The Language of the Human and the Language of Love

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The Language of the Human and the Language of Love: A Dialogue Between Neuroscience and Religion was held at Regent’s Park College on the 15th of October 2016. This colloquium was part of a two-day event held jointly by King’s College London and the Project for the Study of Love in Religion. (For a full list of the speakers, respondents, and papers given over the two days, see below.)

On Friday, 14th October, members of the Project joined colleagues at Somerset House in London for a day’s study entitled Understanding the Human: A New Dialogue Between Science and the Humanities, organised by Oliver Davies, co-investigator on the Project. The day’s discussions centred round the links between science, in particular neuroscience, and ideas commonly examined within the humanities: creativity, self-reflection, and altruism, to name but a few. The focus of the event’s first day was to reflect on how discussion between science and the humanities can help us understand what it is to be human.

When many of the same scholars met again in Oxford the following day, the focus shifted to the relationship between neuroscience and love, with speakers addressing the question ‘What can neuroscience, anthropology, and religion tell us about love?’

The day’s often animated discussion threw light on the problems surrounding the definition of the term ‘love’. Love is, for some, linked to reasoning, while for others the most important part of the definition of love is its connection to freedom. The colloquium also provided some possible paths for further investigation in this area:

  1. The ways in which different religions command or invite their adherents to love could be further investigated, to find out whether differences in the way in which love is commanded/suggested/invited leads to differences in how love is understood.
  1. Prof. Kwok Kai Luen’s contribution pointed to ideas about self-love within a community, leading to questions such as: how do we imagine ourselves to conform to groups to which we want to belong, and how much are we prepared to change about ourselves in the quest to conform to others? This question of self-love within a group, and how love of the group or desire to be part of the group may clash with self-love wasn’t developed at the colloquium but would be interesting to follow up from perspectives of neuroscience, anthropology, and theology.
  1. The question of whether love features more predominantly in the Mirror Neuron System or the Social Neuron Network, as described by Prof. Kai Vogeley, or of whether it could be said that love lies in the connection between the two could be investigated further, in tandem with Prof. Oliver Davies’ idea of convergence between the advanced linguistic consciousness and pre-thematic consciousness.

List of speakers, respondents, and papers presented on Friday 14th of October 2016 at Somerset House:

Speakers:

Agustín Fuentes (Prof. of Anthropology, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame): ‘Interlacing evolution, epigenetics, creativity and diversity in understanding being and becoming human’

Kai Vogeley  (Prof. of Psychiatry,  Dept. of Psychiatry, University Hospital of Cologne):  ‘Neural Mechanisms of Intersubjectivity’

Adam Zeman (Prof. of Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Exeter): ‘The Mind in the Brain – Understanding Consciousness’

Anthony David (Prof. and Vice-Dean Academic Psychiatry, IoPPN, KCL) ‘Self-Reflection in Medical and Psychiatric Disorders’

Prof. Oliver Davies (Prof. in Christian Doctrine, King’s College London): ‘Towards an Integrated Theory of the Human’

Respondents:

Fiona Bowie (Theology and Religious Studies, KCL)

Deborah Casewell (Theology and Religious Studies, KCL)

John Clifton (Theology and Religion Studies, KCL, and Salvation Army)

Minlib Dallh (Fellow for the Study of Love in Religion, Regent’s Park College,
University of Oxford)

Juliana Dresvina (Medieval and Renaissance Studies, University of Oxford)

Paul Fiddes (Prof. of Systematic Theology, University of Oxford, Director of ‘Love in Religion’ Project, Regent’s Park College, Oxford)

Daniel De Haan (Faculty of Divinity and Dept. of Psychology, University of Cambridge)

Claire Foster Gilbert (KCL and Director, Westminster Abbey Institute)

Francesca Happé (Director MRC, IoPPN)

Wendy James (Prof. of Anthropology, University of Oxford)

Paul Joyce (Samuel Davidson Chair of Old Testament, Theology and Religious Studies, KCL)

Carool Kersten (Islamic Studies, KCL)

Kwok Wai Luen (Dept. of Religion and Philosophy, Hong Kong Baptist University)

Yves de Maesenaar (Theology, KU Leuven)

Eleanor McLaughlin (Research Assistant, Love in Religion Project, Regent’s Park
College, University of Oxford)

Dawid Potgieter (Program and communications officer, Templeton World Charity Foundation)

David Shankland (Director, Royal Anthropological Institute)

Phoebe Thompson (Sir Richard Trainor Fellow, KCL)

Harry Walker (Anthropology, LSE)

Jonathan Welch (Lincoln’s Inn)

List of speakers, respondents, and papers presented on Saturday 15th of October 2016 at Regent’s Park College:

Speakers:

Agustín Fuentes (Prof. of Anthropology, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame): ‘Imagination, cooperation, and the human niche: the emergence of religious belief in human evolution’

Prof. K. Vogeley  (Prof. of Psychiatry,  Dept. of Psychiatry, University Hospital of Cologne):  ‘Diversity of Social Cognition’

Prof. A. Zeman (Prof. of Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Exeter): ‘Consciousness, Imagery, Self’

Prof. Oliver Davies (Prof. in Christian Doctrine, King’s College London): ‘Learning Mystical Presence: Mystical Texts of Love as Intimate Hyper-Communication across Time’

Responses by  Prof. Paul S. Fiddes (Prof. of Systematic Theology, University of Oxford, Director of ‘Love in Religion’ Project, Regent’s Park College, Oxford) and Prof. Pamela Sue Anderson (Prof. of Modern European Philosophy, University of Oxford)

Prof. Kwok Wai Luen (Hong Kong Baptist University): ‘Comparative love in China: the reception of Confucian love by Christians and Muslims’

 

Respondents:

Dr Deborah Casewell (Lecturer in Theology, Kings College London)

Dr Minlib Dallh (Fellow for the Study of Love in Religion, Regent’s Park College,
University of Oxford)

Dr Martin Grassi (Professor of Philosophical Anthropology and Philosophy of Religion,
Catholic University of Argentina)

Dr Eleanor McLaughlin (Research Assistant, Love in Religion Project, Regent’s Park
College, University of Oxford)

Prof. Constantine Sandis (Prof. of Philosophy, University of Hertfordshire)

Dr Donovan Schaefer (Research Fellow, Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion,
University of Oxford)

Dr Ignacio Silva (Research Fellow, Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, University
of Oxford)

Dr Bethany Sollereder (Research Coordinator, Materials Department, University of Oxford)

Prof. Mark Williams (Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology in the University of
Oxford and former Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre)

 

 

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