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Spring 2021 meetings of the Gonzaga Socratic Club will be held as possible in an online format due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.

Mon Sept 20, 5:30-7:00 pm Douglas Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga University

"The Competing Authorities of Church and State:

Informally explained with the help of lifelike statues, cool drawings, and zippy music from Bellarmine, Hobbes, and Rousseau"


The distinction between spiritual and temporal authorities, or between religion and politics, is a feature of Christianity that is absent from or minimized within other religions. In the history of Catholicism, the thinker and scholar who most struggled to understand and articulate this distinction was St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine who, among other things, served as the spiritual director of Gonzaga’s patron, St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Bellarmine's view of the relationship between Church and state came to be known as “the theory of the indirect power.” Bellarmine did not understand himself to be advocating for anything different from what the Church had advocated for since its inception; nevertheless, his views on the matter were extremely controversial in late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. In addition to drawing the ire of other Christian leaders, Bellarmine attracted the attention and extended criticism of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Indeed, Hobbes pursued an extended critique of Bellarmine in the longest chapter of his Leviathan (1651). Jean-Jacques Rousseau later extended Hobbes’s thoughts on Church and state in his own writings, such as The Social Contract (1762). The goal of this talk and media presentation by Prof. Kries is to explain succinctly the position developed by Bellarmine as well as the criticism of it developed by Hobbes and Rousseau. The latter, in the end, want to eliminate the distinction by reducing religion and politics to a fundamental unity.  


Kries will argue for his interpretation not so much through the use of quotations from historical texts, but from an analysis of the famous engravings that served as the frontispieces of the works of Hobbes and Rousseau. He will also employ the music of Rousseau to establish his points. In the end, the talk hopes to raise anew the entire question of the relationship between Church and state.

Gonzaga Socratic Club Human Nature Series
Universities sponsored by the Society of Jesus, including Gonzaga University, have made the study of human nature foundational to the intellectual formation of students. Through addressing questions of human nature, meaning, and purpose, philosophy of human nature provides a context for the specific studies in individual academic disciplines. The Gonzaga Socratic Club Human Nature Series will highlight significant perspectives on human nature during the 2021-22 academic year.

Mon Oct 18
6:30-8:00 pm
Wolff Auditorium, Jepson Center (JC 114)
Mark Alfino, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Fr Tim Clancy, SJ, Philosophy, Gonzaga University

Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Nature
This two-part presentation, the first in the Gonzaga Socratic Club Human Nature Series, features two approaches to understanding human nature that share a broadly evolutionary outlook.

"Cultural Evolution: Human Nature Comes from Nature"
Mark Alfino

Dr Mark Alfino (Philosophy, Gonzaga) presents an overview of evolutionary theory and shows how it provides the best explanation of human nature. We now have a compelling and empirically grounded explanatory framework for answering the question, “Where did we come from and how did we become human?” Evolutionary theory explains not only our physical, cognitive, and emotional evolution and structure, but also, with cultural evolutionary theory, how and why we invented religion, law, morality, and most forms of culture through which we express human meaning and purpose. Culture provides both the platform, through the arts, sciences, and politics, for humans to re-imagine themselves, as well as the means, through institutions and cultural norms, for creating selection pressures to realize our continual revisions of human nature. MLS takes evolutionary theory beyond genetic mechanisms to show the open-endedness of human cultural evolutionary processes.

"The Co-Evolution of Humanity and Its Technologies"

Tim Clancy, SJ

Fr Tim Clancy, SJ (Philosophy, Gonzaga) examines how the technologies used by human beings, starting with speech, have shaped human nature and enabled humans to outcompete the other hominid species on the planet and become the dominant life form on earth. Around 10,000 BCE hunter-gatherers began to settle down as herders and farmers. This revolutionized human culture, human identity and what humans held sacred from the wild to fertility. With the rise of writing, humanity was transformed once again, eventually from a communal identity to an increasingly individual identity. Human reasoning also shifted from intersubjective dialogue to a radical objectivity (such as modern science and mathematics) opposed by a radical subjectivity (such as romanticism and existentialism). In the last twenty-five years we have begun moving from industrial literacy and consumer capitalism to virtual or internet-enabled technologies. Once again identity is shifting from a private, ideally autonomous, individual to a new networked identity over social media. Human agency and cognition are also being distributed increasingly across a global network of actors. This history shows how human nature is interlinked with technologies and foreshadows the changes taking place even now.

Mon Nov 8
6:30-8:00 pm
Wolff Auditorium, Jepson Center (JC 114)
Danielle Layne, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Tyler Tritten, Philosophy, Gonzaga University

Love as the Key to Human Nature: Eros and Agape


A pair of presentations by a pair of married philosophers on the subject of how Love serves as a lens for revealing human nature.

"EROS: Activate Your Sexy: The Erotic Condition of Being Human"
Danielle Layne (Philosophy, Gonzaga)

For Plato, as well as many other thinkers in the history of philosophy (both Western and non-Western), the erotic is the principle of connection, of mediating between ambiguity, a dynamic and creative wellspring from which we realize the good of what it means to be and what it means to affirm and even to see the beauty in that which is often regulated to being ‘the problem’ of what it means to be. The erotic condition of what it means to be demands that we acknowledge human lack, the desperation of desire, and do not instead attempt to transcend it, at least if by “transcendence” one means “escapism.” Rather, the erotic is the power that activates our connection to a divine resource we all have within, a resource that allows us to see the Good in our brokenness, the Good in our ambiguity and plurality, the Good in the human condition in both its suffering and alienation as well as its generative, transformative and ecstatic embodied beauty.

"AGAPE: Activate Your Ugly: Agapeic Substitution as the Key to Christology and Human Nature"
Tyler Tritten (Philosophy, Gonzaga)

The Christian concept of sacrificial love (agape) is framed in terms of Christology, i.e., through reflections concerning the union of the divine and the human in Jesus qua Messiah. By contrast to eros, the sacrificial love that imitates the self-emptying love of God in Christ meets human brokenness by substituting for the other, submitting in service to the other, and yielding rights to the other. While agape serves as a pattern for the nature of God as revealed in the Incarnation, it also functions as a pattern for human nature, emphasizing mortification, yielding, release, and foolishness. Attention to traditional positions in patristic and early medieval Christology with classic theories of human nature provides a basis for the argument that traditional christologies and theories of human nature are both homological and analogical, i.e., similar in structure and in content. (Apparently, then, many of our contemporary debates are not as far removed from patristic and medieval philosophy as we sometimes like to imagine!) Only agape, and not eros, is divine, not despite its ugliness and humiliation but precisely because it is ugly and humiliating.

Mon Dec 6

We are planning additional events in the Gonzaga Socratic Club Human Nature series for November and December. Check back later for more information!


For information about the Gonzaga Socratic Club or to propose topics or speakers for future meetings, contact the Club Director:

David Calhoun



©2004-2021 David H. Calhoun. Papers and presentation materials available on this site are used by permission of the authors. Site last updated November 13, 2021.