particular, some aspects of this theory were critically analyzed: a) his functionalist conception of sacrifice, which seems to ignore the properties of innocence and guilt in the sacrificial victim; (b) his conception of the sacred, which seems reductive in many ways; (c) the ambiguity of his conception of religion which, on the one hand, needs of genuine transcendence, to legitimate sacrifice on the social level, and, on the other hand, considers it as purely imaginary; d) his anti-sacrificial conception of Christianity which is based on a questionable exegesis and theology.

Access to Workshop:

ICIHCS 2023 Workshop -- Chicago - YouTube (1)
ICIHCS 2023 Workshop -- Chicago - YouTube (2)
ICIHCS 2023 Workshop -- Chicago - YouTube (3)


University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Via Aurelio Saffi, 2 - 61029 Urbino PU-IT


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