“A Powerful Universe – Levels of Powers”. A S&R Conference in Paris

After almost three years of the existence, the Science and Religion Cluster of HEST reached the highest point of its activities, the conference: “A Powerful Universe – Levels of Powers: Dispositions and Their Applications in Science, Metaphysics, and Theology”. It was a fully academic event which took place 8-9th of October 2019 in Centre Sèvres Jesuit Theological Faculty in Paris. The planning of the conference and our preparations to it took almost two years. The conference was prepared by the survey among the members, the formulation of the research programme, two workshops (in Kraków and Braga) as well as almost 15 skype meetings.

During the conference we had a great privilege to host prof. Stephen Mumford (Durham University / GB), the most renowned scholar on the question of dispositions and powers in metaphysics. He was very kind to accept our invitation and was very actively involved in the discussions sharing his deep knowledge of the topic as we presented our own papers. We hosted also prof. Douglas Porpora (Drexel University / USA), a sociologist, prof. William Abraham (Southern Methodist University / USA), a theologian, prof. Alvaro Moreno (University of the Basque Country, San Sebastian / Spain), a biologist. On Skype joined us prof. Ruth Groff (Saint Louis University / USA), a political scientist.

Each one of them presented a paper. All of them are interested in metaphysical underpinning of their work, and the topic of dispositions and powers is an important perspective for them. The group of speakers was very diverse, because we intended to cover all the levels of reality (see the title of the conference) and to ask how the dispositional metaphysics can work on them. We would like to investigated the possibilities of a unified philosophical perspective on the reality which opens space for the divine presence and action in the world in a new way. The discussions were long and very intense (each paper was followed by around 30 minutes discussion session). It was inspiring to have so many people with very different backgrounds, but united in the philosophical quest for deeper understanding of various aspects of the reality. We should stress the fact that all guests stayed from the first to the last hour of the conference. It is also important to notice the presence of some other collaborators from our home institutions. From Newman Institute in Uppsala joined us for the whole conference: Erik Åkerlund, Lapo Lappin, Christoffer Skogholt; from Innsbruck University – Rev. Raphael Weichlein; from Centre Sèvres – for some sessions: Éric Charmetant SJ and Philip Endean SJ.

To sum up, we covered a lot of areas started from metaphysical problems, then going to biology, sociology, anthropology, ethics and theology. As the members of Cluster we made a lot of progress in getting the idea on dispositional metaphysics.

In the near future we would like to put together a book prospectus and to research the publishing possibilities in a renowned publisher house. In the long run we would like to continue the work of the Cluster and to take on board other important questions in the field of Science and Religion.

Last but not least, the Centre Sèvres college and community is a very welcoming and convenient place for such conferences. Many thanks go to François Euvé for keeping eye on all the organizational issues. We are grateful to the Rector of the Community for the kind welcome in the community dinning room and the Rector of the Faculty for the financial support (venue and coffee breaks).

Jacek Poznański SJ

August 2020
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