The Etienne Gilson Lecture: “God and the One: A Critical Tribute to Etienne Gilson”
Bernard McGinn (University of Chicago)
Along with being, truth, and goodness, the one (unum) is one of the main attributes used of God in Christian tradition. In his Being and Some Philosophers, Etienne Gilson devoted a chapter to “On Being and the One,” arguing that being (esse) is the root of unity, rather than the other way round. This talk will address the thinkers Gilson studied in this chapter from Plato to Eckhart, suggesting that a “polyphonic” approach to language about God, one in which all the attributes interact, is more helpful than a “monophonic” approach in which one attribute has dominance over the others.
Bernard McGinn is the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor emeritus at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, where he taught for thirty-four years. McGinn has written extensively on the history of theology, especially the history of mysticism and spirituality. His major work is the nine-volume The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism (1991–2021). He is a former President of the Medieval Academy of America and a Fellow of both the Medieval Academy and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
A reception will follow the lecture in the Laurence K. Shook Common Room at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 59 Queen’s Park Crescent East.