Report and Videos from the Seminar “Exploring the Borderlands of Philosophy and Theology”
On October 27, 2018, an international expert seminar “Exploring Borderlands of Philosophy and Theology” took place in the Faculty of Arts, Charles University on Palach Square in Prague. The seminar was coordinated by the Centre of Philosophy, Theology and Media Theory (Catholic Theological Faculty, Charles University) in cooperation with the Centre for Political Philosophy, Ethics and Religion (Faculty of Arts, Charles University) and the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies (Faculty of Theology, University of South Bohemia). The seminar was focused on the work of Emmanuel Falque (Institute Catholique de Paris) who was the main guest and keynote speaker.
The seminar offered a possibility to reflect on the questions raised by Falque: How to understand biblical text? And how could such an understanding enrich philosophy? Falque’s contribution called “Must We Cross the Rubicon?” represented a bold attempt to delimit a new Catholic hermeneutics and to suggest that theological contents could enrich philosophical thought.
According to Falque, Catholic hermeneutics of biblical text should not concentrate too much on understanding the moral sense of the text or on being attentive to historical facticity of the events described. Rather, one should let himself be drawn into what Falque calls “phenomenality of the text”, in which the reader loses himself and encounters actors of the text so that a “veritable intercorporeality of the reader and the actors” arises.
Falque calls this suggestion the Catholic hermeneutics of “the body and voice” and distinguishes it from the Protestant hermeneutics of the “meaning of the text” (Ricoeur) and Jewish hermeneutics of the “body of the letter” (Lévinas). Catholic hermeneutics does not primarily aim at “reading” (Protestants) or “hearing” (Jews), instead, the central position should be given to the Catholic approach to body and incarnation. Through the text, the reader is drawn into intercorporeality with its actors: the text is understood as the flesh of God.
Starting from this redefinition of interpretation, Falque tried to persuade his listeners and readers that “the more we theologize the better we philosophize”, and that philosophy should be transformed by theology in a similar way in which the disciples of Emmaus were converted by their meeting with resurrected Jesus. Here, they have perceived his humanity at first („phenomenology of the limited“); nevertheless, through an opening in the phenomenon perceived in their burning hearts, they opened themselves to the divine (“phenomenology of the unlimited”). The intercorporeality of Jesus and disciples converted the disciples in a similar way philosophy should be converted by theology.
However brilliant Falque’s contribution was, further debate revealed that the crucial step of “conversion”, or of the transformation of philosophy by theology remained debatable. This debate was opened by the reaction of Jakub Čapek and continued by Tereza Matějčková, whereas some other participants, e.g. Martin Kočí, stood rather at the side of Falque.
Čapek, although recognizing the innovative quality of Falque’s hermeneutic conception, outlined a more traditional view of philosophy and theology as separate disciplines, and Matějčková claimed that both disciplines would do better „if they just did their job“. Their objections brought real dynamics into the discussion, and they rightly pointed at unclear points in Falque’s contribution. Nevertheless, Čapek and Matějčková fought a hard fight against a confessed problem of the “schizophrenia” of a believing philosopher who at the same time holds the opinion that philosophy and theology should remain strictly separated.
The seminar was an excellent opportunity for all academics who are interested in the character of the borderlands between faith and reason, theology and philosophy. It brought new insights to the participants, and even if the debate was very dynamic, the whole seminar proceeded in a very familiar and friendly atmosphere. Let us hope that such great events will be organized also in the future.
Video from the seminar