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Jos Pieper

Abstract

This article examines the similarities and differences between a religious-philosophical approach to contingency and a (religious) psychological approach to coping with health problems. We elaborate on theoretical and empirical developments in research on coping, meaning-focused coping and religious coping. Religious coping is seen as a special form of meaning-focused coping. These coping perspectives are related to Wuchterl’s model for dealing with contingency and an extension of this model, based on Dutch empirical research among cancer patients.

Martina Kraml

Abstract

This article focuses on the methodological meaning of the concept of contingency. I illustrate this with a study of doctoral qualification processes, which examines the methodological and substantive dimensions of the contingency paradigm. The study focuses on the way in which doctoral students perceive and conceptualize their research processes, and it crystallized the factors that influence the writing of their dissertations. Horizons of meaning and epistemic concepts, for example, play an essential role. These influence the areas of conflict that arise, the strategies for acting that the doctoral students opt for, and the consequences that result from these strategies. Dealing with contingency turns out to be the central challenge, especially in the supervision of dissertations. The study demonstrates the importance of developing competencies in “contingency encounter” in research and teaching.

A Curious Case of Contingency: the Buddha and Buddhists on Caste

Two Case Studies, Ancient Sources, Modern Embodiment

Paul van der Velde

Abstract

A meeting in South India (Bylakuppe) with a group of Buddhists, followers of the low-caste politician Ambedkar led to a closer investigation of the often found idea that the Buddha opposed the caste system. In this contribution we focus on the tension between the generally held ideas if it comes to the Buddha’s attitude of the caste system (rejection) and everyday practice of a modern group of followers. For this, apart from the exposure in Bylakuppe several episodes from the Pali canon were investigated. It was the unexpected course and the end of the meeting in Byalakuppe that brought the researcher to this reflection, surprised as he was by the course of events. This lead to a renewed reading of several of the ancient sources that are usually brought forward if it comes to the Buddha and caste distinctions. In his own words, a case of ‘creative contingency’ ensuing in a reflection that things were yet more complicated than they seemed to be at first sight. Methodologically speaking one could say this is a field observation that led to a further reflection and a closer investigation of ancient textual sources.

Michael Scherer-Rath

J. Copier, C.A.M. Hermans and T.S.M. van der Zee

Abstract

This article reports the results of an empirical study into the relationship between school leaders’ experiences of contingency, and how they formulate goals and aims for the future of the children at their schools.

We distinguish between three ways of handling experiences of contingency: contingency denial, contingency acceptance, and contingency receiving. We expect that school leaders who have received new insights in their experiences of contingency (contingency receiving) formulate future aims more often than school leaders who have accepted or denied experiences of contingency. This hypothesis is based on the assumption that both contingency receiving and formulating aims are characterised by transcendental openness and an ethical orientation towards the good life.

The study consisted of qualitative interviews with 24 school leaders of primary schools in the Netherlands. The results confirm the hypothesis, and give insight into the complex relation between personal biography and professional identity in school leadership.

Yvonne Weeseman, Hanneke van Laarhoven and Michael Scherer-Rath

Abstract

Narrative integration of experiences of contingency describes the ways (modes) in which people assimilate the uncontrollability—or contingency—of life, while accepting, acknowledging and tolerating the existential fears accompanying these experiences, thus keeping contingency open. Contingency is defined as events being ‘possible (or not impossible) and also not necessary at the same time’. Experiences of contingency, caused by the interplay between life events, one’s worldview and ultimate life goals, disrupt one’s life story, challenging one’s basic needs for understanding, coherence and meaning.

The different modes of narrative integration are studied in six highly sensitive Dutch children, aged between 6 and 12 years old. A practice-based model by Kruizinga et al. (2017) is compared to a theoretical construct of religious philosophical contingency constructed by Wuchterl (2011; 2019). Practical and theoretical differences are discussed. This study confirms the findings by Kruizinga et al. (2017).

Four modes of dealing with contingency are identified: Denial, Acknowledging, Accepting and Receiving. In mode four, Receiving, people transcend themselves (self-transcendence). Contrary to Wuchterl’s theory, vertical transcendence is not a prerequisite for narrative integration of contingency, or for keeping contingency open. We conclude that the model of narrative integration of experiences of contingency by Kruizinga et al. is a valid tool for further research. Possible applications in the field of spiritual care are discussed.

