2013 Faculty Researcher of the Year, Humanities Social Sciences Cluster
Professor Ernst Wolff, Department of Philosophy
Ernst Wolff studied in Languages, Theology and Philosophy at the University of Pretoria, the University of Johannesburg and finally at the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne. He has been working at the Department of Philosophy since 2005, teaching mainly Political and Social Philosophy, Ethics and Philosophy of Technology (but sometimes also Cognitive Philosophy, African Philosophy, etc). Most of his research can be situated in the style and concerns of the broader phenomenological and hermeneutic movements. However, of late, his work is shaped by research in Social Theory and a growing concern for practical applicability. In the South African philosophical community, Wolff is also known for his work on thought of Marthinus Versfeld.
Among his publications figure two monographs: De l’éthique à la justice (Springer, 2007) and Political responsibility for a globalised world (Transcript, 2011). The book Shaping a humane world (Transcript, 2012, co-edited with Oliver Kozlarek and Jörn Rüsen) is an important outcome of his collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (Essen, Germany) from 2007 to 2012.
At present Wolff is working on an integrated theory of the technicity of action. This theory will be “integrated” in the sense of exploring action from the descriptive and from the normative point of view, in both cases, however, limited to the technical dimension of action. The technicity of action considered descriptively will be anchored in a hermeneutics of the capable agent, and will be complemented with a model for understanding the agent/system relation, in order to extend the understanding of capabilities to organised action and institutional existence. The technicity of action considered normatively will be approached by an exploration of the notion of responsibility as the technical dimension of ethico-political action. Wolff is currently working on this project at the Goethe University in Frankfurt (Germany), with the support of a research scholarship for advanced researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2013-2014).
Professor Wolff's Researcher of the Year Award was co-sponsored by M&M Initiatives, Pretoria, and the University of Pretoria Office of the Dean of Humanities.