Perspectives on Virtue: From Qumran to the Qur’an and Beyond

Time and place: Wednesday, 8 May 2019 at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Fabianinkatu 24A (Common Room, 3rd floor)
Organizing committee: Elisa Uusimäki, Anna-Liisa Rafael and Siiri Toiviainen Rø

Description of the workshop:
This workshop explores perspectives on virtue and virtuous living in early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. As the reference to Qumran and Qur’an in the title suggests, we are interested in cultural and conceptual translation, i.e., the ways in which virtue is discussed by authors who wrote in languages other than Greek and Latin, thus lacking the linguistic categories of aretē and virtus. In addition, we explore late ancient sources with an aim to understand whether hope is constructed as a virtue in them if we do not read these accounts in the framework of medieval and modern conceptions of hope. By highlighting these translation processes not only as receptive of, but also as contributing to, virtue discourses that took place in the eastern Mediterranean region in (late) antiquity, the workshop serves to illustrate the cultural and intellectual pluriformity of the time under scrutiny. In so doing, it aims at shaking the standard way of analysing the roots of western virtue ethics within the realm of ancient Greek philosophy and its Latin reception.

The workshop is organized as part of Elisa Uusimäki’s project ‘Conceptions of Virtue in Early Judaism’, funded by the University of Helsinki Research Funds, in cooperation with the Academy of Finland CoE ‘Reason and Religious Recognition’, led by Risto Saarinen.


9.15 Welcome

Session 1: Translating Virtue

9.30-11 Keynote 1: Sophia Vasalou (Birmingham), Between Scripture and Philosophy: Approaches to the Virtues in the Islamic World
10.15 Response by Ritva Palmén
10.25 Discussion
11-11.30 Coffee break
11.30-12 Elisa Uusimäki, In Search of Virtue: Ancestral Inheritance in the Testament of Qahat
12-12.30 Andrew Crislip, Disgust as a Virtue in Late Antique Egypt: Moral Purity and the Ascetic Good Life
12.30-14 Lunch at Sunn (for the speakers)

Session 2: Hope and Despair, Virtue and Action?

14-15.30 Keynote 2: Ville Vuolanto (Tampere), Hope as a Virtue, Emotion and Life Strategy? Studying Hope in Late Roman World
14.45 Response by Elina Pyy
14.55 Response by Risto Saarinen
15.05 Discussion
15.30-16 Coffee break
16.00-16.30 Siiri Toiviainen Rø, Joy Before Joy, Gladness Before Gladness: Hope as a Positive Anticipatory Emotion in Philo of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa
16.30-17.00 Anna-Liisa Rafael, Competence in the Highest Virtue: The Mother of Seven Sons in Lamentations Rabbah
17 Light dinner at HCAS (for registered participants)

Registration by 30.4.2019 via

Contact information: for inquiries, please email or