Iris D. Hartog, Michael Scherer-Rath, Tom H. Oreel, Justine E. Netjes, José P.S. Henriques, Jorrit Lemkes, Alexander Vonk, Mirjam A.G. Sprangers, Pythia T. Nieuwkerk and Hanneke W.M. van Laarhoven

Abstract

The theoretical model: ‘Narrative meaning making and integration of life events’ hypothesizes that life events such as falling ill may result in an ‘experience of contingency’. Through narrative meaning making, this experience may be eventually integrated into patients’ life stories, which, in turn, may enhance their quality of life. To contribute to our understanding of this existential dimension of falling ill and to further validate the theoretical model, we examined the relationships among the concepts assessed with the RE-LIFE questionnaire.

Two hypothesized mediation models were assessed using regression-based serial multiple mediation analysis. Model 1, assessing the influence of ‘experience of contingency’ on ‘acknowledging’, was significant and showed partial mediation by indirect influences through ‘negative impact on life goals’ and ‘existential meaning’. Model 2, assessing the influence of ‘experience of contingency’ on ‘quality of life’, was also significant, with a full mediation by the variables ‘negative impact on life goals’, ‘existential meaning’ and ‘acknowledging’. In conclusion, several hypothesized relationships within the theoretical model were confirmed. Narrative meaning making and integration significantly influence people’s self-evaluation of their quality of life.

Kurt Wuchterl

Abstract

The existentially important problem of contingency has in recent times been the topic of discussion not only in the philosophy of religion, but also in psychology, in sociology and especially in empirical theology. In the theory of the experience of contingency developed here, “contingency” is first clarified by differentiating the meanings of “necessity”, which makes it possible to distinguish several fundamental personal patterns of behaviour in dealing with contingencies. Since both the purely scientific considerations as well as those relating to reason have reached their limits, the focus is on the meaning of contingency in religion. The central point at issue is what lies beyond the limits of reason. Naturalists and immanent agnostics judge responses to contingency differently from religious agnostics and adherents of institutionalised religions.—Finally, by applying the notion of a latent philosophy as a basis for these religious-philosophical reflections, it becomes a bridge to empirical theology, which attempts to mold the individual ways of dealing with contingency into being practically applicable.

Egbert van Dalen, Michael Scherer-Rath, Hanneke van Laarhoven, Gerard Wiegers and Chris Hermans

Abstract

According to philosopher of religion Kurt Wuchterl, contingency acknowledgement (German: Kontingenzanerkennung) means that rational thinking is inadequate for explaining contingency experiences. The authors argue that, in the tragic narrative of a contingency experience, subjects face limitations in three dimensions: in the individual, social and transcending dimensions. The individual dimension is expressed in powerful, visual metaphors for the confrontation with forces that do not take the human dimension into account in any way, even coercing the subjects to relinquish their existence. The social dimension concerns the tragic subject’s feeling of being avoided and excluded by some individuals in their environment. The transcending dimension emerges in the complaint “Why me?”, which religious persons address to a religious power, using moral arguments. Empirical research suggests that the acknowledgement of one’s own limitations resulting from a contingency experience can be seen as a sign of strength rather than weakness, for, by doing so, one shows the courage to let go of past interpretative frameworks and be vulnerable. This creates the possibility of an opening in the interpretation crisis, which can lead to an unexpected, new perspective.

After Darwin

Morality in a Secular World

Jeff O’Connell and Michael Ruse

Abstract

In the second half of the nineteenth century, many people lost their faith in the Christian God. Nevertheless, they were eager to show that this move towards a secular world picture did not mean the end of morality and that it could continue as much before. In a Darwinian age this was not possible and the Christian cherishing of the virtue of meekness was replaced by a moral respect for vigor and effort directed both towards self-realization and to the well-being of society. We compare the British moves to those promoted by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. There are significant similarities but also differences that reflect the British industrialized notion of progress versus the German idealistic notion of progress.