Hover over titles
to view abstracts
Download paper abstracts here

Friday, 13 Sept.
8:00 - 8:45
Registration & Coffee

9:00 - 9:15

Faculty Welcome | Catherine Pickstock
Conference Welcome
| Ryan Haecker, with Alex Abecina, Austin Stevenson, & Jonathan Lyonhart
Opening Address
| John Milbank

9:15 - 10:45

Rethinking Relations | Chaired by Vito Limone

• Giulio Maspero, A Trinitarian Ontology: the Relational Approach (Download Full Paper) Abstract: From the very beginning of the Bible we find a metaphysical dimension in the Judeo-Christian message: God is the Creator, being really and completely transcendent with respect to the world. The resulting ontological picture could be defined as a "theology of the gap". Adam could call the Creator "father" as he radically owed his origin to God. But in the Gospel narrative we see Jesus calling the Creator "Dad", that means that He addressed God as a son does with his own father, through the familiar term which implies identity of nature. This is in brief the very reason of the crucifixion. But after the resurrection, Jesus' way of talking turned out to be true. So we can see that in Scripture itself the meaning is expressed in a relational way. Our salvation depends on the difference between fatherhood and "dad-hood". The Fathers of the Church developed this metaphysical thought to the extent of changing, with the Cappadocians and Augustine, the ontological understanding of relation as a category. In Middle Age, many great theologians carried on this work. Aquinas' work on the definition of person shows how deep the reshaping of metaphysics was and how it developed into a real Trinitarian Ontology. In modern times and contemporary theology, we can see how this relational ontology can produce at the same time a theology of history and a theology of the body, which do converge in a Marian metaphysics, that is able to present the ontology of the Mother of God as a life that consists in perfect relations with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

• Piero Coda, Trinitarian Ontology: A Way to Rethink Thinking Abstract: Edgar Morin writes that “rethinking thinking” is what is urgently needed today. Indeed, it is possible to recognize a profound convergence in the prophecy of a “new thought” as the understanding and practice of an integral and open ontology express and promote the living mystery of Being in its multicolored self-expression. Thinking that has reached and dwells in the hospitable region of such an ontology, and its liberating though demanding ethos, calls for a rereading of the tradition of thought, which has matured through history leading to this point. With its achievements and drifts, the indispensable paths traced by it and the unexplored questions and horizons of sense could now prove to be opportune and meaningful. In this perspective the most significant fruit was produced by the inventio of the ontologically regulating concept of God-Trinity as the interpretive key for the coming in human flesh of the Word/Son Who is God Himself: a concept which is intrinsically in excess by its nature, because it is called to find the measureless measure of its truth again and again from within the Reality it is called to express. However, the concept of Trinity failed to completely generate – beginning with theology – that locus of experience and that relational and communitarian practice of thought corresponding to the Reality it had received and conceived. With the insight resulting from the radical hermeneutic of suspicion toward any presupposition given as absolute, philosophical thought, as well as that of the humanities and the social sciences, proceeded more or less with awareness into the “dark night” of nihilism, ending up by increasingly handing over thought and freedom to the impersonal logic of technocracy and post-humanism. Our working hypothesis is that philosophy and theology can find the place again for a rebirth and reconfiguration of ontology in the guiding thought of the Trinity, taken up in its original irradiating meaning with the focus on the Christ’s cross/resurrection and examined in the still unfathomed promise it contains. The reference to the Trinity simultaneously expresses a meaning which is subjective, objective and topological. Trinitarian ontology is thus qualified to recognize the trinitarian sense of being, receiving it as gift in the shared responsibility of “trinitizing it” in the multiplicity of expressions it takes on and the connections it promotes in the various types of knowledge.

• John Milbank, Most Entanglings: Time, Relation and Aporia in Trinitarian Ontology (Download Full Paper) Abstract: Much more Trinitarian Ontology or Metaphysics was developed in the tradition than is often admitted. Its articulation was integral to Augustine’s Trinitarian theology. His theoretical trajectory suggests an ontological perspective that, without abandoning stability, substance and sense, nonetheless gives equal ontological weight to change, relation and aporia. Today we can expand this in terms of a participation of created creativity in the eternal Trinitarian perichoresis. Augustine can be re-read through Bergson and Whitehead, yet their philosophies can inversely be rendered fully orthodox, and thereby fully coherent, through the perspectives of the Augustinian legacy.
10:45 - 11:15
Coffee Break

11:15 - 12:45

Challenges in Phenomenology & Hermeneutics | Chaired by Victor Emma-Amadah

• Jessica Frazier, The 'Three Persons' of Gadamer's New Trinitarian Ontology (Download PPT Presentation) Abstract: In Hans-Georg Gadamer’s ‘Post-Platonic hermeneutic ontology’ the Trinity serves as a model of a) the constitutive relationality of all meaning, b) the way that any embodied truth gives concrete form to an enabling background of structural potentiality, c) the sense in which potentiality stands in a relation of creative self-fulfilling ‘desire’ to what arises from it, and d) the inconceivability of Being’s nature, from our limited perspective within its embrace. As John Arthos has noted, Truth and Method suggests a parallel between the virtual nature of the complex, multiplying meaning or ‘inner word’ that the Stoics called logos endiathetos, and that found an analogy in Augustine’s notion of the pre-incarnational Logos. Although Gadamer himself was far from being either a theologian or a Christian, he borrowed this idea of pre-incarnational Logos whilst reversing Augustine’s preference for eternity and instead privileging the ‘event’ of the Word. In this paper we fill out Gadamer’s account by reference to his interpretation of Plato’s transcendentals, and his own reading of poetic potentiality in Rilke and Celan, drawing on Peter Geach’s account of Trinitarian identity. But we also explore the degree to which he took seriously the reality of this non-worldly, non-specific, atemporal, disembodied aspect – in his terms, the virtual ‘Father’ from which our world proceeds. The question is central to whether the immanent spirit and son can be taken to indicate a divine source, and Being qua Being has any ontological purchase in the post-Heideggerian landscape.

