Theology and Philosophy

Keynote Speakers

Lee Braver - University of South Florida

Thoughts on the Unthinkable
Kant taught us the truism that we can only think with our thoughts.  Without the dogmatic presupposition that the way reality works has been synchronized with the way our minds work, it seems extremely likely that there are things that we cannot experience or conceive.  Is there anything to say about these unthinkable topics, or must we pass over them in complete silence, as Wittgenstein said (but didn't do)?  In this paper, I want to explore what we can say about that which we cannot think.  I will look at some historical examinations of the topic, as well as how it informs art, to see what lessons we can draw.

Kevin Hart - University of Virginia, and Australian Catholic University

The Irreducible
For most of those who practice it, phenomenology turns on one or more modes of reduction. Yet, as Husserl makes plain, God is irreducible by virtue of his peculiar mode of transcendence. If one makes the "theological turn," as various phenomenologists are said to have done (Falque, Henry, Lacoste, Levinas, Marion, among others), is one thereby committed to abandon reduction? Or is there a way of rethinking the relationship of Christianity and phenomenology so that another mode of reduction takes place? These are the questions I shall chiefly consider.

Genevieve Lloyd - Emeritus, University of New South Wales

Derrida and the Philosophical History of Wonder
Although there is in Derrida's writings little explicit concern with the topic of wonder, they resonate with its philosophical history. This talk will address some of those resonances, and explore their significance in understanding the philosophical and political import of Derrida's thought. Central to the discussion will be Derrida's concern with the ancient idea of aporia, whose connections with wonder go back to the very beginnings of philosophy. Tensions in ancient Greek accounts of wonder -- between mental activity and passivity, motion and stasis -- become more explicit in seventeenth century philosophy. My discussion will focus especially on Spinoza's disagreements with the Cartesians about the nature of wonder and its role in the life of the mind. Spinoza's treatment of the nature and significance of singularity yields a new version of the ancient dictum that philosophical thought "begins  in wonder". Against that background, the talk will discuss Derrida's use of the notion of singularity, especially in the seminars on Sovereignty and the Beast and The Death Penalty.  We are thrown into wonder when habitual expectations are shaken by the experience of singularity. Attending to resonances of the philosophical history of wonder in Derrida's thought can thus help to illuminate the political orientation of his thought, especially in those late seminars.

Marguerite La Caze - University of Queensland

Hannah Arendt and self-forgiveness: in search of a magic spell
Hannah Arendt writes 'no-one can forgive himself … forgiving and promising enacted in solitude or isolation remain without reality and can signify no more than a role played before oneself.' (1958, 237) Rather dramatically, she suggests we are like the sorcerer's apprentice left without the incantation to break a magic spell. Furthermore, Arendt believes we cannot forgive ourselves as we cannot be both the subject and object of experience and contends that the most profound reason we cannot forgive ourselves is that 'we are dependent on others, to whom we appear in a distinctness that we ourselves are unable to perceive. Closed within ourselves, we would never be able to forgive ourselves any failing or transgression because we would lack the experience of the person for the sake of whom one can forgive.' (1958, 243) In challenging the exclusion of self-forgiveness, my paper stresses Arendt's descriptive focus on political forgiveness, where relations with others are paramount, and they 'determine the extent and modes in which one may be able to forgive himself'. (1958, 238) This stress alters our understanding of Arendt's contentions and I explore the implications for the possibility of personal self-forgiveness, its relation to the forgiveness of others, and the ethics of self-forgiveness.

 Andreas Vrahimis - University of Cyprus

The Great War, the Demise of Idealism, and the Analytic-Continental Divide
Prior to the Great War, academic philosophy throughout Europe was arguably dominated by Idealist schools, with Neo-Kantianism prominent in France and Germany, and British Idealism still a leading force in the United Kingdom. The outburst of the Great War, and the German army's burning of the library of the University of Leuven in particular, gave rise to a reaction by intellectuals across various fields, including philosophy. Of particular interest here is the way that philosophers sought to contribute to the war effort, thereby ushering in an international controversy between some of the chief figures in Germanophone Neo-Kantianism and their French, British, and American critics: viz, the association of a particular philosophical character with specific national cultures. Germanophone Neo-Kantians, for example, sought justification for the war effort in the writings of their German Idealist intellectual ancestors, while figures such as Dewey and Boutroux, blamed Idealist philosophy for Prussian militarism. After surveying the debates over the association of Idealism with the war, this paper will examine how idealist schools faded from prominence in interwar European academia. I will argue that the association of German Idealism with the war contributed to the formation of the idea of a divide between analytic and continental philosophy.

Laszlo Tengelyi - Universitat Wuppertal
It is with great sadness that we learned of the sudden death of Prof. Dr. Laslzo Tengelyi, who passed away on 19 July 2014. He will be remembered at our conference in December.  

Here is the abstract for the keynote address that Prof Tengelyi had planned to give at our December conference:

Philosophy as Openness to the World
The talk is aimed at defining philosophy as a comprehensive inquiry into the structure of the world. I shall argue that such a universal inquiry is only possible if it is based on two methodological principles, which may be termed as "heterological" and as "transcendental", respectively. The first of these two principles requires an exhaustive division of reality into two (or more) areas that are strictly complementary to each other within the totality of the world; the second principle is destined to account for the fact that only a being capable of transcending its surrounding world is in a position to develop a thinking of the world as a whole. It is in the light of these two principles that the contemporary debate between naturalism and (phenomenological) transcendentalism will be considered in the second part of the talk.