Centre for Theology and Modern European Thought Seminar:
Professor George Pattison, 1640 Chair of Divinity, University of Glasgow: ‘From the Phenomenology of the Devout Life to the Rhetoric of the Word’.
With responses from Dritero Demjaha and Elizabeth Li
George Pattison is 1640 Chair of Divinity at University of Glasgow. The first volume of his A Phenomenology of the Devout Life came out in 2018 and is the first part of a three-part work, A Philosophy of Christian Life. Rather than approaching Christianity through its doctrinal statements, as philosophers of religion have often done, the book starts by offering a phenomenological description of the devout life as that is set out in the teaching of Francois de Sales and related authors. This is because for most Christians practice and life-commitments are more fundamental than formal doctrinal beliefs. Although Pattison will address the metaphysical truth-claims of Christianity in Part three, the guiding argument is that it is the Christian way of life that best reveals what these beliefs really are. As the work is a philosophical study, it does not presuppose the truth of Christianity but assumes only that there is a humanly accessible meaning to the intention to live a devout life, pleasing to God. This can be said to find expression in a certain view of selfhood that emphasizes the dimensions of feeling and will rather than intellect and that culminates in the experience of the annihilation of self. This is a model of selfhood deeply opposed to contemporary models that privilege autonomous agency and the devout life is therefore presented as offering a corrective to extreme versions of the contemporary view.