"What is Life?: Theology, Science, and Philosophy." This year's conference will be held in Krakow, Poland. My proposal is called "The Chief End of All Life," essentially it plays off of the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (what is the chief end of man) and an essay by Stanley Hauerwas and John Berkman called "The Chief End of all Flesh" (about the relationship between humans and animals).
I aim to explore the telos or purpose for all life (not just humans or even humans with animals; but the whole biosphere) especially as it is concieved of by the great tradition of Christianity. It is difficult to answer this question within modern thought. The difficulty is that so much of modern thought is shaped by the dualism between nature and culture. It is a dualism that confuses human relations with the non-human world. With this dualism firmly in place, modern thought (including much Christian thought) cannot account for the purpose of non-human life. And if we cannot account for it, then we cannot fully account for human purpose; the destiny of humanity is bound together with the destiny of non-human life.
Alexander Schmemann is the major Christian theological voice that I will rely on to promote a Christian vision for the purpose of all life. I will explore his classic For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy and give special attention to his theological anthropology. As already noted I will build on the Westminster Catechism and the Hauerwas/Berkman essay. For the dualism section, I will pull from a wide variety of sources: Bruno Latour, Pierre Hadot, Robert Pogue Harrison, Conor Cunningham, Norman Wirzba, Slovoj Zizek and Wendell Berry.
The paper is far from being written. All I have is a 200 word abstract and the ramblings above, but I am excited to dig in and see what this shapes into. I hope to see you there.