Theology and Philosophy

2013 Research Seminars

Philosophy Research Seminar Series

4 October- Stephen Hetherington (University of New South Wales)"Knowledge As Potential For Action"
Abstract: Knowledge's roles are at least partly a function of what knowledge is. All the more so if this paper's hypothesis is correct, since I argue for a conception of knowledge-that as knowledge-how. The knowledge-how in question may be thought of as a possibly multi-pronged ability - to do this, that, and/or the other: to question, to answer, to assert, to represent, to believe, to investigate, to move from here to there, etc. In short, knowledge is to be thought of as a potential for various sorts of action - inner, outer, wherever. It is not merely that knowledge is a state with interesting normative links to these actions. Rather, knowledge is the potential to perform those actions. Accordingly, knowledge's role, generically described, is to be the modal locus for knowing actions. This picture of knowledge is reached by applying a Rylean anti-intellectualism about intelligent actions, by highlighting the concept of a knowing action, and by adapting some ideas from Hume, Descartes, and perhaps others.

13 September- Renée Köhler-Ryan  (University of Notre Dame, Australia) - "Suspect Places and Porous Spaces: Descartes, Augustine and the Cosmos"
Abstract: This paper first considers the way in which Descartes uses spatial images, particularly in his Discourse on Method and treatise entitled The World. I argue that he delimits space so much that we are no longer dealing with a cosmos. The concept of a cosmos, as I will speak of it, involves spaces constantly open - porous - to transcendence. In contrast to a Cartesian perspective, Augustine thinks of being religious as tracing back through the cosmos a primordial link between the human person and God. An Augustinian understanding, rather than a Cartesian worldview, thus proves more helpful in discovering how to articulate notions about the sacred, both verbally and architecturally.

23 August- Augustine Obi, ACU Philosophy PhD candidate- "Heidegger, Levinas and Ethics"
The ethical import of Heidegger's concept of Mitsein ('being-with') raises the question as to whether authentic resoluteness amounts to solipsism and therefore precludes the reality of the Other in the life of the individual Dasein. Existentialist interpretations of Heidegger see his fundamental ontology as subsumed within the arena of subjective self-realisation, and therefore take this ontology as incapable of portraying any primordial relation with Others. Some scholars have instead looked to Heidegger's category of Mitsein as a means of recovering a strong sense of the ethical in his thought, and to this end have drawn heavily and in complex ways from the Levinasian ethics of the Other. My concern, then, may be stated as follows: Is Heidegger on the way to Levinas? Alternatively put, what is hindering Heidegger from explicitly espousing the ethical imperative of Levinas' work? By examining Heidegger's notion of Mitsein, it can be shown that Heidegger alludes to the potential for an authentic encounter with the Other. Against those who propose a 'post-subjectivistic' reconfiguration of Heideggerian Beingin light of Levinas, I will argue that there lurks in Heidegger's work a certain understanding of ethics, though one which diverges in significant ways from Levinas' all-encompassing ethical vision.

2 August- Joseph Godfrey (Saint Joseph's University, USA)- "How To Think About Trust" 
Abstract: This seminar offers some main ideas from Joseph Godfrey's Trust of People, Words, and God: A Route for Philosophy of Religion (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012), updated in reference to other recent work by, for example, Hawley, Kohn, Peperzak, and Zagzebski. In defining trust, I contrast my approach with those employed in relation to game theory and to the methods of the social sciences. I propose four dimensions of trusting: instrumental trusting, intimacy trusting, security trusting (contrasting with Heideggerian angst), and the trusting that is open to learning. I propose receptivity to enhancement as the core element in trusting. I offer: an application to theism; an interpretation of religious faith as trust; a construal of propositions believed as propositions trusted; and a glimpse of testimony's importance for epistemology. I conclude with a glance at, in regard to theism and naturalism, an argument from trusting one's cognitive faculties to the relative plausibility of theism, as advanced by Richard Taylor (with an adaptation of this type of design argument by Alvin Plantinga).
Joseph Godfrey S.J. currently holds the Joseph S. Hogan S.J. Chair in Philosophy, at Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia. He recently published Trust of People, Words, and God: A Route for Philosophy of Religion (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012), and is the author of A Philosophy of Human Hope (Martinus Nijhoff, 1987). He has held visiting positions at Marquette University, Loyola University Chicago, and Santa Clara University, and has been a scholar in residence at Georgetown University and the University of California, Los Angeles. He did his graduate study in philosophy at the University of Toronto. He is the author of the articles on trust and on hope in the forthcoming 2013 supplement on philosophy and ethics of the New Catholic Encyclopedia.

