Consonances I: Mathematics, Language, and the Moral Sense of Nature

Kevin Treacey's picture
Call for Papers
August 30, 2023 to September 1, 2023
Ireland {Republic}
Subject Fields: 
Composition & Rhetoric, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Intellectual History, Philosophy, Religious Studies and Theology

Dear all,

With apologies for cross-posting: members of this list may be interested in the following Call For Papers.

Consonances I: Mathematics, Language, and the Moral Sense of Nature

Arts and Humanities Institute, Maynooth University

30 August – 1 September 2023

Confirmed Speakers: Sophie Roux (École normale supérieure, Paris; Opening Remarks); Robert Goulding (Notre Dame, Keynote), David Albertson (USC Dornsife, Keynote); Clare Moriarty (Trinity College, Dublin); Richard Oosterhoff (University of Edinburgh); Xiaona Wang (University of Warwick).

Although grand narratives of the ‘Scientific Revolution’ are by now largely rejected, one of their underlying premises—that of the conceptual and methodological mathematization of nature undertaken by figures such as Galileo, Descartes and Newton— remains a problematic commonplace in the literature (Gorham et al, 2016). In Roux’s argument (2010), the metaphysical conviction underpinning developments in mathematization between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries gave rise to claims that all natural phenomena can be submitted to mathematics, and that mathematics was the transparent language of nature: another grand narrative, whose effectiveness and continuation each requires further examination.

Hence for Albertson (2014), as for Goulding (2010) and Oosterhoff (2018), closer attention to mathesis’ genealogy; its continuities with premodern epistemes and ontologies; as well as the contiguities and conflicts shared by mathematized science, language, and religion, is  essential. Critiquing the longer transmissions of these early modern conceptual processes may even prove crucial to our understanding of late modernity: a period in which forces of mathematization increasingly form the matrix in which life is compulsorily contained.

Drawing upon the Irish philosopher of science Ernan McMullin’s idea of consonance (1984), this multi-disciplinary conference therefore explores the interplay between mathematized logic, language, morality, and understandings of nature in premodern and modern eras from Western and Global perspectives. Acknowledging, though independent from, McMullin’s theological imperative, Consonances encourages contributions from historians of science, philosophy, and theology which ‘retain the autonomy of each discipline [...] in ways which do not fall into conflict’ (Allen, 2008, 134).

Our suggested timeframe is from c.700 to c.1750; however, this is only a suggestion, and papers considering other periods are welcome. We invite proposals for individual or collaborative papers of 20 minutes. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Intersections of mathematics, literature, and natural philosophies and theologies across religious, cultural, and epistemological boundaries
  • Relations of method, moral arguments, mathematical praxis, and social mobility in the premodern world
  •  The Christianization of Neopythagorean and Neoplatonic mathesis; transmissions, successes, failures 
  • The intersection of number, natural environment, and modes of transcendence
  • Mathematics, language, and the vita contemplativa
  •  Longer-term and/or ‘lost’ traditions of hermeneutical inquiry in ‘mathematical theologies’
  • Resolving conflict through dialogical, mathematico-philosophical, and/or hermeneutical strategies
  • Apophatic practices across interlinked knowledge-traditions.

We encourage contributions from PhD students and early career scholars, and will aim to publish a selection of papers from the conference as an edited collection or as a special issue in a peer-reviewed journal.

Please submit an abstract (c.250 words) and a brief biography to by 16 January 2023.

With all best wishes,

Susan Gottlöber, Ciarán Mac an Bhaird,  and Kevin Tracey

Conference Organisers