Symposium Friday 4 May 2012

Natural Law and Revelation in the Judeo-Christian Tradition

In a time when the great faith traditions are seeking to defend basic shared values against radical social legislation, it is important that they identify their commonalities. The notion of basic shared values, founded on faith, also has a deeper value: it promotes a fundamental unity amongst humanity with a living spiritual heart. The purpose of this seminar is to investigate areas of overlap between the values delivered in Jewish tradition in the tradition of revelation, with its commentary, from Sinai, and those delivered by the Christian tradition of natural law thinking. The Catholic scholar Professor Robert George has written that natural law is “entirely compatible with, and indeed, illumined by” revelation. The symposium will pursue this notion from the standpoints of Jewish and Christian tradition.


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)


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 –

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.

Download MP3 – The Great Tradition

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 ( 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.

Download MP3 – Between History and Philosophy: History of Science as Exemplar in Reviving the Humanities 

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.

Download MP3 – The Religious Origins of Modern Science



On the 26th of August, the Centre for the Study of Western Tradition was inaugurated by Professor Geoffrey Blainey in front of one hundred of the Centre’s supporters and distinguished guests. In attendance were scholars from across Australia, including representatives from Australia’s leading universities as well as the NSW parliament. The Director, Luciano Boschiero, spoke of the Centre’s aim to involve people active in a variety of fields and scholarly disciplines into a broad range of discussions, including the goal of a university education, the meaning of democracy, the significance of religion in Australian society, and culture and the importance of science in Western tradition. These are some of the central themes that will be explored by the Centre in a series of seminars, workshops and conferences.

Blainey, who will soon publish a history of Christianity with Penguin Books, spoke movingly to the audience about these themes, some of which he has explored thoroughly throughout his illustrious career, including the grounding of Australian culture in Christian tradition and the importance of democratic ideals to the foundations of Western politics and economics. Blainey concluded his speech with a stirring reminder of the importance of informed intellectual conversations regarding the foundations of the Western traditions that contribute to Australian society and culture. He stated: “We live in an intensely interesting and complicated era, intellectually, and it is so important that there should be a centre for the study of western tradition that tries to look at the origins of so many of the ideas that are powerful now or that will be powerful in the future or that once were powerful. I do congratulate Campion College on launching this venture. I do hope it’s a great success”.

Symposium: Shifting Paradigms: The Twilight of the Secular and the Return of the Idols?

December 7th, 2011

One of the major features of the twenty first century has been the return of religion as an important element of contemporary culture. Only a few years ago commentators were counting up the years until the ultimate triumph of the secular and the death of religion. They were wrong, badly wrong. We no longer live in a time that awaits the secular as part of the progress of humanity. Instead we live in an age that is post secular, which has witnessed not just the survival of religion but also the affirmation of religion as a central element of what it means to be human. This symposium seeks to explore some of the features and consequences of the return of religion and what it means to be living in a post secular age. This includes not just the current circumstances of Christianity and other religions such as Islam but also the place of religion into the public sphere, the importance of religion as an aspect of contemporary politics and international affairs, the relationship between religion and the arts, literature and culture and the significance of the post secular for our understanding of history and science.”

For the recorded audio of the Symposium, click here.


Thursday 10 November: Professor George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington DC, “The Free and Virtuous Society in the Teaching of Blessed John Paull II”. For the recorded audio of Professor Weigel, click here

Thursday 6 October: Professor Stuart Piggin, Director of the Centre for the History of Christian Thought and Experience (CTE) at Macquarie University, “A ‘Christian Country’? Desecularisation in Australian History”. For the recorded audio of Dr Piggin’s lecture, click here

Thursday 4 August: Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, Director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization “Universal Laws and Values at the Root of World Religions”. For the recorded audio of Rabbi Cowen’s lecture, click here

To listen to the recorded audio of Professor Blainey’s speech online, click here (and to download right click and ‘save target as…’

View article from The Parramatta Advertiser here.



Some of Sydney’s sharpest minds and experienced educators met for a workshop, organised by the Centre on 10 December 2010, to discuss the intellectual origins of Australian universities and the approaches currently taken towards tertiary education.

The Centre’s Director, Luciano Boschiero states: “This event contributes to a growing debate in Australia about what values and skills universities should impart on our future doctors, lawyers, teachers and community leaders”.

Participants included several eminent scholars with distinguished careers in the tertiary education sector, including Gregory Melleuish (University of Wollongong), John Schuster, Geoffrey Sherington (both University of Sydney), Bruce Marshall (Macquarie University), and John Gascoigne (University of New South Wales). They explored the premise that liberal studies, combining the sciences and humanities and emphasising virtues such as wisdom and the ability to think critically, should form the foundation of undergraduate degrees, a notion supported in recent times by vice-chancellors from some of Australia’s leading universities.

According to Boschiero, “the outcomes of this workshop will be made public and will surely prove valuable in the ongoing assessment of the standards and expectations of tertiary education in Australia”.

Work Statement

Workshop speakers (from left): Alan Atkinson, Geoffrey Sherington, Gregory Melleuish, Stephen McInerney, Susanna Rizzo, Constant Mews, Bruce Marshall, Nicholas Hardwick, John Schuster