Agora Hosts An Academic Conference

Subjectivity: Ancient and Modern

  • Date Sep 19, 2014 — Sep 21, 2014
  • Venue Penn's View Hotel
    14 N. Front St.
    Philadelphia, PA 19106

Conferees examined the priority of subjectivity in the metaphysical, theological, and epistemological ideas of thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas and others.  It is commonly held that one of the defining features of modernity is its focus on the individual, that is, its turn to the subject.  It is possible that this stems ultimately from a turn toward subjectivity in late medieval theology.  There are other interpretations of the origins of modernity, but most will agree that individualism and subjectivity are hallmarks of modern thought.

Twentieth century and contemporary critics of modernity are generally skeptical of the modern turn toward the subject, as it seems to lead to spiritual, intellectual and social pathologies that threaten the individual and common good by leading people into errors such as historicism, relativism, instrumentalism, and materialism.  Yet, modernity critics wish to defend various aspects of modern thought, and debates over whether modern thinkers represent a decisive break with the tradition or a continuation of it are exemplary of how contemporary critics of modernity are divided over the question of modern subjectivity.  

In order to investigate this question, we invited contributions from scholars who are working in the traditions of four recent thinkers who claim in various ways to see historical antecedents in pre-modern thought: John Finnis, Bernard Lonergan, Leo Strauss, and Eric Voegelin.  Conferees were asked to advance and/or critique the efforts of these men to find evidence of pre-modern subjectivity. 

Conferees included the following:

Phil Cary, Sherif Girgis, James Greenaway, Ralph Hancock, Brad Lewis, Daniel Mark, Steve McGuire, Elizabeth Murray, Amy Richards, Mark Shiffman, R. J. Snell, Chris Tollefsen, Lee Trepanier, Richard Velkley, Jeremy Wilkins, Matt O'Brien, and David Walsh.

A special thank you to Earhart Foundation for its support of the Agora Instiute and this conference, in particular.

Here's a link to a review of the conversation from one of the conferees, Dr. Ralph Hancock.