• Emmanuel Falque, Trinitarian Kenosis and Limits of Phenomenology Abstract: Trinitarian theology is most often done either in the Latin circular pattern (the Holy Spirit as the love of the Father and the Son) or the Greek linear pattern (the Holy Spirit as the love of God through the Son). But there is a difficulty in theology which one also finds in phenomenology: the omission of “force” as such. Starting from the three unjustified premises of phenomenology – the excess of meaning over chaos, the hypertrophy of the flesh over the body, and the primacy of weakness over force – I will show how a true trinitarian ontology, re-thought in the light of our time, must both descend to the depths of our chaos (the Father), assume a body (the Son), and deploy force (the Holy Spirit). Nietzsche or Berdyaev serve thus as springboards for thinking a “Christian and Trinitarian Over-God” capable in the end of rivalling the “Dionysian or pagan Overman.” It is by dialoguing with contemporary culture, rather than simply opposing it, that Christianity finds or rediscovers its pertinence in our secularised world.

• Judith Wolfe, Eschatological Being (Download Full Paper) Abstract: The critique of ontology defined twentieth-century philosophy in both the Anglo-American and the European traditions. In Europe, the most generative form of this critique was phenomenology’s commitment to drawing the limits of human knowledge from within human experience. Theological responses to this critique have often centred on a phenomenology of human desire which, for de Lubac, C.S. Lewis and others, naturally breaks open the immanent realm in the pursuit of its supernatural end in God. These responses have been ontologically rooted in accounts (whether neo-Platonic or analogical in emphasis) of participation in the Trinitarian ground of being. This work of re-constructing an ontology of finite reality by participation in the Trinity is vital but precarious. One persistent risk is insufficient attention to the force of phenomenology’s account of human temporality and mortality as conditions that cannot simply be outpaced towards participation in plenitude. Participatory ontology, in other words, is too often over-realized eschatology. This short paper argues that the phenomenological critique demands an eschatological turn in Trinitarian ontology: a theology of participation that takes more seriously the eschatological preliminariness of human knowing and being.
12:45 - 14:00
Lunch Break

14:00 - 15:00

Apophasis & Enganglement | Chaired by Silvianne Aspray

• Olivier Boulnois, Towards a Trinitarian Negative Theology Abstract: How can we get a rigorous knowledge of the Trinity? Do we need an ontology for that? It has not always been the case. Before going to its loss through an onto-theo-logic, Trinity was approached within a logic, then within a theo-logic. Now, the rigor of a science requires it to remain within the scope of its object, and to respect its mode of donation : in our case, the only donation that is accessible to us is in the mode of Revelation in Scripture, and our only valid way to relate to it is called faith. Therefore, we have to think the Trinity within the limits of faith, and through Scripture. The task of this theology, therefore, is not to build a system that starts from Scripture in order to deduce some logical consequences, but to obtain an intelligence of the mystery of God by remaining within the limits of the interpretation of Scripture. To approach the mystery, we must therefore go back below our language, but through the language. It is therefore a negative Trinitarian theology that we need. Now, we have forgotten it, but that is what Trinitarian theology was all about in the beginning. In order to rediscover it, we will read carefully Augustine's De Trinitate, which served as the basis for all the great Trinitarian systems from Aquinas to Hegel. However, this book contains very specific warnings, encouraging us to make a critical reading of the concepts used in Trinitarian theology - a true negative Trinitarian theology. We will ask ourselves if we can't go even further than Augustine in this negative way.

• Simone Kotva, Trinitarian Ontology as the Key to Ecological Thinking Abstract: Trinitarian ontology is the key to ecological thinking; the logic of the Trinity converges with the logic of ecological thinking. Both these logics are concerned with relation: they were created as attempts to understand how it is possible for intense expressions of difference to get along without each expression losing its sense of distinctness. This is what both Trinitarian and ecological thinking presents us with: images of non-competitive co-existence. The early theologians called it a ‘dance’ between the three persons of the Trinity; ecological thinkers today are calling it ‘entanglement’. We do not come before our relations to each other, whether humans or non-humans: it is relation all the way up and all the way down - such is the logic that recurs between the Trinity and ecology. This convergence is central to the arguments of theologians today. The Trinity has perhaps often been misunderstood, as if all it represented were an ornate and unnecessarily messy image of a simple truth that as such ought really to be put in simpler terms. But to simplify the Trinity would be to simplify difference and so deny the vestige of that difference in the complex planetary life for which the Trinity is the lure and sense. If theology is still significant today it is because and not in spite of its continued insistence on ontological messiness and on the messiness of ontology. Theology’s articulations of her tradition must be worked through by re-entering the fright of unthinkable complexity: a swelling of the alliances and contiguities in earthly existence.
15:00 - 15:30
Coffee Break

