Webinar: Anabaptists & Philosophy Roundtable

Wednesday, 27 April, 17:00 CEST/Amsterdam (11:00 EDT/Toronto)

The Anabaptists & Philosophy Roundtable is an occasional webinar series featuring scholars discussing Anabaptist life and thought in relation to philosophical themes, topics, and methods. The series is sponsored by Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre (TMTC), Doopsgezind SeminariumFresno Pacific University, the Institute of Mennonite Studies, and Pandora Press. Our events typically include a paper presentation and respondent, followed by open discussion among participants. We hold events online three to four times per year.

Our April 2022 event will feature Dr. Maxwell Kennel (University of Toronto), who will give a paper entitled “Anabaptism contra Philosophy: On Violence, Enmity, and Interdisciplinarity.”

A response will be provided by Dr. Christian Early (James Madison University).

Dr. Maxwell Kennel is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto, the author of Postsecular History: Political Theology and the Politics of Time, and the Director of the Pandora Press.

ABSTRACT:

What hath Menno to do with Athens, and what hath the Radical Reformation to do with the philosophical Enlightenment? In his forthcoming novel Menno in Athens, Ron Tiessen narrates the travels of a young Mennonite on the islands of Greece and stages what may be the first sustained literary-philosophical encounter between Mennonite and Greek thought. In a key moment, the narrator asks his father, “if you have the proclamation of a truth in one case that is considered divine revelation, and the same proclamation is found in another culture, must we assume that one is divinely inspired and the other not?” The questions Tiessen raises are at the heart of this roundtable series where we place Anabaptism in dialogue with the traditions of western philosophy. How are we to treat the resonances and oppositions between Anabaptist Mennonite identities and philosophers?

In this presentation I argue that the way forward for this dialogue is to fully dignify the similarities and differences between its two ‘sides’ without the comforts of syncretistic unity or the paralyses of irreducible difference. To do this, I will articulate a ‘secular Mennonite social critique’ that uses the critique of redemptive violence to deconstruct rigid oppositions between religion and secularity, theology and philosophy, and ‘the church’ and ‘the world.’ Beginning from the assumption that these terms do not name stable phenomena, but instead are conceptual tools that are used and abused for diverse purposes, this presentation critiques the imposition of enmity and competition onto the names and concepts we use to make sense of this discourse and this world. The wager of this lecture is that if the Anabaptist Mennonite community is truly committed to the critique of violence and pursuit of peace, then a critical reconceptualization of interdisciplinarity is essential, lest we allow suspicion, fear, and reactivity to define the terms of our encounters with others and ourselves.

BACKGROUND READING:
Maxwell Kennel, “Ontologies of Violence: Jacques Derrida, Mennonite Pacifist Epistemology, and Grace M. Jantzen’s Death and the Displacement of Beauty.” PHD Dissertation. Religious Studies Department, McMaster University. 2021. https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/handle/11375/26484

Maxwell Kennel, “Philosophy.” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2020. Web. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Philosophy&oldid=167206.

Maxwell Kennel, “Mennonite Metaphysics? Exploring the Philosophical Aspects of Mennonite Theology from Pacifist Epistemology to Ontological Peace” Mennonite Quarterly Review 91.3 (July 2017): 403-421. https://maxwellkennel.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/kennel_mennonitemetaphysics.
pdf

Join us online for this exciting conversation on 27 April 2022 at 17:00 (CEST / Amsterdam; 11:00 EDT / Toronto).

Please RVSP to mennonite.centre@uwaterloo.ca to receive a link to attend this virtual event.

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