On Saturday, November 14, the Sixth World Conference on Metaphysics concluded. Held at the Pontifical University of Salamanca, it was organized on this occasion by the Fondazione Idente di Studi e di Ricerca (Rome), the Fundación Fernando Rielo (Madrid), and the University. This event has been held every three years since 2000, the Jubilee Year, and all the previous sessions took place in Rome.
The purpose of the Conference is to bring together representatives of diverse academic disciplines and varied cultural, intellectual, and religious backgrounds in an atmosphere of dialogue and conceptual exploration. Its spirit and aim is shared reflection on the conception of the Absolute and its theoretical and practical relation to the basic problems facing people in all periods, but especially those of our own time as they look towards their future.
The Pontifical University of Salamanca, in collaboration with the Rielo Foundation, had previously established the Fernando Rielo Chair, currently directed by Dr. Francisco Javier Herrero Fernández, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy. Rielo’s thought has provided a foundational stimulus for these Conferences by proposing—by way of a “genetic metaphysics” and a “mystical anthropology”—directions for profound renewal, at once spiritual and humanistic, in conceiving an absolute open to the human being and a human being open to the absolute.
In his opening message, Conference President Jesús Fernández stated, “According to Fernando Rielo, the creator and mentor of this World Conference, metaphysics, if it seeks to be authentic, must pursue a well-formed vision of reality by starting from an absolute model situated far beyond the confines of skepticism and relativism, which are the offspring of an indolent reason, over against a diligent reason, which must accompany upright knowledge. The metaphysical vocation of the human being is evident. Kant affirms that metaphysics is an unavoidable need; Schopenhauer defines the human being as a ‘metaphysical animal.’ To renounce metaphysics is to negate intelligence.” And he added that “metaphysics enhances and integrates knowledge of reality, giving unity, direction, and meaning to human thought and action in the face of three essential forms of reductionism: 1) over against philosophical reductionism, represented by the attitude of Protagoras—wherein the human being is the measure of all things—promulgating self-centeredness; 2) over against political reductionism, represented by the attitude of Machiavelli—wherein the human being is dominated by power—promulgating manipulation, an ethics which is left adrift, and licentiousness; 3) over against religious reductionism, represented by the attitude of Pelagius—wherein the human being possesses an innate ability to achieve salvation—promulgating the negation of initiative and the power of grace.” And in his closing remarks to the Conference, he summarized the effort of those present in the following words: “Let us continue on the path of a new metaphysics—alive and lived out, foundational and transforming—with supreme reality—whose constitutive interiority must be the Divine Persons—as its object, which will introduce us into a dialogue with different mentalities, with the wisdom bequeathed to us, as Aristotle would say, by our forebears, with scientific and technological advances and the different forms of art and culture; but, above all, may it teach us to value the vast wealth—Seneca would call it ‘sacred’; Rielo, ‘deitatical’—that is the human being.”
The Conference was structured around four Round Tables with sixteen Main Speakers and sixteen concurrent sessions for presentations divided into five topic areas: a) