Andrew Pinsent delivers his talk 'Science and Supernatural Flourishing' for the 2016-2017 Humane Philosophy Project/Ian Ramsey Centre seminar at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford.
This concluding lecture of the 2016-2017 series on supernaturalism considers the surprising but selective revival of aspects of Aristotelian philosophy for understanding the natural world, including complex systems in abstract mechanics. Naturalism, it seems, is back but not for ourselves. On the contrary, popular culture is replete with ‘superheroes’ and well-funded transhumanist research projects witness to the human yearning to transcend nature, seeking supernatural flourishing.
In this seminar, I argue that the desire for supernatural flourishing is scarcely new, being traceable throughout the unfolding Judeo-Christian tradition. Indeed, the work of St Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) made the natural-supernatural distinction explicit as a means of describing the contrast of nature and the life of grace, seeded and nurtured in human nature by the sacraments. Throughout this history, the distinction by means of grace has nevertheless been accompanied by various competing visions of supernaturalism by means of architectonic power, underpinning the drama of the saint versus the superman. I consider what is at stake in this drama for our science, our culture, and our flourishing.
ANDREW PINSENT is a Research Fellow of Harris Manchester College, Research Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, a member of the Theology and Religion Faculty at Oxford University, an Associate Research Fellow of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, and a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. He was formerly a high-energy physicist on the DELPHI experiment at the LEP particle accelerator at CERN, has degrees in philosophy and theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a second doctorate, in philosophy. He is the author of The Second-Person Perspective in Aquinas’s Ethics: Virtues and Gifts (Routledge, 2012) and a variety of publications on virtue ethics, neurotheology, science and religion, the philosophy of the person, divine action, and the nature of evil. In the media, in schools, and at a great diversity of other venues, he is a regular contributor to public engagement with science and faith issues.