14 June- Jeffrey Bloechel (Boston College, USA) - "Hope Beyond Being"

Abstract: Faith in God yields an eschatological orientation that is not contained within the horizons of our relation to world and being. My theological reference will be Paul. My philosophical references will be Heidegger, Levinas, Lacoste and Jean-Louis Chretien.
24 May- Matthew Del Novo (Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Catholic Institute of Sydney) - "Beyond Logos"
Abstract. There is a distinction in the work of the atheist philosopher Schopenhauer (and in all major religions) between that part of us (the person) that dies and an interior life-nature (with different names in different traditions and more than one name in any one tradition) that does not die. This nature is ineffable and the character of this ineffability is to exteriorize, which we, embodied as we are, experience through art, as what we call 'inspiration'. Inspiration (not theory, as much modern art would have us suppose) is the core value of art as it is connected with the ineffable in immediate relation. Of all the arts, music may be the direct performance of the ineffable (drastic, not gnostic). Criteria for 'timeless' inspired or ineffable art are enumerated and described. The parallels between what is said about art and what might be said about religion - especially Catholicism - are reflected upon.

10 May- Emmanuel Falque (Institut Catholique de Paris, France) -"The All-Seeing God in Nicholas of Cusa"
Abstract: In his remarkable treatise De icona, Nicholas of Cusa depicts a Benedictine community gathered around an image by Roger de la Pasture (van Der Weyden). Suddenly they are surprised to realise that the painting sees more than it is seen. By this reversal the community of believers is phenomenologically constituted according to a mode of intersubjectivity from which contemporary philosophy still has much to learn. Reverse intentionality, intersection of gazes, intersubjective community and the fraternal horizon are some of the themes developed by Nicholas of Cusa that phenomenology today is struggling to recover.

26 April - Steve Matthews (ACU) - "Addiction, Competence and Coercion"
Abstract: In what sense is a person addicted to drugs or alcohol incompetent, and so a legitimate object of coercive treatment? The standard tests for competence do not pick out the capacity that is lost in addiction: the capacity to properly regulate consumption. This paper is an attempt to sketch a justificatory framework for understanding the conditions under which addicted persons may be treated against their will. These conditions rarely obtain, for they apply only when addiction is extremely severe and great harm threatens. It will be argued also that to widen the measures currently in place in some jurisdictions, though philosophically well-motivated, would require very strong evidence of a set of conditions disposing a person to an addictive future. It is doubtful that any such currently available evidence is strong enough to justify coercive treatment. Nevertheless, coercive treatment of addiction is already a reality, with the potential for more, and so some discussion will be presented regarding the extraordinary safeguards necessary to prevent misapplication of such treatment policies.

19 April- Colin Goodwin (ACU) - "The Human Person and Survival of Bodily Death: Aquinas and C.D. Broad"
Abstract: Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) and C.D. Broad (1887-1971) were much concerned seven-hundred years apart - with crucial questions relating to the nature of the human person, the person's ongoing identity, and the possibility of the human person's survival of bodily death. The approaches of these two thinkers to the questions just identified are quite startlingly different, with Aquinas drawing extensively on metaphysical lines of reasoning and Broad drawing consistently on empiricist argument that extends to the challenging phenomena disclosed by psychical research. If anything, my presentation will lean towards Broad.

22 March- Matthew Jacoby (independant scholar)- "Kierkegaard, Truth and Self"
Abstract: This paper focuses on Kierkegaard as a religious thinker and examines his understanding of what it means for a person to 'speak the truth'. How Kierkegaard develops his argument is as important as the argument itself since it exemplifies the very point he wants to make. So attention will be given to both the form and content of Kierkegaard's discussion on truth and the self in order that we might gain a deeper appreciation of what is possibly Kierkegaard's most important contribution to Christian thought.

8 March- Nick Trakakis (ACU)- "The Ecclesiological Problem of Evil"
Abstract: The 'problem of evil' is the problem of reconciling the existence of a perfectly loving God with a world replete with evil and suffering. The ecclesiological version of this problem, which has not received the attention of philosophers or philosophical theologians it deserves, may be stated as follows: On the one hand, it is a central ecclesiological tenet that the church is 'holy' - for example, 'holiness' is one of the four traditional 'notes' or 'marks' of the church. On the other hand, the tragic empirical reality of the church is that it is a community ridden with division, triumphalism, exclusivism, corruption and even downright evil (e.g., the recent child sex abuse scandals). The problem, then, is: How can the church be both holy and sinful? Or, how can the church be holy when it is manifestly mired in sin? I will discuss some attempts to resolve this problem, point out why each of them fails, and then propose a solution of my own.