HPS Colloquium: The Virtues of Teilhard's Practice: Taking Teilhard at his Word


Location: 109 O'Shaughnessy Hall

Join us as Matt Gummess presents his recent research!  We meet every Tuesday before Fall Break at 4 PM for coffee, snacks, and a chance to catch up before the presentation begins.

Please note that the weekly colloquium will be meeting 109 O'Shag, as we've outgrown our previous space!

Perhaps no other figure looms as largely over the landscape of 20th century Catholic thought on science than the Jesuit priest and geologist cum paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).  Regarded by many as a saintly mystic, and by equally many as a charlatan and fraud, the fresh currency of his thought, along with his stature, complicates the historical assessment of his work as both a scientist and a religious thinker. In this paper, I take a step back from the most recent debate over his legacy, as to whether or not he endorsed fascism and eugenics, in order to re-assess Teilhard’s most famous, and puzzling, work, The Human Phenomenon, in its historical context. I apply the work of Daniel Hicks and our own Tom Stapleford to the task: their own application of Alasdair MacIntyre’s work in virtue ethics to historiography proves fruitful in picking out the historical practices that inform Teilhard’s work. The use of this virtue ethics-inspired approach not only clarifies the most recent debate, it also sheds light on Teilhard’s intention in writing The Human Phenomenon. I conclude that, contrary to typical assessments of The Human Phenomenon, which classify it as literally anything but science, we should actually take Teilhard at his word when he calls his magnum opus a “mémoire scientifique,” and read it accordingly.

Fr. Matthew Gummess is a second-year HPS student in the theology track.  His current interests include the place of gender and human sexuality in the field of theological anthropology, the history of liberation theologies, foundational theology, and the integration of the sciences into theology as ancilla theologiae