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Invitation to an International Conference


St. Augustine College

Johannesburg, South Africa

November 1-3, 2012



Conference I: Humanities and Social Sciences in an African Context: Education for Life


This conference aims at a comprehensive examination of the roles of the humanities in higher education and anevaluation of the relevance of the humanities in terms of education for life in an African context.


This calls for a serious and substantial engagement with two recent important reports on the role of the humanities: The Charter for Humanities and Social Sciences (complied by the Department of Higher Education and Training) and The Consensus Study on the State of the Humanities (complied by the Academy of Science of South Africa).  Both documents call for serious attention as they will influence the future direction of higher education. But questions arise as to the way in which these documents diagnose the decline of the humanities and about the various responses they make to their present state. A possible way of approaching the documents would be to ask: What is the underlying model of the university they present? What is implied about the differentiation of the humanities and the sciences and about their proper relationship? What is entailed for the relationship of generalist to specialist studies and of undergraduate and postgraduate education? Generally: What is the university for?


It is important to reflect on the state of play in the various disciplines: in the humanities and the social sciences. Why have some disciplines been more marginalized than others? Is it true that the humanities ?have run out of steam? (Latour)? How has the so-called crisis in the humanities played itself out in different contexts? What are the epistemological fault lines within the humanities and between the humanities and the sciences? To what extent has the crisis in the humanities been self-inflicted? What have the sciences to teach the humanities and vice versa?


One hope for the conference is that communication between the disciplines may promote interdisciplinary thinking and further reflection on the nature of the university. What is being said in the various disciplines? Do disciplinary autonomy and specialization need to be complemented by genuine communication? What do people in other disciplines need to know about your discipline in order better to contribute to the education of a wide range of students?


Conference II: Thomisms in Contemporary Africa


The workshop is to explore the resources of the tradition in relation to the general theme of education for life in an African context. The workshop is open to all but particularly to those who wish critically to explore the philosophical dimensions of the tradition and its relation to the present. Hence, the theme: Twentieth Century Thomisms and Contemporary Philosophy.


The aim will be to examine both classical and contemporary Thomisms in dialogue with contemporary philosophical movements such as analytical philosophy, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and critical theory. Focus points could include the emergence of what is called ?Analytical Thomism? or the use of phenomenological methods in Thomism. At the same time Thomistic themes in ethics should be related to utilitarianism, deontology and analytical metaethics. The resurgence of metaphysics in the analytical tradition must be related to themes in Thomistic metaphysics and its personalism to Kantian and other approaches to human dignity, including approaches found in African philosophy. The continuing relevance of important thinkers such as Maritain and Gilson or Charles Taylor and MacIntyre are to be discussed. 


Logistics for both Conferences


This is a first call for papers; the second call include names of keynote speakers and full details concerning accommodation and conference schedule. Send titles of planned presentations and all inquiries and questions about the conferences to:


Professors Gerard Walmsley and P. Harrison

The Philosophy Department

St. Augustine College

Johannesburg, South Africa

E-Mail: P.Harrison@staugustine.ac.za  












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