What if the current anxiety in society, and our human quest for meaning, are best addressed by a bold new approach to philosophy, based on openness and community, and an optimistic engagement with theology?
The University of St Andrews is embarking on an intellectual expedition to explore big questions of life, freedom, truth, and information.
Everyone is in a search for meaning. We all want to make sense of the world. Philosophers and theologians in particular are dedicated to the task and methodical in their approach.
But we are all hampered in our quests for truth. Turmoil – intellectual, spiritual, cultural – is the order of the day. A sense of anxiety pervades, both in academia and in wider society that can close in on us, and narrow our intellectual horizons.
That anxiety stems from an erosion in confidence in essential aspects of our humanity. We have lost trust in concepts like truth and freedom. We’re all in search of solid ground on which to build a reliable worldview.
And the field of philosophy, on which society naturally relies to frame and address the big questions of life, is handicapped by the split that occurred in the early twentieth century between its analytic and continental schools.
Continental philosophy and theology have much to offer each other. They have a shared emphasis on revelation, and on empathy as a principle that underpins their methods. Both disciplines are naturally open and conducive to collaborations with other fields of discovery.
Continental philosophers maintain an openness to things and people beyond themselves and so are not afraid to ask big questions.
Theologians have an openness to transcendence – they face the world in its complexity and try to find and offer hope.
That is the inspiration behind the Widening Horizons in Philosophical Theology project: to create a platform for theologians to engage with the continental philosophy tradition. The belief is that together they can develop methods that allow them to ask big questions that they may not previously have known how to ask.
Widening Horizons in Philosophical Theology is a large scale initiative to ask and address these big questions with confidence and optimism.
The project is structured around a collaborative community of twelve subgrantees, each investigating specific topics relating to the methods, practices and concepts of continental philosophy.
It is envisaged that these twelve individual research projects will become a platform for ongoing scholarship and facilitate useful collaborations between continental philosophers and theologians.
Together they will create a high profile and influential community of practice that will advance the field and inspire theologians and philosophers around the world.
And its focus on the essential ideas and big questions of freedom, truth, information, and life itself will also create intellectual ripples that will be relevant to everyone.