The Birth of Reason
This series of lectures will take you on a journey of discovery from Antiquity to early Modernity. The lecturers will analyze, contextualize, and possibly criticize some of the more conspicuous rationalization processes that have shaped Western civilization. Subjects include Aristotle’s resolutely scientific approach of reality, Thomas Aquinas’ astonishingly rational views of religion, and the innovative rationality that we find in ancient Greek politics. The series will conclude with a lecture on how, since René Descartes, our rational self-image has tended to seriously blur the perception we have of our fellow creatures in the animal kingdom.
The individual lectures:
1. The Birth of Scientific Method from Aristotle’s Biology, (De Haas / 27 Sept)
2. Thomas Aquinas: Adam and Eve in Paradise, (Goris / 4 Oct)
3. Early Greek Rationalism in Political Practice and Theory, (Singor / 11 Oct)
4. Descartes versus Modern Biology: Paradigmatic Changes in our Perception of Animals, (Van Hooff / 18 Oct)
The Birth of Scientific Method from Aristotle’s Biology (27 Sept)
Frans de Haas
Aristotle’s insights in philosophy and science have inspired people up to this day. His own inspiration came from years of detailed biological research, to which he dedicated many of his writings. We shall see how Aristotle’s scientific method comes to life in his biology, and yields basic concepts of his philosophy. Professor De Haas will provide the audience with a list of Aristotelian data on which they can practice their skills in Aristotelian science.
Thomas Aquinas: Adam and Eve in Paradise (4 Oct)
Did Adam and Eve enjoy sex in Paradise? Did they dream and relieve themselves? Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), the most influential Medieval thinker, asks these questions in order to examine what makes up pure human nature. Aristotle’s notion of “nature” (physis) was rediscovered in Aquinas’ time. By incorporating it into his theological anthropology, Aquinas transformed Augustine’s dichotomy of sin and grace and paved the way for a secular view on human beings in modernity.
Early Greek Rationalism in Political Practice and Theory (11 Oct)
Greek rationalism manifested itself not only in the fields of philosophy and science, but also in politics. The lecture will deal with:
1. The emerging ideal of a political community framing its own laws (8th –7th c. BC) and organizing itself in a rational manner (6th–5th c. BC).
2. Tyranny (6th–4th c. BC).
3. The debate concerning the three main constitutional forms: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy (5th–4th c. BC).
4. Political philosophy (5th–4th centuries BC).
5. Utopias (5th–3rd c. BC).
Descartes versus Modern Biology: Paradigmatic Changes in our Perception of Animals (18 Oct)
Jan van Hooff
Descartes proposed that animals are no more than machines. A grandiose thought because it prompted the question: “How then does it work”?, which triggered the flourishing of empirical biology and physiology. Descartes also regarded man as a machine, but with something extra, the non-physical λόγος or ratio, which is compliant with customary dualistic body-mind thinking. Then came Darwin. He viewed both body and soul as a product of evolution and natural selection. And now there is modern behavioral biology and the comparative cognition and neurosciences, which pulverise the traditional man-animal dichotomy.
Wednesdays 27 Sept and 4, 11 and 18 Oct – 7.30 to 9.30 pm
Costs whole series
UM students €8
UM employees and students from other schools €20
This series is fully booked.
Click here for the reserve list.
About the lecturers
Prof. Frans de Haas
Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, Leiden University
Harm Goris, PhD
Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Tilburg University
Henk W. Singor, PhD
historian, former lecturer in Ancient History, Leiden University
Prof. Jan van Hooff
em. Professor in Ethology & Socio-ecology, Utrecht University