PICT Faculty Lectures VII: The Desire to Believe: Perspectives from Medieval Catholic Thought

On Wednesday, 31 May 2023, the PICT Faculty Lectures series hosted its seventh event, “The Desire to Believe: Perspectives from Medieval Catholic Thought,” a talk by philosophy scholar Nicolas Faucher (CNRS, Humboldt University Berlin). The event took place at the Mairie de Paris Centre – Site Marais and, like all PICT lectures, was free and open to the public.

In a rigorously structured and clearly argued talk, Faucher walked his audience through the problem of faith as taken up by medieval Catholic thinkers. From conceptual distinctions between opinion, knowledge, and faith to the various sources utilized by the thinkers, such as Greek and Roman philosophy, Christian religious texts, and contemporary psychological and social observations, Faucher deftly outlined the wide range of opinions, arguments, and discussions surrounding the issue.

Strongly debated questions included whether and how faith could be justified, on which models of the soul it might rest, what different kinds of faith may exist, and the limits or deficiencies that each of these kinds may contain.

Throughout, the talk impressed with the highly open and critical way in which medieval Catholic thinkers debated such a potentially thorny issue. This openness, so Faucher, stemmed from the hegemony of these thinkers on religious discourse at the time, resulting in what Faucher termed a “golden age of debate.”

Today, Faucher maintained, conceptualizations of key religious issues such as faith or blasphemy are as desirable as ever. However, the political confrontation between different branches and forms of religion, from the Protestant Reformation to the ideological partisanship surrounding religious debates around the world today, has led to extreme and caricaturized positions. The disinterested philosophical debate practiced by medieval thinkers, perhaps even more so than the actual content of their debate, remains an ideal to be emulated today.

We would like to thank Nicolas Faucher, the PICT team, and everyone who joined us for this stimulating lecture!