Elliott House of Studies

For the Formation of Clergy in the Tradition of Classical Anglicanism

2014 Epiphany Seminar

God and the Modern Self

StJohnsMistThe 2014 Epiphany seminar was held on Tuesday, January 28, through Thursday, January 30, 2014.  Dr. Neil Robertson led the seminar.

God and the Modern Self

The aim for the seminar was to try to really understand what is being brought to light in Descartes Meditations and its relation both to what precedes and succeeds it. To help us in trying to understand just what is going on in “the modern self” as Descartes articulates it, we will look at an essay of Montaigne (“On Experience”) and Pascal’s Pensées. These texts will help us situate the spirituality at work in the modern self. We will be making use of some additional material from Augustine, John Donne and others to help locate the issues that confront as we try to sort out what is at work in modern subjectivity: is it the loss of an older account of the relation of God and the human soul or is it a more complete form of this older account? Is the modern self enclosed in its own secularity or is it more fundamentally united to God than in earlier standpoints?

There are some genuinely hard questions here and for many of us this turn to Descartes is looking at the source of much of what we turned from when we were enlivened by the larger theological tradition. The combination of Descartes and Pascal, will in particular, help us to see what is both accomplished in the arrival of the modern self, but also what is lost or made deeply problematic. The goal then is not to convince any one of the rightness or wrongness of these works. I do want to claim that there is a profound and important spirituality in these works that can help us understand both what is at work in the modern age and the continuing need to place that age in a wider context of religious thought and practice. As we work to free Montaigne, Descartes and Pascal from the tendency to turn them into caricatures we can not only avoid bad scholarship, we may also increase our capacity to find spiritual possibilities in our modern or post-modern age.

Readings

Montaigne “On Experience” in Essays (I recommend the Screech translation (Penguin))

Descartes Meditations (I will use the Cress translation (Hackett))

Pascal Pensées (I will use the Levi translation (Oxford World’s Classics)) 

Registration

The registration fee of $45.00 may be paid upon arrival or mailed to:

Elliott House of Studies
Attn. Jessica Osborne
1 West Macon Street
Savannah, GA 31410

The Daily Schedule 2014

Monday 27 January

5:30 Evening Prayer (in the Chapel)
6:15 Cocktails at the Rectory

Tuesday 28 January

8:15 Morning Prayer
8:45 Green-Meldrim House (1st floor)
9:00-12:00 Seminar Green-Meldrim House (2nd floor)
12:00 Break for lunch
2:00-5:00 Seminar
5:30 Evening Prayer
7:00 Dinner at the Green-Meldrim House


The schedules for Wednesday and Thursday will be the same as Tuesday, without the dinner.


Wednesday 29 January

8:15 Morning Prayer
8:45 Green-Meldrim House (1st floor)
9:00-12:00 Seminar Green-Meldrim House (2nd floor)
12:00 Break for lunch
2:00-5:00 Seminar
5:30 Evening Prayer

Thursday 30 January

8:15 Morning Prayer
8:45 Green-Meldrim House (1st floor)
9:00-12:00 Seminar Green-Meldrim House (2nd floor)
12:00 Break for lunch
2:00-5:00 Seminar
5:30 Evening Prayer

Accommodations & Transportation

If you need assistance with transportation from the Savannah airport, or accommodations while in Savannah don’t hesitate to contact us.  Because participants have generally preferred to make their own arrangements for the seminar, only a small block of rooms have been reserved.  If you need a listing of hotels near St. John’s please click here.

About The Seminar Conductor

Neil G. Robertson is an Associate Professor in the Foundation Year, Early Modern Studies and Contemporary Studies programmes.  Dr. Robertson graduated from the University of King’s College in 1985 with a BA in Political Science.  He went on to take an M.A. in Classics at Dalhousie University, and in 1995 completed his PhD at Cambridge in Social and Political Science.  He has held the position of Director of the Foundation Year Programme and is past Director of the Early Modern Studies Programme, which he helped to found.  Dr. Robertson was the King’s College Dean of Residence in 1989-1990 and has been Chair of Faculty since 2001.  He was a student of  James Doull, Robert Crouse, George Grant, Wayne Hankey and Dennis House, names familiar to many who frequent Elliott House Seminars.  He has contributed on a number of occasions to the widely respected Atlantic Theological Conference.  The heart of his research is to consider the origins of modernity and the critiques of the modern world by a wide array of contemporary thinkers.  He has co-edited two books:  Philosophy and Freedom: The Legacy of James Doull and Descartes and the Modern and is in the midst of co-editing a third collection, The Unity of Opposites: Hegel in Canada.  Dr. Robertson has published a number of articles and chapters on early modern political and religious thought and on contemporary critics of modernity such as George Grant, Leo Strauss, and John Milbank.  He is also the Chairman of the Board for Halifax Humanities, a humanities outreach programme for the marginalised, and works with a number of other volunteer organisations.

Please feel free to forward this to any men in Holy Orders whom you think might be interested in attending the seminar.