18 March 2009

CONF: Insistence of the Theologico-Political

Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland, 11-13 June 2009

Symposium: "Insistence of the Theologico-Political: Why and how did modern political philosophy and theory become engaged with the theological?"


Today it seems that Max Weber’s thesis of the "disenchantment of the world" was too premature. Far from being in decline in the modern world, religion is experiencing a resurgence. Today the human desire for transcendence seems to be as vital as it ever was. Yet this resurgence has not only meant an increasing role of religion in public life. It has also meant a revival of the theological in political philosophy and theory. The Bible, God, Messiah, Day of Judgment, the sacred, grace, and angels have become legitimate subject matters and notions in philosophical and theoretical discourses. What is the meaning of this revival? Is it a consequence of the general resurgence of religion? Are philosophers, not being satisfied with the Enlightenment Reason, giving up themselves again to the mystical?

Or are we witnessing something else – in as much as we know that agnostic and sometimes even openly atheist philosophers also appeal to the theological discourse? Are philosophers perhaps realizing that the theological has always been there: at the heart of modern political thought, as Carl Schmitt once claimed? Does then philosophy’s turn to the theological mean philosophy’s attempt to understand better late modern society and thereby itself? It is indeed claimed that in order to understand late modern society and its political deadlocks, we must address again the question of the relationship between the theological and the political. But is this claim justified? In sum: why and how did modern political philosophy and theory become engaged with the theological?

These are the questions being addressed by this symposium – aiming at a better understanding of the insistence of the theological in political philosophy.

Keynote speakers:

- Hent de Vries (The Humanities Center, Johns Hopkins University)
- Philip Goodchild (Religious Studies, The University of Nottingham)

Contact: Mika Ojakangas, mika.ojakangas@helsinki.fi

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