Christoph Möllers

Christoph Möllers

Professor of Law, Chair of Constitutional Law and Legal Philosophy, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Christoph Möllers is the perfect speaker to bring back to our society the findings of a full day of multidisciplinary exploration. Used to dissecting themes like democracy, internationalization, integration with his deep understanding of law, philosophy and comparative literature, Möllers will answer the initial questions: which walls will the presented discoveries demolish in our society? How can the knowledge shared in this historical day provide the handles to the challenges of our era? Acknowledged by the 2001 Legal Book of the Year Award and numerous fellowships and memberships from prestigious institutions such as the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science, the New York University School of Law, the University of Munich and the Thyssen-Foundation, Möllers will offer a comprehensive inferential summary of the Falling Walls Conference. What he presents is a real glimpse into the breakthroughs of today through the prism of a multitude of natural and social disciplines like anthropology, arts, chemistry, computer science, education, electronics, economics, energy, engineering, history, innovation, Islamic studies, law, medicine, nanoscience, neuroscience, nutrition, physics, sociology, technology.  

Breaking down the Breakthroughs


I. Introduction


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Evening!

After 19 great presentations you must be quite exhausted.

Now it is my somewhat unfortunate task, to wrap it all up.

To take Olafur Eliasson’s mottos from yesterday:

I did not say NO, but I will be BRIEF!

Well, as you will know, it is the duty of a judge to make a decision about things about whose factual side she does not know a lot, or some times even anything at all. And it belongs to the features of legal systems to produce decisions even if there are no criteria upon which to decide: Law produces impossible decisions.

It might be for these reasons, that they hired a law professor to fulfil my task tonight


II. Learning


But how might we start?

Perhaps with the simple question: Did we learn anything today?

We have heard in one of the presentations that so called “progress” in school may, at a closer look, just be the result of a deal between teachers, pupils, and parents.

Let us apply this and wonder, if we have a similar deal today? Will we walk home satisfied, but still as ignorant as before?

Well: If you had a good time so far, if you enjoyed yourself, and if you never frowned, never felt irritated, never wanted to contradict once, while listening, then you probably did not learn anything at all!

You may have acquired some short-term knowledge, but “learning” would actually mean that you will do something different with your life or your research or your business because of this conference.

This seems to be quite a demanding idea: Is it possible to directly learn from, or even how to do first class research?

So far, at least, we have a strong intuition that there is no great research without learning.

By the way– if you could learn it,

you might even teach it. If people teach Creative Writing, why shouldn´t we think of teaching Creative Research? But let us not get ahead of us.


III. Patterns


So, how could we learn something today even without participating in the disciplinary communities of those who gave their presentations?

My impression is we might look for patterns of irritation, and we should try to think about Strategies of Thinking:

So, what did irritate me from our talks?

It may have irritated us,


that we saw how the brain may be treated as a social animal.

Or that you can train feeling

Or that the isolation of a neurological laboratory scene may become a social, even a sociological place.


Or: just the other way around, it may have irritated us

that we can (or must) understand the Genes of others as part of our environment.


Or, now not as matter of research but of research illustration, by our speakers, it may have irritated us

that we may just illustrate the complexity of the eye by showing not the eye, but a complex object the eye is able to see, an ingenious move, it seems to me.


What lessons may we get from these irritations?


One first lesson may:

Blur distinctions, but don’t give them necessarily up!


The distinction between the individual and the social

is blurred when we perceive pain, the most individual, subjective and individual part of illness

as a social problem that requires lots of communal energies.


It is blurred in a totally different manner, when we observe market innovations as elements of a planned economy, and not of individual entrepreneurship, or understand decentralization as a valid functional equivalent to privatization.


The distinction between cultural and biological features is blurred

when the technical Production of artefacts has to create natural features, as we saw in two contributions today:


Be it with regard to an object like the retina,

be it with regard to the designing of a factory that lies within a protected environment.


The distinction between a perceiving subject and a perceived object is blurred when,

as we learned today, we can make an atom to be seen by energizing it so that differences that are produced in a given structure appear.

It is also intentionally blurred, if you build a camera that has to work faster than the molecules you want to observe.


It is blurred in quite a different way, if we understand the borders of a piece of art and its observing and observed environment as negotiable. There is no border between art and the world left, but only a world identifying and re-identifying objects of art. And even the idea of the object itself seems to retreat in favour of spatial experiments.


Finally, the distinction between different disciplines is blurred when

the disciplinary design is less complex than the phenomena we want to describe with them. As with regard to medieval religious disciplines.



Are there other lessons to learn?

One might be: Re-define your problem!


Do not think of the Disposal of Waste as the disposal of Waste but of its transformation into something different. We want to dispose of things, but things have not to remain what they are.


And…another lesson: Inverse your idea of the direction in which things or ideas move!


We think our way from the product to the Waste, why shouldn’t we think from our Waste to the product?


Or: We should not think of inter-cultural exchange as a one-dimensional movement in which one culture emits cultural patterns and another culture just receives them, but in a rather dialectical way of simultaneous acculturation, as a back of forth of giving and taking. Remember: A Muslim scholar commenting on the Hebrew Bible. Or a jewish scholar writing in Arabic but with Hebrew letters.


And: We might think of immunization as something that might happen after the infection, not before it


And: We should think of the nation state as a late phenomenon that only showed up in the very moment when everybody started to talk. So, the history of the institution may end up as the inversion of the history of its semantic.


Final lesson: Make the implicit especially the metaphorical background of your solutions explicit… and then –  criticize it.


Do we talk about innovation when we talk about free markets? No. We don’t.

Or: Do we have to think within the powerful metaphors of equilibrium and balancing to efficiently organize logistics? No, this imagery may lead us in the wrong direction.



IV. The metaphor of the Wall


Obviously, this last lesson, may even be applied to the one metaphor we all subscribed to believe in, at least for today: the metaphor of the wall that should be overcome.

But there are many ways to overcome walls. And as we saw the way you do it might depend of the kind of wall you are confronted with: a wall of ignorance or, as in the case of deadly births, a wall of inaction.

You may break them through them or tear them down.

But you might also just fly over them or dig yourself through under them. You might grow a plant that slowly eats the wall up or build a tower that just helps us to look over the wall.

And after having vanquished the wall, what do we do?

We may just stay where we are as many people in East-Germany did.

And not all walls should be overcome as the walls of our house.


Max Weber called science the slow drilling of thick walls, das langsame Bohren dicker Bretter. Another correct translation would be the boring boring.

This has to be done before any break-through, and maybe no wall will fall. So if your breakthrough has not yet taken place, please keep digging.

Thank you very much.