Invitation – What is Life? Kraków Conference – Centre of Theology and Philosophy

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Centre of Theology and Philosophy
Monday 07 March 2011
Greetings from the Centre

Dear CoTP Subscriber,

Yes, it’s that time again, and this year is very exciting indeed.

What is Life? Theology, Science, and Philosophy

This year, we have the privilege of holding the conference in the beautiful Kraków, and doing so to discuss a most pressing issue:

Does life as a term mean anything anymore?

As Michel Morange, a biochemist at the École normale supérieure, and a plenary speaker at this year’s conference, says: ‘Between the 1960s and the 1990s, the question “What is Life?” virtually disappeared from scientific discourse…[but] the corpse of life seems to be twitching….Life passed into eclipse for a few decades – a brief and exceptional interlude in the long history of the biological sciencs. For biology cannot escape a question that lies at its very heart.’

This year we have a wonderful lineup of speakers including Nobel Prize winners, Nobel Peace Prize nominees, distinguished philosophers and theologians, and a host of other disciplines making extraordinary interventions in a most pressing debate.

As usual, a select group of papers will be published in a conference volume, but also, this year for the first time we have the launch of a new journal called Radical Orthodoxy: Theology, Philosophy, Politics which will have an entire issue dedicated to this conference. See here for information on the journal special issue call for papers. The advisory board may be seen here, and the editorial board here.

We look forward very much to seeing you all again!


My very best wishes,

Conor Cunningham


What is Life? conference in Kraków, Poland


What is Life?:
Theology, Science, and Philosophy 

Kraków, Poland
24-28 June 2011

In partnership with: Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, DePaul University; Pontical University of John Paul II, Kraków; Copernicus Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Kraków; Evans Chair for Religious Understanding, Brigham Young University; Institute for Faith and Learning, Baylor University; Academia Internacional de Filosofía-Instituto de Filosofía Edith Stein, Granada

‘During those days men will seek death but they will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.’ —Revelation 9:6

‘Biologists no longer study life.’ —François Jacob

‘If we ask the question when did human life begin? The answer is never.’ —Michael Ghiselin

‘No such things as selves exist in the world: Nobody ever was or had a self.’ —Thomas Metzinger

‘In the depth of its night, our flesh is God.’ —Michel Henry

As philosophy unfolded during the last century many of our most cherished goods were seemingly lost: ethics became an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes, formal thought gave way to adaptation, and thus was merely functional, objects were fictions, more akin to Homer’s gods than real things, life and death no longer appeared to be viable or real terms, and lastly, the self was revealed to be non-existent. This great wave of nihilism presented us with a palpable nightmare, ripping asunder the realities we inhabited – gently tapping our lives with a hammer, the hollow sound exposing the emptiness. The choices are, therefore, starker for the idea that one could simply abandon God and retain a meaningful, common sense existence was shown to be a farce. The cultural refrain of ‘no I don’t believe in God but I do believe in being good to people’ – collapsed, the fullness of its decadence exposed. In this way, that which came as a foe did the work of a friend, for once again, it was a question of God or the abyss.

For the rest of the call for papers, as well as information on booking and to submit a paper abstract, please go to

We are especially interested in papers in the following areas:

  • Phenomenology
  • Metaphysics
  • Systematic Theology
  • Patristics
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Biblical Studies
  • Politics and Life
  • Vitalism
  • Speculative Materialism
  • Resisting Violence
  • Economics and Life
  • Ethics of Life


A message from John Milbank
Dear Friends of the Centre and Future Friends, 

I would like to thank you for all the support you have given during the first few years of the Centre’s existence. During that time it has collaborated with similar bodies across Europe in the promotion of a new approach to the interrelationship of the two disciplines which insists upon their fundamental unity as well as complex interaction. Thanks in large measure to your enthusiastic participation our conferences so far have been an immense success — most notable for their free, lively and joyful spirit which is unsurprisingly allied to a real exchange of serious ideas with a minimum of the all-too-usual academic posturing and evasive rhetoric. Everyone of all views has felt welcome to come and express them whatever they are and to be sure of a robust but always friendly response. We feel confident that this already unique spirit will be sustained this year. Another factor contributing to it as been the choice of beautiful and exciting venues and in this respect Krakow as you will know could not be bettered. The occasion is supposed to be holiday as well as a chance to learn and communicate and we hope that as many of you as possible will join us upon it.

John Milbank
Professor in Religion, Politics and Ethics,
University of Nottingham
Director of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy



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  1. […] conference centers around the question, ‘What is Life?’ and you can read more about it here (if anyone has a theory on what the poster is about, I’d love to hear it!). Ian’s paper […]

    Posted by Brief updates « The Clausen's Corner | May 19, 2011, 11:05 am

(Sculpture by Sara Cunningham-Bell)

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