The cultural, social, and political fabric of secular modernity equates the rational with the scientific, where science is understood as completely neutral investigation of truth by means of the ‘scientific method’. Truth, in turn, is conceived as self-evident facticity amenable to such investigation without the need for any metaphysical or theological grounding. As a result, all religious and metaphysical discourse is dismissed as irrational and, instead, the tyranny of ‘pure science’ is established, with ‘experts’ announcing from time to time that yet another piece of human wisdom is falsified by ‘empirical research’. This leads to painful dissonances between our lived human and especially Christian experience on the one hand, and what we are allowed to call ‘true’ or ‘rational’ in the public square on the other. In this course, we would like to deconstruct the modern secular vision of science. Science itself first emerged in the Christian culture and in fact presupposes both the theological vision of the world and the moral standards characteristic of religion. There is no such thing as a uniform ‘scientific method’ and neither is truth self-evident to ‘unbiased minds’, but the world is, indeed, generously intelligible to us human beings, and even more so than modern science allows.
Open to all curious minds, without the need for any particular background. Command of English sufficient to follow the talks and read the assigned texts is advisable.
Marcin Suskiewicz is a biochemist educated at Oxford University and currently a doctoral student in Vienna.
Marian Kapusta is a pharmacist educated at Bratislava University and now working in his profession in Zilina.
Both share an interest in philosophy and theology, especially in relation to science.
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– Participant fee 35 eur working participants; 20 eur students. We accept only paid registrations. Money have to be paid at SLH bank account: 2660752020/1100, variable symbol: „210“
A short introduction to the whole course will be followed by a discussion of the history of science, with a particular emphasis on its metaphysical roots. We will refer to modern thinkers such as Thomas Kuhn, Alasdair MacIntyre, René Girard, Stanley L. Jaki, Joseph Ratzinger, Remi Brague, and others and look at fragments of original texts from Plato to Newton. Our main guide will be Michael Hanby and short, chosen excerpts from his recent book “No God, no science?: Philosophy, Cosmology, Biology” will be assigned as a recommended prior reading.
The second seminar will introduce the philosophical terms ‘realism’ and ‘anti-realism’ and suggest, drawing from the thought of Alasdair MacIntyre and John Milbank, that Christian theological metaphysics goes beyond this simple distinction towards a symbolic and sacramental vision of the natural world and an understanding of epistemology as an area of intellectual virtues. We will briefly touch on the famous ‘grue’ paradox and the possible answers to it, including the surprising one that our minds must be immaterial. Finally, we will discuss the case of Eucharistic transubstantiation as understood by John Henry Newman, G.E.M. Anscombe, and Michael Dummet and its surprising bearings for the question of science. The ghost of Ludwig Wittgenstein will hover over the room. A short fragment of Newman’s “Apologia” and an article by Bas van Fraassen will be assigned as a prior reading.
We will start with Paul Fayerabend and Michel Foucault and the question of ‘scientism’ as a perverted form of science. Then we will also discuss ‘naturalism’ and Timothy Williamson’s and Alvin Plantinga’s answers to it, the first one being assigned as one part of the preparatory reading list. Christian answer cannot be an unqualified ‘supernaturalism’, however, and we will try to discuss that. Finally, a Christian alternative to the modern scientific ideology will be proposed. Since no argument, however good, is effective in a void, it will be suggested that we as Christians must inhabit an alternative way of life in which our alternative approach to the creation can be existentially expressed in an attractive manner. Again, excerpts from “No God, no science?: Philosophy, Cosmology, Biology” by Michal Hanby will be on the reading list.
This topic will be covered in two separate meetings. Charles de Koninck’s classic essays on touch and the nature of life, assigned as a prior reading, will serve as a point of departure to discuss the question of our sensual-intellectual knowledge and whether it reveals to us the things as they really are. A short introduction into the idea of things having ‘essences’ and ‘accidents’ will be followed by a discussion of essentialism in biology (Does life exist? How to reconcile essentialism with evolution?) and the ontological status of phenomenal properties such as heat, colour, or weight. Our main guide will be David S. Oderberg. Ian Hacking’s essay “Do we see through a microscope?” will be a preparatory reading in addition to de Koninck’s texts.
Jacques Lacan, a French psychoanalyst, suggested once that perhaps only Catholicism allows us to live happily in the face of the Real disclosed by science. The last seminar will be left for discussions of how we should live with science in our daily lives, in the places we inhabit, and the jobs we do. If there any participants who work in science, we will discuss how to practice it. The participants are also welcome to suggest specific topics to discuss (we suggest bioethics or philosophy of medicine, for example). An essay by Jacques Maritain “God and science” will be suggested as a preparatory reading to stimulate discussions.