THE FALL SEMINAR
History and Cultural Identity
September 14-November 9, 2006
Humankind has experienced multiple modes of recounting its history since, and including, some of its most ancient and sacred texts. It has had different theories of history from Augustine to Collingwoord, etc.
Modern times with its emphasis on objectivity and clarity, universality and necessity pulled this toward efforts to establish a single overall narratives which not surprisingly reflect the place and times of a Hegel or Marx. In the process attention to the diversity of peoples, motives and civilizations was too long neglected. Now in the developing global interchange of peoples we pay a great price.
The present step beyond the strictures of modernity might best be marked by the new attention to human subjectivity. This enables a more interior reading of history in terms of the inspirations, motivations and commitments of peoples, how they conceive life, and their efforts to survive and even thrive within difficult and changing circumstances, both physical and social. Thus attention shifts from a negative ‘freedom from,’ but to a positive and creative freedom which shapes values and cultures and the history of their civilizations.
In the global context in which we meet others in ever more pervasive manners through education commerce and media it becomes necessary to understand more deeply the nature of history as well and of our histories, as well as our responsibility for their future. We need to understand the nature and role of culture and religions as they shape our history. We need also to understand how in global times our histories converge and how this can be the basis not for conflict and destruction, but for cooperation and progress.
For this work there are significant and promising resources. The humanities (history and literature) can uncover the values of the various cultures. The social sciences (psychology, sociology and economics) can contribute understanding of the structures of the world in which we live. Above all, it will be necessary with these to think together philosophically in order to understand the way in which faith inspires reason and reason articulates faith, that human freedom is open rather than closed, and that self-assertion consists in reaching out to others in the solidarity and subsidiarity in which civil society consists.
For this a seminar is projected with the following characteristics.
- Size: restricted to under 20 scholars, in order to facilitate intensive interchange around a single table;
- Interdisciplinary: in order to draw upon the contemporary capabilities of the various humanities and sciences and to penetrate deeply into the philosophical roots and religious meaning of cultures;
- Inter-cultural: to benefit from the experiences and commitments of the various cultural communities from all parts of the world, to discover their particular problems in our day, and especially to envisage new and creative responses;
- Focused: a single integrating theme, in order to encourage a convergence of insights;
- Duration: 10 weeks, in order to allow the issues to mature, the participants to establish a growing degree of mutual comprehension, and new insight to emerge;
- Intensive: analyzing in detail the papers planned in common and written by each of the participants during the seminar; and
- Publication: the resulting volumes, consisting of chapters written by the individual seminar participants, intensively discussed in the seminar and then redrafted, will reflect concretely the work of the seminar and share it with those working in the various cultural communities in facing the problems of contemporary life.
- Sponsor: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (RVP), and The Center for the Study of Culture and Values, Catholic University of America (CUA).
- Participants in each seminar: 10 philosophers from the various continents, with an equal number of professors from various disciplines in the universities and institutes of the Washington area. The visiting scholars from other countries will be welcome to join in seminars and courses at CUA, where they will be designated Visiting Research Professors. They will have the use of the research facilities of the Library of Congress and of the universities and institutes of the Washington area. Thus, the period of the seminar should constitute effectively a hard working mini-sabbatical.
- Schedule: The seminar will meet on Tuesdays 9.00 a.m. - 12.00 noon for discussion by the visiting scholars of key contemporary texts related to the evolution of the theme of the seminar; and on Thursdays, 3:00-5:00 p.m. for presentation by the participants of the drafts of their chapters as a basis for intensive critical and exploratory discussion by the group.
- Costs: Successful applicants will be granted an RVP Research Fellowship which covers all fees for the seminar itself including simple room and board, but not travel.
- How to apply: By a letter of application before March 1, 2006, together with a curriculum vitae and bibliography, providing details of the importance of the seminar to the applicants overall work and the achievement of his or her specific goals.