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Conference: Translatio Imperii in the 3rd Millennium
Date: 18-20 February 2010 

School of Modern Languages and Cultures

European Studies Programme conference

Date : 18 -20 Feb 2010
Venue : Room 218, Convocation Room, Main Building, HKU Campus

Translatio Imperii in the 3rd Millennium: Philosophy and Theology address Power and Revolution in History” is the title of a conference to be held at the University of Hong Kong, February 18-20, 2010. The meeting will be hosted by the School of Modern Language and Cultures.  

The invited participants are philosophers, theologians, political scientists and historians. Each has been working on basic issues of power and spirit in history. The meeting offers the small group of 12-15 scholars the opportunity to share their questions and researches. The “spiritual fathers” of the conference are familiar to many: Eric Voegelin (Order and History) and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (Out of Revolution).

In 1953 Eric Voegelin concluded the introductory paragraph of his review of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism with two powerful sentences: The putrefaction of Western civilization, as it were, has released a cadaveric poison spreading its infection through the body of humanity. What no religious founder, no philosopher, no imperial conqueror of the past has achieved - to create a community of mankind by creating a common concern for all men - has now been realized through the community of suffering under the earthwide expansion of Western foulness.

Years later his tone remained somber: In his Ingersoll Lecture at Harvard published in 1967 he concluded a dramatic sentence of some 18 lines detailing “the incredible spectaculum of modernity” that had begun with the seventeenth century, in this manner: “with the result, in our time, of having unified mankind into a global madhouse bursting with stupendous vitality.”

These sentences were written in the immediate wake of the Second World War, and in the midst of the Cold War, the Korean War, and up into the Vietnam War. Neither Rosenstock-Huessy nor Voegelin lived to see 1989. Since the period of their writing, the shock of recognizing the magnitude of Western civilizational derailment in the twentieth century has had time to be absorbed and reflected upon. Perhaps it is now possible to achieve a more tranquil assessment of what is in fact going forward in world history, at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

In this conference and the subsequent book we are interested in exploring how a theological philosophy of history can be expressed or written that is more or less adequate to the movement of spirit in history, given the developments we have witnessed from the Second World War to the present. Can we speak in any legitimate way, still, of a divine providence in history? What is the role of Scripture (Torah and Talmud, the New Testament, the Koran, Eastern texts) now, as the various religions in the world confront one another and the dominant power structures? What is the fate, and potential transformation, of empire and its relationship to spiritual substance going to prove to be in the third millennium? Is there still a dream of representing universal humanity through a world empire--or has the death of the Gods of nationalism, communism, and the self made it inescapably clear to philosophical thought that universal humanity can only be genuinely expressed through representative eschatological tensional symbolisms? Is the age of empire, in fact, coming to an end in our time?

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