A Theology of Attention: Philosophy, Prayer & Theology

Campion Hall’s Jesuit Authors Reading Group continues in Hilary 2020 with four sessions designed to explore and understand the intersection of philosophy, prayer and theology through the category of attention.
What and how does it mean to be attentive? What are the objects of attention in contemplative practice and theology? What does the literature suggest about how to manage competition between objects which claim our attention? What is the difference and interconnections between attention and the will? What is the ethics of attention?

In order to do so, this seminar will approach this theme historically, building on the specialities and interests of the members of the seminar. It will begin with a paper on the ethics of attention in Augustine and Aquinas, followed by a paper on attention and related issues among Roman Stoics. The seminar will then look at how the theme of attention has been developed in the Western Mystical Tradition, focusing on Meister Eckhart. Finally, the seminar will look at how the theme is treated by contemporary theologians, with particular reference to film and aesthetic theory.

Method
The seminar will be conducted on four Fridays of Hilary 2020. Each week, the participants of the seminar will read a selection of readings made by the presenter on the chosen theme. The presenter will be invited to give a 30 minute paper (3000 words) to introduce the assigned texts. After questions of clarification, the presenter will be invited to remain silent for 20 minutes so that the other members of the seminar can address the main themes of the paper as well as the selections of readings. After that, the presenter will be welcomed back to respond to some of the main issues arising from the discussion for the remainder of the time together with the rest of the members of the seminar.

Seminar Dates and Themes

Friday Week 2, 31st January: ‘An Ethics of the Eye: Curiosity in Augustine and Aquinas’ by Nicholas Austin, SJ

Friday Week 4, 14th February: ‘Attention in Roman Stoic Thought’ by Jaroslaw Kurek, OSB

Friday Week 6, 28th February: ‘Attention in Meister Eckhart’ by Edward Howells

Friday Week 8, 13th March: ‘Attention in Contemporary Theology through Art and Film’ by James Lorenz

For further information about the seminar series, see document link on the left.