Colloquium, 31 August to 2 September 2012
The Christian view of history and the revival of the Liberal Arts
‘Historically as well as cosmically, medieval man stood at the foot of a stairway; looking up, he felt delight. The backward, like the upward, glance exhilarated him with a majestic spectacle, and humility was rewarded with the pleasures of admiration’ – C S Lewis, The Discarded Image, vii, h.
Those who revived the Liberal Arts in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries gazed out upon a more complex vista than their medieval predecessors. Before them still was the same delightful prospect of eternal wholeness, but behind them were the twin peaks of the Classical World and Christendom.
Those twin peaks of Classical Graeco-Roman culture and the Judaeo-Christian tradition (culminating in the birth of the Universities) inspired in thinkers such as Cardinal Newman, Hilaire Belloc, G K Chesterton, Christopher Dawson, Mortimer Adler and John Senior a return to the humanist values that were under threat in the secularized universities of their day. A small but distinct revival of the Liberal Arts has recently taken place, as shown by the emergence of new Catholic Liberal Arts colleges in North America and Australia (such as Campion College) and by the growing litany of voices, in university and media circles, calling for a rehabilitation of the classical Christian traditions of learning in Western civilization.
From Friday 31 August to Sunday 2 September Campion College hosted a three-day colloquium on the Christian view of history and the re-manifestation of the Liberal Arts - the ancient Trivium and Quadrivium - in colleges and universities during the past 100 years.
Keynote Speakers (click to listen)
- Prof Steven Scwartz - Lead kindly light: Cardinal Newman and the modern University.
- Emeritus Prof Michael Alexander - Black Dwarf to White Queen: Walter Scott and Catholic Truth
- Prof Wayne Hudson - Reinventing the Liberal Arts
- Prof Barry Spurr - T.S Eliot and the Western Classical Tradition
Stephen McInerney: Newman & Liberalism
In his Apologia, John Henry Newman claimed to dedicate his life to defending dogmatic religion against liberalism. As an Anglican, Newman opposed liberal parliamentary reforms and shaped the Tractarians as an anti-liberal movement. Yet, in his Catholic years, Newman was suspected of being a liberal due to his views on the politics informing the Syllabus of Errors, and his circumspection regarding the question of papal infallibility. Since his death, conservative and liberal Catholics have sought to claim Newman as one of their own. This paper suggests that while Newman can be described as a liberal by the standards of nineteenth-century ultramontanist Catholicism, this did not make him an advocate of either the liberalism or conservativism of his modern disciples.
Robert Tilley: A Catholic Critique of Contemporary Engagements with Scripture – Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou and Giorgio Agamben
Many on the Left lament that the Marxist critique of capitalism since the 1960s has run out of steam. Indeed, some say Marxist critique that has been appropriated and subsumed by the very consumer culture it affects to take issue with. Some Marxist theorists have responded by trying to appropriate the voice of religion to revivify the revolutionary zeal of the Left. Theorists such as Slavoj Žižek, Alain Badiou, and Giorgio Agamben, have done so via Scripture. This paper argues that they ultimately fail and end up being as congenial to our hyper-consumer world as anything that went before. This paper explores why this is so and what our authors must do if they are to rectify this failure.
Austin Woodbury: The relevance of his work for our times
Dr. Christine Wood was the 2012 recipient of the Fellowship for the Austin Woodbury Collection which involved research of the uncatalogued notes, lecture material and unpublished works by Rev. Dr. Austin Woodbury SM (1899-1979), as well as Woodbury's personal library. Dr. Wood will speak about the extraordinary life of Fr. Woodbury, founder and rector of the Marist Seminary, Old Toongabbie, and founder of the Aquinas Academy, Sydney. Fr. Woodbury gained a great reputation in Sydney for his erudite teachings in Thomistic philosophy and theology during a tumultuous period within the Church and Western society in general in the mid-late twentieth century. Dr. Wood will also speak about the relevance of Fr. Woodbury's moral theology today in light of the highly debated issue of the vital conflicts involved in medical interventions to save the life of a pregnant mother with the foreseen but unintended death of her unborn child.
