Project summary

Version française

The research project Raison et Révélation : l’Héritage Critique de l’Antiquité aims to reassemble the various constitutive elements of rational and critical thought in Antiquity so as to demonstrate their enormous importance for the subsequent development of Western culture. Amongst the most telling examples of this importance is the critical rationalism of the 18th century Enlightenment, which, while often understood to be a purely modern development, is in fact rooted in ancient models. These earlier models of rational and critical thought, like their modern successors, challenged, and were challenged by traditionalist, conservative, and dogmatic strains of thought, and their defence and preservation represents one of the great accomplishments of Western intellectual history.

On the questions of moral relativism and of social and political equality, as well as on the problem of the opposition between law and nature, of the plural and non-conflictual access to the divine, the openness of society to foreign forms of belief, the right to critique prevailing dogmas (the ancestor, if you will, of modern ‘private belief’), and the liberty of thought and of expression, the Ancients opened important avenues of reflection. It is this polymorphous heritage of critical thought, which, upon coming into contact with the Judaeo-Christian tradition, produced, in the first centuries of the Common Era, that heady admixture of innovations and mutations which came to constitute the fundamental framework of Western culture. What is more, those avenues closed at the end Antiquity would live on in monastic libraries, only to be reopened again and extended in the Renaissance and what was to follow.

Organised around three principal themes, whose descriptions are to be found elsewhere on this site, the project Raison et Révélation : l’Héritage Critique de l’Antiquité is financed by a partnership grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2014-2021) and supported internationally by five partner institutions regrouping, to date, 28 researchers. In its seven-year program are mandated not only a series of publications to be published at Les Belles Lettres, destined for both the specialized and the general reader, but also undergraduate and graduate level courses on the project’s ongoing research taught in the partner universities as well as at l’École internationale d’été de Percé, international exchanges of both students and researchers between partner institutions, the joint direction of doctoral theses, as well as numerous activities for ensuring the widest possible diffusion of the project’s findings (colloquia, workshops, public conferences, round-tables, etc.). All the events and publications related to the project will be advertised on this site.

Jean-Marc Narbonne