15:30 - 17:00

Modern Challenges & Medieval Possibilities | Chaired by Austin Stevenson

• Philipp W. Rosemann, Trinitarian Ontologies After Kant Abstract: Kant's famous 'Copernican turn' cuts us off from any possibility to pursue metaphysics. I am not convinced that Kant can simply be written off. We need to be post-modern in our thought, not pre-modern. One strategy to open up a metaphysical perspective from within the limits of Kantian philosophy was developed by transcendental Thomism. I would like to propose a different approach to take Kant seriously, on the one hand, while on the other hand keeping open a path into metaphysics. The way to go about this is to read Kant not as being 'wrong', but as providing a philosophy that corresponds perfectly to our age of 'enframing', as Heidegger would say: an age in which, indeed, we do not let ourselves be surprised by the gift of being, but rather impose our own structures of exploitative profit-making upon reality. On this reading, the transcendental subject is nothing more, but also nothing less, than the philosophical reflection of, and upon, the life of modern and post-modern humanity. I read Kant's philosophy, then, as more of an ethical than an epistemological challenge. Our rapaciousness has made us blind, unable—as Bonaventure would put it—to read the Book of Nature that the Creator has given us. What is needful, therefore, is a conversion that will allow us to relativize Kant, that is to say, to understand his thought as a description not of the way in which human beings encounter reality tout court, but of the way in which we have experienced the world, roughly, since the industrial revolution. I will attempt such a relativization from the perspective of the book metaphysics which takes seriously the claim that God is Word. For this Christian metaphysics, the world is God’s text, ready to be read by those whose eyes are not blinded by sin.

• Martin Bieler, The Non-Subsistence of the Thomist Esse Commune in its Trinitarian Context Abstract: Thomas Aquinas differentiates in his highly original metaphysics between God as esse subsistens, esse commune and ens as the created being which participates in esse commune - through which ens participates in God. This is the way in which Aquinas thinks about creation in philosophical terms. It allows him to unfold the gift-character of being in a very elaborate way. The originality of Aquinas’s metaphysics comes to the fore in his understanding of esse commune as a “completum et simplex, sed non subsistens” (De potentia 1,1). On the one hand esse is a completum et simplex which contains everthing which comes “after” it (“praehabet in se omnia subsequentia” [STh I-II,2,6 ad 2]). On the other hand the esse commune does not subsist. It is not a thing which stands between God and his creatures, because the esse constantly flows out into the entia in a way, in which it doesn’t “hold back” anything. It is exactly in this unity of fullness and emptiness that the esse commune is the “similitud0 divinae bonitatis” (De veritate 22,2 ad 2). But from there the question arises about the ontological status of the esse commune. It does not subsist and yet it is not simply nothing, because it is described as an act etc.. Would it not be more convenient to say that there is esse subsistens and ens – and nothing in-between? Why did Aquinas seemingly complicate the picture with the idea of an esse commune? This paper will try to show, that the esse as a completum and simplex, sed non subsistens makes sense, if we understand the giving of being in its trinitarian context.

• Thomas Joseph White OP, The Crucifixion as a Manifestation of Trinitarian Love Abstract: How does the crucifixion manifest the ontological reality of the inner life of the Holy Trinity? Balthasar claimed that the incarnation is the most concrete instantiation of the analogia entis, manifesting the inner Trinitarian life in a human way. Christological dyothelitism offers us important resources in this respect. How can we depict rightly the "analogical interval" between the divine will and the human will of Christ? Aquinas provides us with two overlapping but irreducibly distinct ways to think about divine love, as both essential and personal, based on the internal requirements of Trinitarian monotheism. The charitable love of Christ crucified simultaneously manifests (and conceals) both the essential identity of the one God of Israel as love and also the eternal spiration of the person of the Spirit from the Word as love. The psychological analogy of Word and Love are therefore key to understanding the identify of God as love. One can read Aquinas as offering a vision that is apophatic and eschatological. The God who is naturally hidden from us has revealed his eschatalogical life in the crucifixion, a "new ontology" of our future in God. Jesus' theandric actions (the concrete analogia entis) now stand as a critique of all future "merely philosophical" pretensions at comprehensive understanding of reality. They also invite us to rethink anew (in a perennially coherent way across time) the destiny of the human race as a destiny in the very Trinitarian life of God.

17:00 - 18:00

Concluding Discussion | Andrew Davison, John Milbank, Thomas Joseph White, Judith Wolfe, and Olivier Boulnois

 
 
Saturday, 14 Sept.

9:00 - 9:15

Welcome | Jonathan Lyonhart

9:15 - 10:45

Metaphysics: Being, Essence, & Truth | Chaired by Matthew Fell

• John Betz, Being, Essence, Identity and Ecstasy: An Essay in Trinitarian Metaphysics Abstract: The full meaning of this paper/essay is bound up with its full title, “Being, Essence, Identity and Ecstasy: An Essay in Trinitarian Metaphysics.” The first part, entitled “Breaking the Immanent Frame,” concerns being and essence and therewith the basic elements of philosophical metaphysics; the second part, concerning identity and ecstasy, deals with theological metaphysics in the proper sense of the term, namely, in light of Trinitarian theology. Accordingly, the first part subdivides into two parts, the first of which offers a critical endorsement of Heidegger’s existential ontology – endorsing his understanding of the ontological difference between being and beings and of the giftedness of being in beings, while criticizing his failure to see that being is nothing but love. The second part seeks to recover the question that is obscured in Heidegger (owing to his overreaction to the history of Platonism), but is just as fundamental to metaphysics and eo ipso to the question of the human being: the question of essence. In other words, Heidegger’s anti-Platonism leaves us with a truncated ontology that forecloses the very question of the meaning of (human) being it purports to pose. It is the task of philosophical ontology, however, to keep the horizon of being open to being and essence, its fundamental, constitutive elements, so that ontology can be liberated into metaphysics and philosophy can receive the light of revelation – specifically, what the Trinity reveals about the meaning of being, i.e., about the meaning of the relation between being and essence, as love.