To watch the video, please visit the following link - http://www.campion.edu.au/component/content/article/77-commentary-and-media/258-dr-christine-wood
Wednesday 7 March:
Associate Professor John Armstrong, “The Great Tradition”
The key to a great tradition is the present relevance and power of ideas we inherit. The practical, task oriented aspect of thinking is generally absent in our approach to the history of ideas. When Robert Adam studied ruins in Rome in the 18th Century it was because he wanted to build wonderful buildings in the future and establish a successful architectural business. We need to adopt his attitude to the past.
John Armstrong is senior advisor in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor at the University of Melbourne and the author of several internationally acclaimed books, including works on love, beauty and civilization.
Thursday 19 April:
Dr John Schuster, “Between History and Philosophy: History of Science as Exemplar in Reviving the Humanities”
It is one thing to strive to revive the humanities in undergraduate education; it is another to think through what an humanities discipline is; how it may relate to (but not be conflated with) neighbouring ones; and how it can speak to undergraduates and wider publics without, in the long run, being dissolved, or emulsified into well meaning, ‘relevant’ baby porridge. I have written and published about Descartes, the natural philosopher and mathematician, and the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, for over thirty-five years (http://descartes-agonistes.com/). I have done this as a practicing Early Modern historian and historian of science, not in any way as a professional philosopher; although, curiously, I have often been mistaken for one. In this seminar, I shall discuss how my techniques, and my results, illuminate how history should be practiced; in what its disciplinary élan consists; and how it may usefully, as opposed to dysfunctionally, be related to philosophy. Most importantly, we shall see in what sense history of science qualifies as an exemplary specialty within history, and hence why—in unemulsified form—it should be an important member of the family of revivified, character– and citizen–forming humanities.
John Schuster did his undergraduate work at Columbia University, in European history and history and philosophy of science, with a minor in mathematics and physics. He completed his PhD at Princeton University in the history of science and early modern European history. He taught at Princeton and the Universities of Leeds, Cambridge, Wollongong and New South Wales, before retiring to full time research in 2011, in affiliation with the University of Sydney, Unit for History & Philosophy of Science, and Campion College. He has published extensively on the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century; Descartes’ career as a natural philosopher; the problem of the origins of the experimental sciences in the Eighteenth century; and the political and rhetorical roles of scientific method. He has several times designed entire curricula for undergraduate majors in history & philosophy of science, including two textbooks for that purpose. Currently, one of those texts is being translated for publication in China. His major study of Descartes’ early natural philosophical career will be published this year by Springer. He has been a member of the National Committee on History & Philosophy of Science of the Australian Academy of Science, and he was seven times elected President of the Australasian Association for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science. He was the inaugural Visiting Fellow at the Descartes Center for the History of the Natural and Human Sciences, University of Utrecht. His most recent journal publications are: ‘Physico-mathematics and the Search for Causes in Descartes’ Optics—1619-37’, Synthèse, forthcoming, (published on line from December. 2011); and, with Judit Brody, ‘Descartes and Sunspots: Matters of Fact and Systematizing Strategies in the Principia Philosophiae’, Annals of Science, accepted for early publication 2012.
Thursday 24 May:
Professor Peter Harrison, “The Religious Origins of Modern Science?”
It is sometimes thought that modern science developed largely independently of, or even in opposition to, religion. Historians of science, however, have proposed various ways in which religion might have played a significant role in the emergence of modern science. This lecture will evaluate some of the standard arguments for the religious origins of science, and put forward some new ideas about the influence of religion on the development and persistence of science.
Peter Harrison is the Director of the Centre for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland. Formerly the Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, he has published extensively on the historical relations between science and religion. In 2011 he delivered the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh.