Giovanni Collamati, professor of History at CEU San Pablo University: “Dante educates the reader with a language that seeks the truth and the ultimate purpose of man”.

The influence of Dante Alighieri reaches our days through fields as different as history, politics and literature, but at the same time so unified in the human being. The truth is that Dante “is a pop character“, as the organizer of the conference, Giovanni Collamati, says, and for this reason he is still relevant in national and international identity: “There are recent video games inspired by Dante’s Inferno, many writers throughout history and playwrights have been inspired by the world of Dante to situate their works or new reflections, so that, to some extent, Dante is a language”.

Last November the University CEU San Pablo hosted a seminar on the figure of Dante, organized by the Cultural Foundation Angel Herrera Oria. The professor of medieval history, Manuel Alejandro Rodríguez de la Peña, explained Dante’s idea of empire as a world jurisdiction. Alfonso Marini, from the Sapienza University of Rome, unveiled the traces of Francis of Assisi in his poetry. Francesco D’Angelo, from the same university, reflected on the 13th century considerations of a distant Norwegian king, and Eduardo Baura García, p.h.D in medieval history and professor of University CEU San Pablo, went back to the Middle Ages together with Professor Collamati, to contemplate monarchies through the eyes of Dante.

 

Giovanni Dante ExpandedReason

“Dante can be, and should be, studied, because as a medievalist myself, he perfectly represents the Middle Ages. To study Dante is to study the Middle Ages, to study the Middle Ages is to study man. Although centuries have passed, there are realities of the person that do not change, and we are equally interested in what changes and what doesn’t”, he said.

Dialogue between the technical study of Dante’s work and his desire for knowledge

Giovanni Collamati argues that each tercet in Dante’s work is the cog in a much larger mechanism that guides the reader through the otherworldly world (hell, purgatory and paradise) and, at the same time, reveals the whole of Dante’s humanity as representative of an entire genre: the human race. By studying how Dante saw the powerful of his time, we can ask ourselves what we know of our time, of those who are now ruling the world. The image we have of them is filtered, so is Dante’s, and any verse of his calls us to know the world around us.

The search for truth

Odysseus is a particular character: he is in hell, he goes against the gods because he is proud, but at the same time what moves him is the search for truth. Dante is a man who is always asking himself throughout his work when sin begins and how far humanity goes. He doesn’t think that everything he does is automatically evil, but he likes to wonder about the limit and how far a man can go in the search for truth. And what is clear is that he must direct that search to what really matters: the epistemological question.

Dante’s entire work is oriented in one direction: he begins in hell and cleanses himself in purgatory and then arrives in paradise. In such a way that when he is in front of the Virgin, who thanks to her has the permission to look at the Trinity, the privilege is to look as a human being. Only by passing through the three parts of the ultraterrestrial world could he reach the full vision of the truth. On the one hand, there is the inner impulse of man to seek knowledge, but one must also know how to refine it, and Dante directs it to the last canto of paradise: the contemplation of the Trinity.

The broadness of the horizon through literary symbols

What is interesting is that The Divine Comedy is a work for everyone, anyone can read it: “You can easily find the latest gossip of the moment in Florence when Dante was young or the little problems of the neighborhood, someone who disliked him particularly badly was given a little satisfaction by putting him in hell with the damned, but at the same time you find great theological disputes with problems of the time, Trinitarian type or with the Thomistic or Aristotelian currents of thought; it is all united and perfectly organized in this work, it educates you as a reader”.

He explains that hell is a simple part to read that an average man of that time can access and little by little notions are given, changing the language, until the content is elevated. In the end, paradise ends with the love that moves the world, which is God. That is to say, it starts from the lowest, literally below the earth, and ends up looking at the stars, which are higher.

The dialogue of science with theology and philosophy

Giovanni Collamati comments that “it is extremely easy because everything allows you to dialogue with philosophy and theology”. And he adds: “Any field of knowledge has to do with man, the man who thinks, the man who learns, and automatically this is already philosophy. If man then realizes that he is not alone, he can also open himself to theology”.

It is important to always leave a part of mystery open: “We live in a culture, a civilization, where doubt in general is given great importance, a legacy of the most modern age, and we have received the idea, which I personally do not fully share, that encourages the teacher to raise doubts, but I believe that there must also be answers, which do not have to be complete, but it is necessary to demonstrate that one has enough courage to have them and, at the same time, it is essential to always leave a little mystery so that the work that remains to be done can be done by the students. The worst thing that can happen is for a student to say to you: “So, what am I supposed to think? No! He obviously didn’t understand me. The goal is for him to reflect, so you always have to leave a bit of mystery, so that he can wonder and find there what I think is there and that he could also discover”.

Awakening wonder

Wonder is what is looked for in all university audiences, but the ability to be surprised is lacking. In a world where surprise is very difficult because we have everything at our disposal, how many of us can be amazed when we discover a living being like a lion, for example? It is necessary to seek amazement, to give students the ability to be surprised by the world around them, to really discover it, not just because they have seen it: seeing does not mean knowing.

The Dante Alighieri conferences are part of the path that every student can take within the university, whose mission is to guide and accompany them on the path of the search for truth.

Javier Aranguren about Dorothy Sayers’ book: “Learning to learn is to provide students with habits that make them capable of thinking on their own”

A recent article in the cultural analysis website “Nueva Revista” leads us to the essay “The lost tools of learnign” written by the British author Dorothy Leigh Sayers in the 1940s, translated and with an introductory study by Javier Aranguren, professor at the University Francisco de Vitoria.

One of the main ideas of the author is to propose a return to the ‘Trivium’ in the classroom, that is, to recover what the three subjects of grammar, logic and rhetoric contribute to the entry and exit of knowledge, and also as a learning method to teach students to think.

In her book, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” Dorothy L. Sayers seeks to relate learning, not so much to content or activities, but to tools or baggage of habits with which to equip the learner to be able to think, act and decide on his or her own.

Javier Aranguren _ Dorothy Sayers

This has to do with how we learn in order to achieve an authentic transformation of society beyond the university environment. And this learning about learning is something that the author seeks, even if she is not entirely convinced, as Javier Aranguren considers: “Dorothy does not focus so much on the student having certain dynamisms, but on him acquiring concrete knowledge and reading great books such as the works of Aristotle from the age of 15. It is a learning to learn set on the shoulders of giants, not about nothingness for the student to build on, but about difficult questions that they have to face in order to find truth”. It is not, therefore, a matter of confronting content and creativity, but of the latter emerging from confronting more arduous issues. She is an advocate, for example, of Latin and mathematics as subjects that build intellectual seriousness and encourage the use of intelligence in a logical way, something that, in her opinion, fails in modern pedagogies.

Stimulating reason to explore the frontiers of the sciences is what leads Dorothy Sayers to write this book, in a complex sociopolitical context of World War II, in which the population had a high rate of education, but was paradoxically dragged down by propaganda and manipulated by advertising: “When ‘Learning and Working’ was written there was an educated civilization, but with hardly any education, citizens were passive subjects, subjected to instruction, and Dorothy Sayers sought to promote the ‘liberal arts’, that is, learning as a source of beauty that also makes you free,” specifies Javier Aranguren.

The author also devotes part of the book to explaining the attitude that a good teacher should have, who, as F. Nembrini wrote in “The Art of Educating”, needs more positivity and certainties than content, that is, to teach subjects that in turn teach how to get out of them: “A teacher is the one who facilitates the student’s encounter with a long tradition, with his or her own potential for creativity, with his or her confidence of intelligence. Often educating can be repeating, a game without rules, but for this author it is very important to cultivate dialectics, which, on the other hand, is something very medieval”.

Precisely in the Medieval Age, when universities were born, intellectuals based their learning on discussion, there were many open spaces for dialogue, Thomas Aquinas summoned to the discussion all the wise men of his time and of the past, and education was to seek confrontation in conversation through argument. This is the dream of Britishness, starting from basic tools: first, repeat, then take the student by the hand to learn how to learn for themselves. As one of Aranguren’s masters, the philosopher Leonardo Polo, said, to accompany the student to grow until he is able to argue for himself, without repeating socially correct positions, but being the source and origin of his ideas. “Probably these ideas have to do with the search for truth,” qualifies Professor Aranguren, “but that they are his own does not necessarily indicate that they are subjective, but that he has authentically encountered them.”

Dorothy L. Sayers, Chesterton’s great friend and author of mystery novels, “was quite a character”, as he describes her, “to whom we owe the unfinished translation of Dante and, without doubt, she is one of the Oxford university women of the 1920s who published the most interesting things”.

 

Verónica Fernández, professor at UFV: “We must overcome the conflict between science and faith, a conflict that only fragments the person”.

The seminar Dialogue between Faith and Science in Education, now in its second year, is getting off to a strong start this year with a very clear purpose: to renew teachers’ holistic view of education. Verónica Fernández, one of the promoters of the seminar together with Jesús Alcalá, notes that, at present, on one hand, we explain science, which has something great to tell us, and, and on the other hand, religion, as if it contradicted or inhibited what science has to say. Thus, in the education of a person, a fragmentation is generated, and this can be seen in his own university classes where he finds students talking about the creation of Adam and Eve, on the one hand, and Darwin’s theory of evolution, on the other.

The seminar seeks dialogue between faith and science, but not only, it also aims to incorporate this reflection into the subjects of science and religion of ESO and Bachillerato, as well as to establish a network of teachers and centers that can share the results. To this end, working tables, conferences, dynamics, workshops and various forms of interaction will be organized to consolidate the fruits of the meeting, which can be followed online from January once a month and from June onwards in person.

In the binomial faith and science, the idea arises as to whether one of these disciplines needs the other more. For example, the philosopher of political theory Frederick Wilhelmsen said that science without metaphysics is incapable of good, or the German Hannah Arendt in her “Human Condition” warned of the dangers of a man dominated by “know how” who makes many advances with his technology, but thinks worse and worse.

Verónica Fernández tackles the question by assuring that there is no confrontation between the two, but rather we must not lose sight of who the person is, who has a transcendent part, but also possesses an intelligence and a capacity to access this search for truth: “One is not more than the other, there is no struggle, we must see how the two are integrated and one illuminates the other”. And he adds: “Science makes you see how capable the person is of advancing in knowledge and faith has much to contribute to all this, since this advance is not only to show that the human being can do everything, but that there are limits, why so much technology, is technology at the service of the person or the person at the service of technology? The seminar wants to show that there is no science-faith conflict, but that there comes a time when reason is limited and it becomes necessary to accept what faith adds”.

What would be the diagnosis of the current state of this situation? Veronica assures that there is no relationship, that it is totally fragmented, science goes its own way and religion also takes a step back.

Again, she recalls when her students tell her that at home they are forced to believe, but they wonder if they come from the monkey: “There is no unity of thought, today’s young people are disintegrated and it is necessary to introduce them to a reality that is not only tangible, in harmony with the tangible”.

It is also due to a problem of ignorance: “It is necessary to spread what is true, what is there and verifiable. The men who preceded us had a God without a world, but those of today have a world without God”. In the words of UFV professor Juan Jesús Álvarez, the truth is symphonic and it is necessary to look for all its faces to complete it.

 

Alicia Hernando, researcher at ICS of the University of Navarra: “Medicine must take into account all the dimensions of the human being, not only the physical”.

THE QUESTION OF BEING IN PALLIATIVE CARE

Under the title “A literary journey through Cicely Saunders’ Watch With Me”, Alicia Hernando has published an interesting article on the importance of palliative care in a society in need of answers in the last stage of life.

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Alicia Hernando is a specialist in Classical Languages and Spanish Language and Literature and has been a teacher for 11 years. She is currently a Research Staff in Training (PIF) at ATLANTES Global Observatory of Palliative Care, in Intitute of Culture and Society (ICS), at the University of Navarra.

She follows the main plot lines of great authors such as Tolkien, Lewis, Golding or Frankl, in parallel to the human narrative itself, which searches, suffers and wonders. It is precisely on this review that she is currently deepening her research for her doctoral thesis.

This medical field, explains Alicia Hernando, should not only be reduced to a treatment, but, thanks to an interdisciplinary team, involving doctors, nurses and other health professionals, it should also provide a more complete accompaniment, extending to the families, since the patient’s loved ones also suffer with the patient and need other health specialties such as psychology.

In this sense, the British nurse Cicely Saunders is a fundamental pillar on which this mode of care is based, given the valuable learning derived from her work in that hospice for terminally ill patients whom she accompanied until their death: “Cicely tells us that it is necessary to take care to cover a suffering that is total, not just physical pain, but social, spiritual and existential. The medicine that proposes palliative care alleviates other aspects and that is where these important values mentioned in the blog come into play”. He goes on to comment that “sometimes, this implies a deep psychological accompaniment, other times it is just being there, keeping silent and letting the patient open up to resolve the conflicts that go behind and make him suffer in another way. We think of ALS or terminal cancer, but there are other aspects to address, the person also suffers because they feel a burden, or because financially they have to deal with a series of situations, or they believe that there are conflicts that they have not been able to resolve previously…, that is, the end of life is not only medical suffering, but a more complex situation.”

Alicia Hernando argues that the integral vision of man in all his dimensions raises the question of whether the palliative-euthanasia binomial is real: “The debate has become polarized and it is essential to break it, it is played with semantics, with euphemisms: is it a law that helps people to die, is there a real provision of aid? These are terms that permeate society with a purpose that is absorbed in a specific way, although I would not go into this debate so much as into how to make palliative care, which in itself is very good, better known.

