RVP Annual Seminar RVP Annual Seminar

About RVP Regional Network Publications Annual Seminars International Conferences Board Members Associate Membership Newsletters Support Contact







Reason in Faith: Cultural Foundations for

Civil Society and Globalization

            September 15-November 15, 2004                                         Washington, D.C.




          It is something of a truism that the first millennium was focused on God. Under the impact of Christ and Mohammed, a truly new era opened and the thousand years to follow were concerned largely with discovering its implications for human life. This developed both vertically the dignity and spiritual depth of humankind and horizontally as Christianity and Islam spread West across Europe and north Africa, along with the renewal of Hinduism and the spread of Buddhism north across China to Japan.

          Correspondingly it is said that the second millennium has been focused on, and by, human reason. In the first half of this millennium reason was invigorated by the rediscovery of the Aristotelian corpus by Islamic and Christian scholars, leading to an unfolding of faith in the great Commentaries and Summas of the high Middle Ages.

          In the second half of that millenniumthis was radicalized at the beginning of the modern period by Bacon's call to break the idols which bore the heritage of human experience, Descartes' directive to put all under doubt and Locke's idea of beginning again from a blank tablet upon which only highly controlled clear and distinct ideas could be inscribed. In the Enlightenment reason tended to position itself against the faith. The result was a highly focused, abstractive and anemic structure of technical reason.

          Recently this structure has been radically questioned. If the cold war was its natural reductio ad extremum, then the implosion of communism in `89 and the radical questioning of the matching free market ideology in `98 suggest that the modern Promethean hubris of reason is no longer sustainable. Moreover, the post modern critique of modernity in the modern terms of power and control threatens to demolish not only reason, but meaning and the value of human life as well.

          At this turn of the millennia it now becomes clear that reason alone will not do and that there is need of a new synthesis of the focus of the first millennium on the divine and that of the second millennium on the human -- or, more precisely, of faith and reason. The question is no longer whether there is room for faith in an age of reason, but how faith can defend reason by helping to lay firm foundations for human life, its spiritual dignity and hence its range of awareness (see Fides et Ratio). In this light reason is seen not as an enemy of faith; instead, faith appears as the context and defender of reason. Reason, in turn, is needed by faith in order to articulate its humane and spiritual vision of life in an ever more complex age.

          In this it meets the new reality of globalization, taken not economically and politically as a horizontal subjection and control of the nations of the world, but vertically and progressively as extending through human subjectivity to freedom and creativity, and thence toa flourishing and interaction of cultures and their religious foundations. Here faith as articulated by reason must meet and provide the potential for just and convergent cooperation between peoples, each in its proper pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain (Isaias).

          This calls for a religious renewal of epistemology and anthropology, of ethics and metaphysics. It is this gateway to the new millennium which the present seminar will explore.




          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 10.00 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 February 28, 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.





 (all the materials on this website are copyrighted © by the council for research in values and philosophy)

Gibbons Hall B-12, 620 Michigan Avenue, North East,  Washington DC 20064; Telephone: 202/319-6089; Email: cua rvp@cua.edu; Website: www.crvp.org