Seminar Topic for 2007-08: "Faith, Reason, Doubt"

The Center for Humanities and the Arts (CHA) is pleased to announce its theme for the 2007-2008 academic year, "Faith, Reason, Doubt." In conjunction with this theme, CHA will conduct a year-long faculty and graduate student seminar, host a series of lectures and public performances, and hold a Spring Colloquium.  We invite all members of the CU community to join in an interdisciplinary conversation focused on the broad range of ideas that faith, reason, and/or doubt can take in our lives.

CHA solicits proposals for the following:

CHA Fellowships: Four faculty members and four graduate students will be selected as CHA Fellows for 2007-2008.  The fellows will meet together in a year-long seminar and present the results of their work in a Spring Colloquium.  Fellows will receive support for their participation in the seminar, colloquium, the undergraduate Farrand course (see below), and attending presentations made by speakers invited to address the CHA theme.  These funds will afford a two-course release for the year plus $1000 in research funding for faculty participants, and will provide $6000 in support for graduate student fellows.  Funding for the seminar is provided by the Office of the Provost and the Graduate School.
Applications to participate in the CHA seminar should include a statement of the candidate's research or creative interests and an account of how the candidate feels these interests would contribute to interdisciplinary discussions of our theme.  Applications should also include a current CV (limited to three pages in length) and a sample of the candidate's work.  Applicants should be prepared to arrange their schedules to meet regularly with the seminar; the seminar's normal meeting time is Wednesdays 3:00-5:00.  Faculty should also include a cover sheet indicating name, position, department, and project title; this sheet should include the following statement signed by the faculty member's chair/dean: "I understand that, if the applicant receives a CHA Seminar Fellowship, he/she will be released from two courses during the 2007-2008 academic year."

In addition, two faculty members will be invited to teach courses on CHA's theme: a Fall 2007 course for senior Honors students, and a Spring 2008 course in Farrand Academic Program.  Faculty applicants interested in teaching either course should include a course proposal with a cover sheet indicating name, position, department, and course title; this sheet should include the following statement signed by the faculty member's chair/dean: "I understand that, if the applicant receives a Farrand Teaching Fellowship or teaches the Honors course, the course will be taught as part of his/her normal load.

Guest Speakers, Artists, Performers: CHA is interested in hearing from the CU community about distinguished visitors who would contribute to an exploration of our theme.  We envision a series involving 5 to 6 speakers, artists, and/or performers.  In addition, we solicit nominations (including self-nominations) of faculty at CU; one of our colleagues will be selected by CHA's Steering Committee to join our distinguished guests as part of the CHA Lecture Series.  The selected faculty member will be offered a $500 research stipend to participate in the Lecture Series.  Please send speaker suggestions to Michael E. Zimmerman,

The deadline for submissions is Friday, February 2, 2007 at 12:00 noon.
Applications and inquiries should be addressed to:

Michael E. Zimmerman, Director
Center for Humanities and the Arts
280 UCB / Macky 201
Tel: (303)492-1931 / Fax: (303)735-2624                                                                                            

To help members of the campus community to decide how they might participate in CHA's exploration of the theme, "Faith, Reason, Doubt," we offer the following thoughts on some of the many directions in which the topic might lead:

Around the world, religious fundamentalists from different faith traditions clash with one another, yet are often united in their opposition to a secular modernity that elevates reason above faith.  At home, fundamentalists refuse to modify their religious views to accommodate evolutionary theory or stem cell research.  Meanwhile, certain postmodern skeptics undermine the foundations of dogmatic religion and scientific rationality alike.  Current conflicts over faith, reason, and skepticism are only the latest variants of debates that have occurred for centuries.  As Augustine commented in his Confessions, faith cannot exist without its counterparts, reason and doubt.

The lives of millions in modernity have been improved by the scientific, industrial, and economic fruits of the rationality that drove the political separation of church and state.  Although acknowledging such achievements, many people familiar with past and contemporary contests over faith and reason conclude that moderns may have also lost something important that skepticism about both faith and rationality cannot address.  "Man does not live by bread alone," so we are told, and we ignore at our peril what William James called the universal "will to believe."

The humanities and arts have long played crucial roles in expressing, criticizing, hindering, and negotiating a range of historically shifting relationships among faith, reason, and doubt.  In some philosophical and religious texts, faith manifests itself as a "reasonable basis for truth, dependent in some cases on logical rigor, whereas in other texts doubt and reason are eschewed in favor of revelation.  In different times and places, the arts have described the agonizing doubt that arises when faith runs up against an apparently indifferent cultural or natural order.
The Center for Humanities and the Arts will spend the year exploring the ways that humanists, artists, and others, past and present, have contributed to differentiating and to showing the interrelation of faith, reason, and doubt.

To help members of the CU community formulate ideas, we offer the following examples of possible proposals:

  • the interplay of faith, reason, doubt in world affairs and geo-political events
  • judicial clashes, political debates, and armed conflicts between religious fundamentalists and secularists
  • doubt's role in promoting inquiry in religion, arts, humanities, and science
  • natural environment and faith, reason, and/or doubt
  • skepticism in its relation to morality and moral philosophy
  • imperial conflicts with faith, reason and doubt
  • Western and non-Western history of the clash, entwinement, and synthesis of reason and faith
  • faith, reason and doubt and their relation to literary genres and textual representations
  • art as an alternative to faith and reason
  • "Irrational exuberance (Alan Greenspan) as an instance of faith in the ever-growing market
  • conceptions of "evidence and "truth" in judicial, scientific, and religious traditions
  • search for meaning / source of meaning in a secular world (e.g., humanism, Marxism, existentialism)
  • dogmatism of religious, scientific, and academic discourses
  • faith based and reality based approaches to law, journalism, communication
  • music as embodying faith, rationality, and/or doubt