Jan. 18, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 8

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    Conversation about ‘The Self’ will continue at conference

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    Self Portrait (2001) by Fred Mandell

    The University’s Divinity School will sponsor an international conference later this month that focuses on one of the timeless questions of philosophy and theology.

    Beginning Friday, Jan. 26, the France Chicago Center, the Divinity School, the Franke Institute for the Humanities and the Division of the Humanities will sponsor a two-day conference titled The Self-Le Soi.

    Co-sponsored by the Université of Paris-Sorbonne Paris-IV, the conference will bring together perspectives from across the Atlantic and across disciplines—history, theology and philosophy—to address the fundamental question: “What is the Self—le Soi—the ‘me’ that says ‘I’ or collectively ‘we’”?

    “It’s a question that goes beyond the limits of any one discipline,” said Robert Morrissey, the Benjamin Franklin Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures, and one of the conference’s organizers.

    The two-day event, which will take place at Ida Noyes Hall and Swift Hall, will feature presentations and papers by distinguished American and French philosophers, theologians and cultural historians, many of whom participated in an initial conference on the same subject held in Paris last March.

    Jean-Luc Marion, the Nuveen Professor in the Divinity School and Philosophy, conceived of the two-phase conference to allow for a deeper engagement with the questions of “The Self.” “At the first conference held last year in Paris, important questions were raised,” Marion explained, “but we wanted to have a chance to address these questions again, to continue the conversation.” This format has proven to be fruitful for collaborations, Marion said.

    The conference also is a vehicle for fostering collaboration between Chicago scholars and those at the Sorbonne, as well as promoting the University’s Paris Center, which opened in 2003, added Morrissey. The proceedings from the conference are to be published in the center’s journal, Cahiers Parisiens: Parisian Notebook.

    The conference will be divided into four sessions; the first session of the conference will take place in the library of Ida Noyes Hall and will feature a discussion on the topic of “Self in History,” chaired by Robert Pippin, the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor in Social Thought and Philosophy.

    This session, which begins at 9 a.m., Friday, Jan. 26, will include presentations by the French philosopher Vincent Carraud, and two Chicago faculty members: Gabriel Richardson Lear, Assistant Professor in Philosophy and the College, and Morrissey. Lear will discuss Plato’s theories of the self, while Morrissey will present a paper titled, “The Napoleonic Self and the Poetics of Fusion.”

    The conference’s second session will investigate morality, as it relates to notions of the self. Chaired by Thomas Pavel, the Gordon J. Laing Distinguished Service Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures, this session will begin at 1:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 26, and will feature a paper by Kathryn Tanner, the Dorothy Grant Maclear Professor in the Divinity School, titled, “On Not Wanting to be Oneself.” Other participants in this session include philosopher Charles Larmore of Brown University and Jocelyn Benoist, a philosopher from the Sorbonne.

    On Saturday, Jan. 27, the conference will shift to the Divinity School’s Swift Hall Commons, with the first session beginning at 9 a.m. “The Phenomenological Self” will be chaired by Jonathan Lear, the John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor in Social Thought, Philosophy and the College. This session will feature presentations by Marion, professor of philosophy Rodolphe Calin of the Sorbonne, and James Conant, the Chester D. Tripp Professor in Philosophy and the College. Marion will present “Descartes and the horizon of finitude,” Calin will present “Self and meaning: the ethical and poetic self in Lévinas and Ricoer,” while Conant will deliver a talk titled, “Kierkegaard and Climacus on Subjective Thought.”

    The conference will conclude with “The Theological Self,” chaired by Bernard McGinn, the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School. This session will include two presentations: one by David Tracy, the Andrew Thomas Greeley and Grace McNichols Greeley Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School, and the other by Jean-Yves Lacoste of the Institut Catholique in Paris. Tracy will discuss his paper “The Subjected Self: Tragedy and Theology de Paris,” while Lacoste will present “Again: Reasons and Persons.” A panel discussion will immediately follow.

    Papers will be given in both English and French, and English translations of the French papers will be provided. People with disabilities may call (773) 702-8200 in advance to arrange for assistance. More information is available by contacting Manuel Cruz at cruz@uchicago.edu.