• Christophe Chalamet, The Return of Metaphysics: Is This The Way Forward? Abstract: The return of metaphysics is bound to worry many people, for more or less legitimate reasons. If by metaphysics we understand a thought process by which we abstract from empirical reality in order to attain a first cause, then it could well be that metaphysics is a wrong-headed way to think theologically. Is there a way to construe metaphysics in such a way which renders it fruitful, indeed necessary, for Christian theological discourse? This is a basic question, which deserves to be raised and discussed between partisans and opponents of the “return of metaphysics.” The present paper argues that the critique of metaphysics among Protestant (and other) theologians deserves a serious hearing, in order to avoid falling back into the trap of a kind of theological discourse which severs God’s being or essence not just from God’s triune being but also from God’s act, or into the trap of a discourse which prioritizes in one way or another (even logically) God’s being over God’s act - God’s act conceived as, quite specifically, the act of the triune God in history. “Being” as such does not determine or express who God is. Rather, God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as revealed and known through God’s act in history, centrally in the narrated history of Jesus of Nazareth as attested in Holy Scripture, determines God’s “being” or “essence.”

• Rowan Williams, Knowledge and Relation: contemporary transformations of logos Abstract: ‘One aspect of the classical Trinitarian schema, as elaborated in East and West, is the contention that intelligence itself is grounded in the self-communication of God’s “truthfulness”, i.e. God’s correspondence to God in the life of the Trinity. On this basis, Maximus, for example, develops his model of finite beings as embodying/articulating the myriad logoi contained in the eternal Logos; and Aquinas develops the picture of the verbum mentis as the sameness-in-difference of the subject’s own life as activated by encounter with what is not self. The significance of retrieving a Trinitarian ontology is thus to do with epistemology as well as ontology more generally. This paper will attempt to show how some more recent philosophies and theologies move in this direction (consciously or otherwise) and what contribution can be made to a renewed epistemology by utilising and refining the relevant aspects of the tradition – which (paradoxically) may allow a more serious valuation of physical and historical/contextual dimensions to knowledge than the conventional arguments of a typically “modern” attitude to knowledge and truthtelling.’
10:45 - 11:15
Coffee Break

11:15 - 12:15

Political and Ecological Ontology | Chaired by Sebastian Milbank

• Ragnar Bergem, Political Ontology and the Common Abstract: In recent decades, leading continental philosophers have been concerned with safeguarding the distinction between ‘politics’ and the ‘political’. Philosophers such as Paul Ricoeur and Claude Lefort developed the concept of the political from Carl Schmitt and Hanna Arendt, and later generations—for example Alain Badiou and Ernesto Laclau—have repeated their own versions of this distinction. For these thinkers is, the concept of the political, and its distinction from politics, works as an indicator of the absence of an absolute ground of society. Mimicking the Heideggerian gesture, political ontology has set out a search for the political difference after the failure of representation. For these thinkers, the absence of any ultimate foundation of society prevents any complete representation of society, and thus rules out all liberal theories of political representation. Society is, in Lefort’s words, ‘unable to see itself’. Contemporary political ontology seeks, for this reason, to forge the concept of the political out of society’s groundlessness, to formulate distinctively political action in a world defined by radical contingency. In this paper, I will argue that while these thinkers attend to the problem of the universal and the absolute in a post-foundational political world, they all suffer from a lack of attention the concept of the common (as formulated by the French sinologist François Julien). But it is precisely an attention to the common which is demanded by informed Trinitarian thought, one which might be a crucial contribution to political ontology.

• Michael Northcott, Trinity and Political Ecology Abstract: That the Earth is entering a new phase of human domination, and a related wave of species extinctions, is increasingly acknowledged by natural scientists, as well as in a growing global movement of resistance to the current civilisational direction of travel towards a destabilised climate and a significantly reduced range of biodiversity. However the ‘solutions’ proposed by scientists and activists primarily focus on human activities and behaviours. This human-centred approach to policy responses to the crisis reflects the dominant scientific narrative of human power over nature as means to human progress in wellbeing and wealth accumulation. A Trinitarian approach to ecology represents a different approach to the crisis since its starting point is the belief that in the Incarnation, death and resurrection of the logos of the divine Trinity God has become present to all being - including all biological life as well as persons - in an ontologically new way. This ontological departure unfolds in the ‘new creation’ and ‘new being’ of the church in which, as Maximus argued, the church becomes the microcosm of the macrocosm of the Earth. Developments in Orthodox, Protestant, and most recently Roman Catholic, theology since 1945, indicate a heightened awareness of the ecological implications of the doctrine of the Trinity but which have still to be clearly developed in relation to the ontological and spiritual significance of species diversity. In this paper I will argue nonetheless that these developments establish a trajectory in which it is now possible to conceptualise the diversity of species - which reached a maximal realisation in Earth history in the present epoch - as the biological correlation of the God-in-relation who is revealed in the biological Incarnation of God as Trinity. I will also argue that the being of the divine Trinity as three-in-one provides a stronger and more stable ontological ground for the diversity and intrinsic relationality of all biological life within ecosystems and the Earth System than Enlightenment monism, and natural science, which together have eclipsed Trinitarian metaphysics and so contributed to the homogenising tendencies of modern agricultural and industrial systems in their impacts upon Otherkind.
12:15 - 14:00
Lunch Break

