Monday, November 29, 2010

Cusanuswerk Conference

Spent the weekend in the lovely town of Mainz near Frankfurt for the annual Cusanuswerk conference on philosophy. The Cusanuswerk is a scholarship and mentoring scheme run by the Catholic church in Germany. It's interesting that they picked the theme of Arabic/Islamic philosophy (that old debate returned again). A number of experts were invited to give talks in German and English from the Graeco-Arabic Neoplatonica and Abu Bakr al-Razi through to Mulla Sadra (no prizes for guessing who gave that talk). It was a great experience giving a paper to a collection of experts as well as enthusiastic and bright philosophy students many of whom knew nothing about the Arabic tradition or about Islam. Along the way Prof Ulrich Rudolph from Zurich gave a couple of public talks on Arabic Islamic thought as well as the history of the academic encounter with the study of philosophy in the Muslim world. Those giving papers included Prof Peter Adamson on Razi and how we can not the heretic we all think he was, Prof Heidrun Eichner (Tubingen) on philosophy and theology in post-Avicennan Islamic world engaging with the critical issue of what Islamic theology is given the current German debate on this new centre of Islamic Studies/theology, myself on Mulla Sadra's monistic noetics, Prof Rahim Acar (Marmara) on Avicenna and Aquinas on creation (drawing on his published PhD), Dr Rotraud Hansberger (King's, Cambridge) on the Arabic Parva Naturalia, and others. In the evaluation, we commented on the absence of philosophy of language and ethics and some students were disappointed with the absence of Averroes (although their reasoning was rather old-fashioned and enlightenment oriented as if only Aristotelianism was the way back and forward for dialogue).
One can of course only dream at this stage of Muslim communities in Europe getting their act together to support the education and intellectual development of their own through schemes such as this and also run such wonderful conferences of real debate and exchange.

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