At the Limit

15th Dialogue on Science, October 12 to 14, 2016 Engelberg, Switzerland

Drawing on concrete examples from history, chemistry, ethics, information technology, engineering, medicine, linguistics, philosophy and economics, scientific frontiers have been discussed in the context of modern society.

The discussion began with the assertion that our empathy seeks to eliminate borders, but our fear wants to maintain them. It is between these very antipodes that we reinvent our limits time and time again.

The human condition is defined by contact with boundaries and interfaces with the environment. Those who fail to recognise their limits – or who exceed them – can lose their bearings, their emotional connections and, ultimately, themselves.



Limitless growth and endless fun are associated with a loss of identity; they are self-destructive. But just as we need boundaries, we also need borderline experiences. Attack and defence are just one example of opposites that meet on a fault line.

We place limitations on ourselves in science and sport, when we are in pain, and when we are in love. Cognitive activities such as discovery, attribution of meaning, perception and recognition are all based on patterns, and there are no patterns without boundaries.

Boundaries must be permeable – and this requires the exchange of information. When we place limits on our imaginations, we can no longer indulge in visionary thinking or discover new frontiers.

The Academia Engelberg Foundation’s 15th Dialogue on Science in Engelberg from October 12 to 14, 2016 offered a unique platform for a discussion of boundaries, balancing acts, and their effects on the 21st century.

Participants discussed scientific frontiers in history, chemistry, ethics, information technology, engineering, medicine, linguistics, philosophy and economics, as well as social trends and insights in an aging society.


Donators and Partners

The ETH Board is responsible for the strategic leadership of the ETH domain and assumes the supervision of its institutions. Its close relationship with the ETH Council has contributed to the successful continuation of Academia Engelberg Foundation since 2000.

The Foundation promotes research into the connecting human fundamentals of science. Academia Engelberg Foundation and the Foundation for Basic Research in Human Sciences have entered into a cooperation agreement for the period 2011 to 2015.

Helvetia is a quality-oriented comprehensive insurance company with over 150 years of experience. Academia Engelberg Foundation is convinced it will be able to use important synergies from the partnership starting in 2015.

DIE HIRSCHMANN STIFTUNG ist eine gemeinnützige schweizerische Stiftung. 1985 wurde sie vom Unternehmer und Aviatik-Pionier Carl W. Hirschmann gegründet.

A partnership with the University of Lucerne has existed since summer 2013. Since 2016 we have also a parthership with the Faculty of Economics and Management of the University of Lucerne. Through these partnerships, synergies are used and joint projects are tested and realized. The University of Lucerne currently consists of three faculties: the faculties for Theology, Culture and Social Sciences, and Law.

The focus of the Foundation is the promotion of organizations in the areas of culture and arts, architecture, design, music, sports, education, and science. It has been a partner of Academia Engelberg Foundation since 2014.

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