14:00 - 15:30

Light, Orthodoxy, & Sophiology | Chaired by Ip Pui Him

• Isidoros Katsos, The Threefold Light of the One Godhead: A Curious (Neo-)Pythagorean Background to the (Post-)Nicene Theology of Light Abstract: In the writings of Athanasius and the three Cappadocians we encounter two (seemingly) discontinuous images as an illustration of the Triunity of God: the image of ambient light (analysed as a triunity of sun – ray – light) and the image of a threefold sun. While the first image has attracted considerable attention in modern scholarship, the second image is often considered a curiosum. The aim of this paper is to situate the image of the threefold sun in the context of ancient philosophical, cosmological and theological sources. The investigation will show that the image is ultimately derived from a (Neo-)Pythagorean background which was introduced into biblical exegesis through the writings of Philo and was further developed into a Christian context by Origen. The paper will argue that the (Neo-)Pythagorean background helps us perceive the affinity of the image of the threefold sun with its complementary image of ambient light, just as we find in the (Post-)Nicene theological writings. The (Neo-)Pythagorean background helps also rediscover an unknown dimension of the (Post-)Nicene controversy over the consubstantiality of the Holy Spirit. The paper will thus conclude that (Neo-)Pythagorean sources and their reception history are to a large extent responsible for the trinitarian theology of light of the early Church as well as its misunderstandings.

• Andrew Louth, Trinitarian Ontologies in St Maximos the Confessor and St John Damascene Abstract: Although there are places in both the Confessor and the Damascene where there is discussion of the Trinity using the language of being, not least the distinction, pondered on by both, between οὐσία and ὑπόστασις and, of some significance, the verbs on which these nouns are based—εἶναι and ὑφιστάναι—it seems to me hazardous to develop from these reflections some kind of ‘Trinitarian ontology’, for, sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly, the use of the ontological language about God is not regarded as the starting-point for any ontology of created being. This is explicit is the enormous emphasis both place on the apophatic in relation to the Trinity, an emphasis that seems to me to go somewhat beyond the monitum of the fourth Lateran Council that inter creatorem and creaturam non potest similitudo notari, quin inter eos maior sit dissimilitudo notanda. There are some places where one can discern echoes of attempts to apply to the Trinity the numerological theory, so popular in the Neoplatonism of late antiquity, sometime picking up some gestures towards such theory in the theological homilies of St Gregory the Theologian, but it seems to me that neither Maximos nor John is in the least sympathetic to these notions. Indeed, any notion of ‘trinitarian ontology’, if by that is meant any ontology that finds its inspiration in the ways of being of the Trinity, is something absolutely ruled of court. These Fathers, at least, would have understood entirely Vladimir Lossky’s assertion that ‘the revelation of the Holy Trinity, which is the summit of cataphatic theology, belongs also to apophatic theology’.

• Barbara Hallensleben, Capita de Trinitate. The sophiological answer to “Trinitarian essentialism” Abstract: In his book “The Wisdom of God”, Fr. Sergii Bulgakov identifies a mayor lack in Trinitarian theology: “The doctrine of the relationship between the three hypostases, with their distinct qualities and characters, has been elucidated to some extent during the Church's dogmatic work. The other aspect, however, the doctrine of consubstantiality, as well as the actual conception of substance or nature, has been much less developed and, apparently, almost neglected ... In both East and West, substance is interpreted purely as a philosophical abstraction, used to arrive at a logical solution to Trinitarian dogma”. The paper (1) examines the reproach and (2) presents the sophiological solution, explained by Bulgakov in his contribution “Capita de Trinitate”.
15:30 - 16:00
Coffee Break

16:00 - 17:00

Pan(en)theism & Evolution | Chaired by Jonathan Lyonhart

• Johannes Hoff, Ontology After the God Delusion of Modern Philosophy Abstract: The Performative Foundations of Nicholas of Cusa's Trinitarian ‘Definition of All Things’. Abstract: This paper provides a philosophical reappraisal of Nicholas of Cusa’s trinitarian ‚non-aliud’ speculations in his late Trialogue Directio speculantis (1462). It shows how Cusa’s philosophical ontology shaped his conjectures on the ‘non-otherness’ of God and recalls the logical foundations of his claim that his trinitarian definition of the ‘non-other’ represents as a ‘definition which defines itself and all things’. The logic of definition that justifies this claim is incompatible with the idea of a ‘formal logics’ such as in Kant and Frege. Hence, it comes as no surprise that Cusa’s ‘definition of everything’ appears as esoteric to modern readers. Yet, on hindsight we can see why it is superior to the tradition of modern philosophy. In contrast to the ‘analytic’ project of developing a ‚theory of everything‘ that meets the axiomatic standards of a ‘formal logic’, and in contrast to ‘critical’ accounts of the conditions of the (im-)possibility to do, Cusa builds on an uncompromisingly realistic, participatory ontology. This has far reaching theological implications: While modern attempts to develop a univocal concept of God became irresistibly entangled in false dichotomies, such as the dichotomy between theism and various types of monism (including pantheism and panentheism), Cusa’s participatory ontology avoids the enforced alternatives of formal ontologies. The critical point of his related Guide to Contemplation comes into view, if we pay attention to the performative features of his ‘definition of everything’: It points to a reality that cannot be be ‘seen’ unless we meet it in the right spiritual attitude. This enables to see how Cusa’s early considerations about the ‘name of Jesus’ shaped his philosophical ontology, and how his analogical ontology undergirded a spiritual practice that enables us to ‘see God in everything’.

