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The Sacred and the Secular:

Complementary or Conflictual in Global Times?

        September 15-October 17, 2008                                                                Washington, D.C.



Thematic Summary

Seminar Structure




Today achievements in secular terms raise issues of meaning and fulfillment which point to the sacred horizons of human life. Yet if conceived in terms of opposition, sacred commitments can distract from, or even impede, the realization of essential secular concerns.

This makes it inadequate to compromise either the sacred or the secular in order to make room for the other, or simply to recognize the validity of each sphere in an alternating progression of both. It now becomes ever more urgent to discover the proper and complementary relation between the two so that both can be promoted through mutual collaboration.

Within nations this becomes a condition for assuaging mutual suspicion and achieving social and political solidarity. It holds the possibility of mobilizing the full range of the sensibilities and capabilities of all citizens to confront human challenges. Can the secular and the sacred work thus together?

Moreover, if each great civilization is founded on a great religion then the possibilities of living together in peace depends on understanding how secular concerns are pervaded by the sacred and how this in turn can render more porous the boundaries set by the secular principles of self-interest. Can the horizons of unity and comity at the heart of the spiritual and religious dimension of humanity achieve peaceful interchange and cooperation between peoples in their daily lives?

In search of positive answers to these questions it will be necessary to explore: (a) how the secular does not entail a closed secularism, but is a legitimate -- indeed essential -- attention to proper human concerns, and (b) how the sacred with its absolute attention to Truth and Goodness opens rather than closes, minds and hearts to the concerns of all peoples and lays the grounds for the principles for diverse peoples living together locally as well as globally.

The challenge of this seminar is then to discover and forge a positive interrelation of the sacred and the secular in response to the challenges of our global times.




Forth is 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; 

-Intercultural: 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:5 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 a set of related readings and the papers planned in common and written by each of the participants during the seminar; and 

-Publication: the resulting volume, consisting of substantive studies 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 their 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, who are expected to take part in all sessions of the entire seminar and to write a chapter for the publication. They will be joined by professors from various disciplines from the universities and institutes of the Washington area. The visiting scholars 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 Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 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 for the 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 20, 2008,together with a curriculum vitae and bibliography, providing details of the importance on the seminar to the applicant's overall work and the achievement of his or her specific goals. 

-Address: George F. McLean, The Council for Research in Values and Philos­ophy, Room B-18, Gibbons Hall, CUA, 640Michigan Aves., NE (at the Brookland-CUA Metro Sta­tion), Washington, D.C.; postal address: Cardinal Station, P.O. Box 261, Washington, D.C. 20064; tel./fax or voice message:202/319-6089; e-mail: McLean@cua.edu.; Website: http://www.crvp.org









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