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Erasmus lecture draws crowds

Flynn, Janice | Tuesday, October 4, 2005

The 2006 Erasmus Institute lecture series began its sixth annual installment yesterday with an address by Louis Dupré on the historical and philosophical approaches to the intersection of faith and modernity.

Dupré, professor emeritus of the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University, will give eight lectures this year on the topic “Religion and the Rise of Modern Culture.”

Previous Erasmus lecture subjects have included Islam and Christianity and the development of Catholic moral teaching.

Dupr̩ Рa distinguished author of 15 books and more than 200 published articles Рhas been celebrated for his comprehensive study of religion that extends into fields of archeology, social theory, philosophy and science.

“You will hear a lot of what you will say has nothing directly to do with religion,” Dupré said. “My position is [that] religion penetrates all aspects of life and culture – or it doesn’t work.”

Dupré focused on the early seeds of modernity Monday, describing the difficult task of reconciling the notion of forms with Christianity for the Greek philosophers and other intellectuals, including St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Descartes and Galileo.

Dupré said theories of nominalism, which denied that universals existed, and humanism, which focused on the individual, contributed to later doubts about God.

“Have you ever paused to think why is it that in the 17th century, a number of ideas for explications of God were invented? Because it was no longer obvious,” he said.

Dupré criticized the attempt to impose a modern concept of scientific criticism on the reflection on faith, and challenged historians who view philosophical developments as a cohesive entity throughout history.

“It is totally inadequate to look back and say, ‘Where does this come from?’ as if the past held the secrets of the futures,” he said, “Yes, there is continuity but it doesn’t explain the facts within themselves.”

The next lecture, which Dupré will deliver on Oct 5., is entitled “The Breakdown of the Union of Nature and Grace.”

In the first half of his lectures this fall, Dupr̩ will speak about the waves of modernity Рearlier humanism movement in Italy, the Enlightenment and Baroque periods and the French Revolution and Romanticism in the 19th century.

All lectures are at 4:30 p.m. in the Hesburgh Center Auditorium. Erasmus Lectures are free and open to the public.