• Celia Deane-Drummond, The Spirit of Wisdom: Sergius Bulgakov’s Sophianic Trinitarian Ontology in Dialogue with Contemporary Biology Abstract: Attempts to recover ontological doctrines of the Trinity in the light of evolutionary science are challenging as metaphysical foundations appear to be diametrically in opposition to each other. However, the Modern Synthesis arising out of Darwinian science is often presupposed in such critiques. This paper will explore Sergius Bulgakov’s sophianic ontology of the Trinity with special reference to the role of the Holy Spirit, the third hypostasis. The particular aspect worth probing is his articulation of Sophia, wisdom, as well as his insistence on counter-intuitive aspects such as the paradox of triunity or trinitarity. He defends himself against the accusation that Sophia is somehow a fourth hypostasis. Trinitarity elevates the role of the Holy Spirit in a significant way, enlarging the idea of the self-revealing spirituality of the Spirit in the Third Hypostasis. The tri-hypostatic, self-revelation of Divine Love is the self-revelation of Ousia-Sophia. I will argue that critical engagement with his position still remains theologically coherent when articulated in the context of trends towards holism in contemporary biology, that are increasingly influenced by ecological science, rather than presupposing methodological reductionism. However, arguments for a syncretic account of biology and Trinitarian theology are, nonetheless, misguided. I will suggest that Bulgakov’s distinctive Trinitarian ontology offers a substantial alternative to deconstructive postmodern philosophies that erode both theological and modern scientific frames of reference.

17:00 - 18:00

Concluding Discussion | Douglas Hedley, Rowan Williams, Andrew Louth, Celia Deane-Drummond, and Barbara Hallensleben

 
 
Sunday, 15 Sept.
8:00 - 9:00
Church Services: St Bene't's & Fisher House

9:00 - 9:15

Welcome | Austin Stevenson

9:15 - 10:45

Modern Theology | Chaired by Dritero Demjaha

• Boris Gunjević, Trinitarian Micro-ontology - Exercise in Foolishness Abstract: In his archaeological investigation on the forms of life Giorgio Agamben has “excavated” something what he calls Western dual ontological machine. In his well argued thesis Agamben shows how discourse of Western metaphysical tradition contains two different but interrelated ontologies. The first ontology he calls “ontology of an assertion” that expresses itself in indicative mode. It is ontology of “esti” or ontology of “is”. This ontology governs and rules domains of philosophy, science and technology. The second ontology is “ontology of commandment” and this ontology expresses itself in imperative mode. Agamben calls this ontology of “esto” or ontology of “be”. Ontology of commandment governs and rules domains of religion, law and magic. Historically both ontologies with different modes of discursive compositions and different apparatuses have constructed specific social hierarchical structures of reality and have legitimized concrete idealogical practices. Reiner Schurmann in his monumental book Broken Hegemonies describes these modes and apparatuses hegemonic phantasms. In this presentation I am going to provide a theological critic of Western ontological bipolar machine with alternative Trinitarian micro-ontology based on the complex Dantean theopoetics of small lights. First, I will apply the metaphor of small lights to the certain Scriptural references. Secondly, I will take into consideration a practical concept of foolishness of God embodied in the movement of so called Fools of Christ. Hopefully I will be able to construct and offer some pre-ontological gestures in order to prepare myself for last step before conclusion. And thirdly, with the help of Stanslas Breton I will provide a guidelines of brief open ended Trinitarian contemplation.

• King-Ho Leung, The Image of the Trinity and the Practice of Ontology Abstract: This paper revisits Augustine’s much-discussed ‘psychological’ analogy of the Trinity. Instead of focussing on Augustine’s ‘Trinitarian’ model of the human rational being or his ‘psychological’ model of the Trinity, the primary objective of this paper is to reflect on Augustine’s very practice of ‘modelling’ or indeed analogically bringing together the doctrine of God and theological anthropology. In doing so, this paper seeks to examine whether there is something inherently ‘Trinitarian’ about the analogical way thinking from which Augustine derives his doctrinal conclusions about the nature of God and humanity. Re-interpreting Augustine’s insights in light of Giorgio Agamben’s recent genealogical study of Trinitarian theology in relation to the philosophical division between being and praxis, this paper considers whether the doctrine of the Trinity presents for Augustine an ‘ontology’ not just as a theory of being but also an engaged ‘praxis’ or what one may call a ‘spiritual method’. As opposed to understanding Augustine’s Trinitarianism as an anthropomorphisation of the divine in the image of humanity or an essentialisation of human nature in terms of intellectual capacities, this paper seeks to consider Augustine’s ‘psychologisation’ of the divine source of being as an attempt to conceive of the Trinity not simply in terms of theoretical doctrine but as a pattern or ‘image’ of thought for human beings to ‘image’ in their practices of thinking. Understood from this ‘Trinitarian’ perspective, ‘ontology’ is a theory of what is being as well as a practice of how to be. As such, what Augustine presents us is a ‘Trinitarian ontology’ that is as much a practice as it is a theory: The doctrine of the Trinity is not just a set of ideas for abstract theorisation, but an image of thought which unifies the theory and practice of theology.

