On ethics and contemplation

A dialogue with Brennan McDavid, Simon Moyle and Edwin Ng.

The place of contemplation in the ethical life, and the place of ethics in the contemplative life, has been a point of tension in the Western philosophical tradition since Aristotle. It is also a question that has been addressed in various ways and with various answers in the world’s major religious traditions. The relationship between these two domains plays itself out in how we think about a number of age-old binaries: body vs. soul; the mundane vs. the divine; political engagement vs. contemplative retreat; justice vs. wisdom. Likewise, some of the major fault lines in modern politics – the rule of law vs. individual liberty; economics vs. politics – can also be traced to the idea of an original rift between the ends of ethics and contemplation.

In early 2017 The Contemplary was proud to host a discussion with three speakers rooted in different philosophical and religious traditions in order to examine this complicated relationship between ethics and contemplation, and to defend or challenge this notion of a ‘rift’. Ultimately, the speakers task was to explore the place of contemplation amidst the ever increasing sense of urgency and crisis that characterise the new millennium.

Moderated by Tom Hardman.