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IMC 2009: Sessions

Session 1023: Thinking through the World: Transcendence and Necessity

Wednesday 15 July 2009, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Mariele Nientied, Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakult├Ąt, Europa Universit├Ąt Viadrina, Frankfurt an der Oder
Paper 1023-aThe Patristic Sources of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy
(Language: English)
Antonio Donato, Department of Philosophy, Queens College, City University of New York
Index terms: Philosophy, Theology
Paper 1023-bThe Worldly Path to Transcendence
(Language: English)
Scott Hendrix, Department of History, Carroll University, Wisconsin
Index terms: Mentalities, Monasticism, Philosophy, Science
Paper 1023-cNaturalistic Theology and Particularism
(Language: English)
Israel Moshe Sandman, Department of Hebrew & Jewish Studies, University College London
Index terms: Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Medievalism and Antiquarianism, Theology

Paper -a:
Contemporary scholars regard Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy as an ante litteram investigation of the Scholastic distinction between faith and philosophy. This paper will show that this interpretation anachronistically projects on Boethius concerns he did not have and overlooks the influence of some Patristic thinkers on Boethius's notion of philosophy. In the Consolation Boethius regards philosophy not only an as intellectual enterprise but also as a way of life. This understanding of philosophy bears significant similarity to the view that philosophy consists in the perfection of Christian life developed by Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Evagrius of Pontus, and Gregory Nazianzen.

Paper -b:
For monastic intellectuals in the Middle Ages the mystical union with God was the gold standard of religious experiences. Though the bastions of intellectualism would move beyond the monastic walls to land within the universities that emerged from the 12th-century on, the allure of contact with the divine never truly waned. However, the academic milieu of the high and late medieval world was not perfectly conducive to the development of a truly transcendent experience. For this reason intellectuals from Peter Abelard to Dante Alighieri sought a philosophical path to God, through application of the tools of natural theology to the deepest mysteries of the faith.

Paper-c: Adherents of the view, for philosophical reasons, of God as an Unchanging Perfection, struggle with the issue of God's relations to particulars. Can an unchanging perfection choose a particular group, a particular creed, particular human actions, or even particular divine responses? If God as unchanging perfection is above such particulars, then how can any religion make an exclusive truth claim? Thus, this philosophical idea of God can undermine the orthodox claims of a religion. A number of Jewish thinkers have tried to get around this problem, at least in part, by making naturalistic claims for the exclusive truth of Judaism, often focusing on its unfolding in consonance with various astral forces, historical factors, etc. I shall briefly examine some such claims made by Judah HaLevi, Maimonides, and Samuel Ibn Matut, finding a general pattern, then ask whether their approaches leave room for the possibility of other religions being as true, and finally touch upon the question of to what degree they relegate God to non-engagement with particulars.