• Graham Ward, Living in God Abstract: The phrase “eyes of faith” describes a form of perception for those whose lives are “hidden with Christ in God”. This mode of perceiving is closely associated with the cultivation of the spiritual senses. In this paper I explore perception as it operates within the economy of grace. This economy is Trinitarian and participative, but what follows from that for our perception of God within the created orders? We have come to understand how perceptions are both primed and targeted. Far from being passive, sensing is actively engaged and emotionally involved in making-meaningful. The senses ‘attend to’, select and evaluate and these processes subtend consciousness and pre-consciousness, engaging “the mind’s eye”, imagination, belief-systems and language. Participation, even theologically understood, is a complex psychosomatic activity and the cultivation of the spiritual senses, while Christologically and Pneumatologically informed, cannot be separated from our created and evolved perceptual systems. This paper explores that interweave – the pedagogy of grace, the economy of salvation, the operation of divine providence - involved in “seeing through a glass darkly”.
10:45 - 11:15
Coffee Break

11:15 - 12:45

Reception and Development of the Patristic Tradition | Chaired by Jessica Scott

• Ilaria Ramelli, Origen Between Apophatic Theology & Trinitarian Ontology: Ousia, Hypostasis, & Legacy Abstract: Origen is an excellent example of what I call “the dialectics of apophatic theology”: on the one hand, he is one of the most important exponents of apophaticism with regards to God’s essence and strongly influenced subsequent Patristic theological thought. On the other hand, he did not renounce constructing a Trinitarian ontology, orchestrated around the debated notions of ousia and hypostasis. We can consider his Trinitarian ontology new given the innovations that Origen imported into Trinitarian theology with the notion of hypostasis, and because of the impact that he exerted on future theological developments.

• Jonathan Bieler, The Significance of Trinitarian Connotations in Bonaventure's Epistemology Abstract: The Significance of Trinitarian Connotations in Bonaventure's Epistemology Abstract: Bonaventure’s Trinitarian Theology as it can be found in his disputed questions on the mystery of the Trinity is no stranger to modern theological debate. Bonaventure’s epistemology is as fascinating as his Trinitarian thought, especially when both subjects of Bonaventure’s thought are considered in light of each other. For Bonaventure, along with Augustine, the process of human knowledge finds its deepest foundation within the Trinity itself, where the Father is the fountainhead begetting the Son, who is the Father’s very own self-manifestation. In this view, the very structure of reality is shaped according to Trinitarian principles, which state a mutual inclusion of substance and relation. Transposed to the epistemological level, any appearance or manifestation of an object to human intellection is grounded in and carries a similarity to the Father’s self-revelation in the Son. Analogically speaking, any knowledge a human person is able to gain relies on the object’s substance being a wellspring of its own appearance, bubbling forth in manifold images and shapes of itself, all of which communicate its own substance without ever exhausting it fully. In Bonaventure’s epistemology, the mutual inclusion of a substance and its appearance should be seen in light of the Father’s self-communication through the Son, which, in its full and perfect form, is completely true and accurate, without ever exhausting the Father as the wellspring of the Son. Given these analogical relations between the Trinity and human knowing in Bonaventure’s thought it seems we would have to judge his epistemology according to his Trinitarian thought where he highlights and reflects deeply on the complete self-communication the Father is able to make of himself in the Son by giving him the power to be an origin himself, that of the Holy Spirit as the bond of love between the Father and the Son.

• Mark Edwards, Thomas Torrance and the Patristic Tradition Abstract: Thomas Torrance (whose use of the patristic tradition has been closely examined only by Jason Radcliff, Thomas F. Torrance and the Church Fathers, 2014) was arguably the most creative theologian writing in Britain in the twentieth century. Among advocates of Karl Barth he was unusual in seeking accreditation simultaneously from the Reformed tradition and from the Greek Fathers. While this led him at first to reject the “Latin heresy” stemming from Augustine, his later Trinitarian Perspectives (1994) brings him closer to the more usual western view, endorsed by Calvin, which places Augustine beside Gregory Nazianzen as the authoritative mouthpiece of the catholic tradition. Typically western again is his valorisation of Athanasius, who serves as his lens for reading the Cappadocians in his daring synthesis of Trinitarian theology and Christology under the title of The Trinitarian Faith (1988). It can be argued that patristic sources have inflected his reading of Calvin as a theologian whose salient concern is the restoration of the image of God in humanity; on the other hand, the thesis that Calvin’s scripturalism makes him a faithful heir to the Greek tradition is supported by Rowan Williams’ recent Christ the Heart of Creation (2018). Torrance’s attempt to synthesise theology with natural science is perhaps the most innovative and the least Barthian element in his work: it bears late fruit in his Divine Meaning (1995), where the exegetic principles of Clement and Athanasius are found to rest on decisively Christian notions of the relation of time and space to God. It would seem, however, that while the thought of Torrance was profoundly enriched by his study of the Fathers, his negotiations for the reunion of the Reformed and Orthodox churches prevented his giving Origen his due place in the development of Christian doctrine and hermeneutic practice.
12:45 - 14:00
Lunch Break

14:00 - 15:00

Hegel, Augustine, & Balthasar | Chaired by Emily Kempson

• Vittorio Hösle, From Augustine's to Hegel's theory of Trinity (Download Full Paper) Abstract: Probably the two greatest philosophers of the Western tradition that offered both complex and original theories of the Trinity are Augustine and Hegel. The lecture will compare both theories - i.e., elucidate both the similarities and differences. The latter are partly due to the rise of a new biblical hermeneutics and a radical reinterpretation of the historical Jesus but also to Hegel's development of a new form of dialectical thinking. Still, concerning both the doctrine of the immanent Trinity and the theory of the vestiges of the Trinity in creation, the similarities between the two philosophical theologians abound. They are a consequence of the Platonism they share and of the basic triadic ontology they assume (physical, mental, and ideal objects). Particularly concerning the doctrine of the vestiges one can plausibly claim that Hegel is the greatest trinitarian philosopher ever. Historically I will investigate which arguments underlie the changes from Augustine to Hegel, and systematically I want to explore whether the two theories have a chance to be formulated in a logically consistent way. For any new formulation of a trinitarian ontology that does not take seriously the principle of non-contradiction is doomed to fail; and Hegel's theory can and must be, whatever is rumored about it, formulated in such a way that this principle holds.

