In a world that has become a global village, a new identity is needed that transcends differences which divide the world into 'us' and 'them'. This was the gist of the 2021 Aquinas Lecture organised by the Għaqda Studenti tat-Teoloġija and the Faculty of Theology. This year the lecture was delivered by Prof. Dr Karlheinz Ruhstorfer from the University of Freiburg, Germany.
In his lecture, which was delivered online via zoom and live-streamed on the Faculty's Facebook page, Prof. Ruhstorfer traced the history of identity from the vantage points of both philosophy and theology, using a Hegelian reading of history, involving the sublation of identity and difference, as a springboard to indicate a path forward. He emphasised that “identities and differences, which have grown out of our past, must become a criterion for finding new philosophical and religious truths” which illumine our common life. In our contemporary age, marked by the tension between bland tolerance and rabid fundamentalism, we particularly need to rethink critically “the identities that unite us and that determine who we are”. The audience was invited to journey through five epochs: from the monistic identity portrayed by the Greek metaphysicians and Jewish philosophers through the Christian and Neo-Platonist emphasis on the transcendence of God; then again from the identity present in the introspection underlined by modern philosophers through the stark difference between the rational and the irrational put forward by late modern philosophers with the point of arrival being the post-metaphysics of différance.
The open invitation is to search for a new identity which precedes, and allows us to preserve, our distinctiveness, allowing us to sublate both fundamentalism on the one hand and philosophical and religious neglect on the other. Such an identity must be intertwined with a concept of God that invites us to augment our solidarity and to struggle for the dignity of all. In Prof. Ruhstorfer’s words: “We need an identity reloaded, a global identity that allows regional identities to be”.
The Aquinas Lecture has become a regular fixture in the Faculty’s calendar. The zoom meeting was attended by over 64 students, current and past, local and international, as well as lecturers from the Faculty, not including many others who were following the event live on Facebook.
In his welcome address, Mr Mattia Agius Muscat, who is the president of the Għaqda Studenti tat-Teoloġija and who is currently reading for a Bachelor in Theology, highlighted how the recent encyclical of Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti, urges us to go beyond divisive identity politics and to focus instead on a more fundamental identity of a shared humanity that is also marked by a common vulnerability.
Rev. Dr John Berry, the Dean of the Faculty of Theology, underscored the pertinence of the subject of identity and how it bridges theology and philosophy with politics.
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