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Philosopher’s lecture draws largest crowd to Scholarship in the Cathedral

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Professor John Haldane speaking in the crypt at St Mary’s Cathedral. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

Scottish Professor John Haldane has drawn the largest crowd ever to the Scholarship in the Cathedral lecture series with his in-depth analysis of faith and reason.

St Mary’s Cathedral crypt was full for his lecture titled, ‘Athens and Jerusalem: faith or reason, opponents or allies?’

In it, Prof. Haldane outlined some ways in which in earlier centuries of the Church’s history there was a rejection of the philosophical reasoning of Athens, while today we see the opposite: the secular world’s flat-out rejection of faith as having “nothing to offer”.

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It is much better to think of reason and faith as being related, he believes.

“You’ve got three ways in which reason comes to the aid of faith,” he told The Catholic Weekly.

“One is creating the general space for faith by showing that the science doesn’t really explain the nature of the world or of human beings; second, by giving expression to, refining and sharing the beliefs of the apostles and their successors (as seen in the Nicene Creed); and third, in the present day, in defence of the faith and more generally arguing for the place of religion and the place of faith.”

Two years ago as a visiting professor for Sydney’s University of Notre Dame, the distinguished philosopher charmed Australians with his calm and common sense defence of western liberal democracy.

As such, Archbishop Anthony Fisher took the opportunity of another Sydney visit to welcome Prof Haldane, who holds professorships at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and at Baylor
University, USA, to present the lecture on 12 July.

Prof Haldane said our understanding of ourselves and the world rests on the interaction of faith and reason in three ways; through the testimony of others, our own lived experience and our reflection.

Prof Haldane is also Chair of the Royal Institute of Philosophy in London.

Pope Benedict XVI made him a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Culture in 2005 and he is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Thomas Aquinas and the Pontifical Academy for Life. He is a key figure in the philosophical movement known as ‘Analytical Thomism’ – a term he coined – combining the philosophy of the 13th century Aristotelian philosopher Thomas Aquinas with insights from contemporary, Anglo-American philosophy.

Prof Haldane is in Australia for several weeks at the invitation of Scot’s College in Sydney as its Clark Distinguished Professor.

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