• Michael Schulz, Trinitarian Ontology and Positivity of Being according to Gustav Siewerth and Hans Urs von Balthasar in discussion with G.W.F. Hegel Abstract: This paper reconstructs systematically the ontological approach of two Catholic authors: of the German philosopher Gustav Siewerth (1903-1963) and the Swiss Germanist and theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988). Both developed their trinitarian ontologies in confrontation with Hegel's dialectical-triadic philosophy, in order to prove the relevance of the dogma of the Trinity for identifying new alternative determinations of being, such as difference as negativity, non-subsistence, kenosis, possibility, receptivity, passivity… This is their innovative contribution. These mentioned determinations of being are usually assigned to the finite being. But to understand them also as transcendental elements of being in general and thus also as attributes of divine being, should not only anchor them in the Absolute. Above all, the positivity of being is to be thought of, which at first glance is not associated with forms of non-being (negativity, passivity, etc.). But Hegel inspires exactly that on the one hand. On the other hand, both authors set themselves apart from Hegel, because in his understanding of negativity and difference they recognize a lack of being instead of a fullness of being. For this reason they also doubt whether Hegel's subject-philosophical reconstruction of the Trinity is successful. Their own ontological reading of the Trinity aims to make plausible a philosophy of being that interprets it as a parable of God: as a way to God. While Hegel understands the negation of finite being as the affirmation of infinite being, both authors understand the affirmation of the positive and (to some extent) uncreated finite being as the affirmation of absolute being. Siewerth and Balthasar's ontological preference implies a certain critique of the understanding of being in John Duns Scotus, which also plays a central role in Kant's philosophy. In this ontological historical context, Balthasar draws on Siewerth.
15:00 - 15:30
Coffee Break

15:30 - 17:00

Trinity, Beauty, & Repetition | Chaired by Alex Abecina

• David Bentley Hart, A Certain Gnostic Irony Abstract: If (as I would argue is the case) the fourth century’s final dogmatic pronouncements on God’s intra-trinitarian relations inaugurated, almost by inadvertence, a new, properly ontological Christian metaphysics, they also introduced into Christian thought a new ambiguity regarding the relation between time and eternity, creation and the divine. This metaphysical revolution was almost certainly inevitable, and so perhaps were many of historical consequences. But it is also a contingent fact of history that, in the process, certain aspects of early Christian thought were obscured, forgotten, and sometimes retrospectively belied. For instance, the category of “Gnosticism” has served at many times in Christian history as an occasion for remembering the Christian story falsely. There are reasons, that is to say, why both Thomas and Hegel are right about the central Christian narrative, and other reasons why both are still more profoundly wrong.

• Isabelle Moulin, Repetition and Re-presentation. Reaching Eternity Through Beauty Abstract: For Søren Kierkegaard, aesthetics represents the lesser degree of state of being, far below the moral and religious ones. In Repetition as in Stages on Life’s Way, the Danish philosopher claims that aesthetics is not where true repetition occurs. Beauty is then not only detached from the transcendental of Goodness but also precluded from the religious realm. As a matter of fact, religion constantly deals with repetition: reiteration of most of the sacraments; recurrence of the spiritual life through prayer, charity, rumination of the Scriptures; repetition through difference and unity in the Trinitarian life. My contribution will point out that Kierkegaard’s position is only dealing with one aspect of the so-called “aesthetics” and of the relation of Beauty to repetition. As a counter example, the novelist Marcel Proust demonstrates that the experience of Beauty allows human beings not only to reach pleasure but also eternity through repetition. Considering the ontological gap between Creator and creatures, I will show that what is pure goodness and eternity in God is equivalent to pleasure and re-presentation in human beings. Consequently, what is true repetition in the Trinitarian God only, cannot be reached by human creatures, but they still have access to a certain form of repetition, especially in the religious life.

• Catherine Pickstock, Rivalry, Sacrifice & the Trinity: A Study of the East Door Panels of the Florence Baptistery Abstract: In this paper, I will examine the significance of rivalry in human artefaction, and the depiction of the sacrifice of Isaac, in the competition to design relief door panels for the East Door (or “Gates of Paradise”, as Michaelangelo called them) of the Florence Baptistery, for an understanding of Abraham’s anticipation of the Trinity and its ontological implications. Scholars have often seen the 1401 contest as symbolically marking the beginning of the Renaissance and the rise of the cult of the individual artificer. The rise of competition during this period came with a sense of anxiety, for it appeared at odds with the virtue of humility. How was this tension both intensified and resolved in the depiction of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac? What are the implications for such a depiction of agon on the doors of a Baptistery? And what has this to do with Trinitarian ontologies? In this paper, I will explore the Trinitarian implications of the depiction of this scene in this context, and the context of rivalry in which the depiction was commissioned and made.

17:00 -18:00

Concluding Discussion | Janet Soskice, Graham Ward, David Bentley Hart, Isabelle Moulin, and Vittorio Hösle