Seminar IV – Social science and theology

Seminar IV Social sciences and theology

Professor: Michał Łuczewski

Both a pillar and heir of modernity, the social sciences share modernity’s most fundamental premises. Among these premise, three are paramount: (a) negating substantiality of evil (Paul Ricoeur); (b) secularization of ‘the apocalyptic foreshortening of time’ by the modern state (Reinhart Koselleck); (c) immanentization of the eschaton (Eric Voegelin). Though seldom considered together, these three processes are interrelated and lead eventually to abolition of Christianity. If evil is rendered no longer evil, the Apocalypse (which presupposes the existence and exacerbation of evil) becomes meaningless. If the modern state becomes the effective katechon, we do not longer need the transcendent eschaton. In short, we do not need theology anymore.

Yet, today what was once repressed returns. It becomes more and more clear that we cannot understand social reality – and social sciences as such – without taking into consideration religion. It is thus high time we took theology seriously. Exploring a fascinating territory between science of Man and science of God we will tackle the following questions: theological roots of scholar concepts, understanding and explanation, the demonic origins of modernity, non-theological analyses of theology, scientific crypto-theologies, contemporary Gnosticisms, and popes as social scientists. In the final instance, we will show that social sciences can go beyond modernity – indeed, beyond postsecularity – and come back to church fathers.

1. To understand the intricate relations between Christianity, modernity and social sciences.
2. To consider social sciences as a transformation of Christian theology.
3. To scrutinize the possibility of future social sciences drawing on the teachings of the church fathers.

1. Nature of modernity. Modernity and social sciences (Miłosz, John Paul II, Ratzinger)
2. Evil and social sciences (Zimbardo, Alexander, Marquard, Ricoeur, Weber)
3. Apocalypse and social sciences (Agamben, Koselleck, Berger)
4. Transcendence and social sciences (Augustine, Ricoeur, Bourdieu)
5. Social science and church fathers (Milbank, Girard, John Paul II, Ratzinger)

Lecture and discussion

Participation in the discussion

John Paul II, Fides et ratio
Benedict XVI, Spe salvi
Adams, J., Clemens, E.S. & Orloff, A.S. (2005) Remaking modernity: politics, history, and sociology, Durham, Duke University Press.
Agamben, G. Homo Sacer, Sovereign Power and Bare Life Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.
Agamben, G. The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans. Patricia Dailey, trans. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005.
Alexander, J.C. (2001) Toward a sociology of evil : getting beyond modernist common sense about the alternative to the good, pp. 153-172 in M. Lara (ed.) Rethinking evil : contemporary perspectives. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Alexander, J.C. (2002) On the Social Construction of Moral Universals. European Journal of Social Theory, 5(1), p.5 -85.
Bauman, Z. (2000) Liquid modernity, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Bauman, Z. (2005) Modernity and the Holocaust, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Bauman, Z. (2006) Liquid fear, Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.
Beck, U. & Sznaider, N. (2011) Self-limitation of modernity? The theory of reflexive taboos. Theory and Society, 40(4), s.417-436.
Flanagan, K. (2007) Sociology in theology: reflexivity and belief, Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Girard, R. (2001) I see Satan fall like lightning, Maryknoll, NY: Gracewing Publishing.
Girard, R. Are the Gospels Mythical? “First Things” 4/1996
Girard, R. Christianity will be victorious, but only in defeat: An interview with René Girard, “First Things” 7/2009
Girard, R. The anthropology of the Cross. A Conversation with René Girard, in: J. G. Williams (red.), The Girard Reader
Girard, R. War and Apocalypse, “First Things” 7/2009
Keenan, W. (2002) Post-Secular Sociology: Effusions of Religion in Late Modern Settings. European Journal of Social Theory, 5(2), p.279 -290.
Keenan, W. (2003) Rediscovering the Theological in Sociology. Theory, Culture & Society, 20(1), p.19 -42.
Kołakowski, L. (1990) Modernity on endless trial, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Latour, B. (1999) Pandora’s hope: essays on the reality of science studies, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Luhmann, N. (1984) Religious dogmatics and the evolution of societies, New York, Toronto: E. Mellen.
Luhmann, N. (1985) Society, Meaning, Religion: Based on Self-Reference. Sociological Analysis, 46(1): 5-20.
Marquard, O. (1991) In defense of the accidental: philosophical studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Marquard, O. (1995) Glück im Ungl ck: philosophische berlegungen, Munchen: Wilhelm Fink.
McLennan, G., 2007. Towards Postsecular Sociology? Sociology, 41(5), p.857 -870.
Milbank, J. (2006) Theology and social theory: beyond secular reason, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Ricoeur, P. (1969) The symbolism of evil, Boston: Beacon Press.
Ricoeur, P. (198 ). ‘Evil, a Challenge to Philosophy and Theology’. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 53(4): 635-648.
Zimbardo, P.G. (2007) The Lucifer effect: understanding how good people turn evil, New York: Random House.

M. Łuczewski, Social sciences and theology – program