The intention with this approach in any case is to alleviate suffering until the last moment. The euthanasia law justifies death by arguing that a point is reached at which no more can be done and that in that critical situation it is justifiable to die, but Alicia Hernando insists that this is misunderstood: “At that critical point the treatment ends with the aim of curing, but not the control of symptoms, you can relieve pain in different ways. Palliative care aims to heal in the deepest sense of the term, not only physically, but from a psychological, existential and spiritual perspective, which is what society has not yet discovered, in fact, I don’t know anyone who knows what palliative care is and does not value it positively after having experienced it,” she confesses.

He gives the example of a doctor who treated a woman with refractory suffering who asked him for euthanasia, but they entered into a dialogue of understanding in which he understood that she was exhausted and could no longer cope, and in response he made a proposal: “well, we have already talked about what we have not, now let’s talk about what we have, what palliative care can do for you”, to which the patient replied: “I’ll give you two days”. In the end, the woman took on a palliative sedation experience that went well and resonated well with the family. In short, she considers that if palliative care were truly known there would be no way of saying no to it: “Of course there are limits, but we must make it known what it is and distinguish it from what comes to us through the media; people do not know what it entails at all because of a manipulation of the language”.

Play Video

David Clark’s lecture on “Cicely Saunders: her life, her work, and her legacy”.

In this line of commitment to the dialogue between science and man, Alicia Hernando finds many reasonable arguments for broadening the academic horizon from the medical schools themselves: “In all curricula there is a need to deepen the subject of palliative medicine, it is essential that the students’ reflections touch on the question of being, that the medical intention to cure in all aspects is propagated, we must continue to insist that advanced medicine can reach all universities”.  

Faced with the paradox that in an operating room a life is being saved while in another room another life may be being taken away, we are presented with a complex panorama: “Our Portuguese neighbors have already passed the euthanasia law and in other countries they are looking at the possibility of opening up these realities beyond refractory suffering. Faced with this panorama, training in palliative care becomes even more relevant, if possible, and the different disciplines contribute to caring for the person in his or her human complexity,” he concludes. 

Online meeting with the winners of the 4th Edition of the Expanded Reason Awards

The winners of the 4th edition of the Expanded Reason Awards will meet online on September 16th and 17th to showcase the works for which they have been recognized and the professional trajectory that has brought them here.

Despite the current impossibility of holding the Awards Ceremony in person, the Expanded Reason Community will have the chance to meet the professors and researchers who have stood out in this edition of the Awards for working in the spirit of Benedict XVI’s proposal to broaden the horizons of reason.

Attendance at this online meeting is open both to professors from the University Francisco de Vitoria and to professors and researchers from other universities and academic fields.

The seminar will begin on Wednesday, September 16 at 4:00 pm (CET) with a brief introduction, which will be followed at 4:15 pm by Samuel B. Condic (University of St. Thomas, Houston) and Maureen L. Condic (University of Utah). They will discuss from a biological and philosophical perspective the results of their research on the beginning of human existence and of the human person. Max Bonilla, International Director of the Expanded Reason Institute, will interview them to foster a brief dialogue afterwards.

At 5:15 pm will begin the presentation by James A. Arthur (University of Birmingham). Arthur has been awarded in the category of teaching for promoting a neo-Aristotelian approach to virtue and character formation in the academic programs of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtue (of which he is also founder). Afterwards, Javier De Cendra, Dean at the University Francisco de Vitoria, will interview him.

Thursday morning will be reserved for a presentation of the Expanded Reason Institute and discussion among the different communities of professors of the University Francisco de Vitoria.

At 4:00 pm William M. R. Simpson (University of Cambridge) will give a lecture on his second doctoral thesis for which he won on this year´s edition: What is the Matter? Towards a neo-Aristotelian Ontology of Nature, in which he explores a realistic conception of quantum theory and its philosophical implications. He will be interviewed by Javier Rubio, professor of Humanities at the University Francisco de Vitoria.

Finally, at 5:30 pm Paul C. Vitz, William J. Nordling, and Craig S. Titus (Divine Mercy University) will present the Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person, a unifying framework for the understanding of the human person that integrates psychology, philosophy and theology for better care by mental health professionals. They will be interviewed by Clara Molinero, director of the Psychology program at the University Francisco de Vitoria.

This online program does not replace the Award Ceremony traditionally held at the Vatican, nor the Expanded Reason Congress, both of which have been postponed until circumstances allow.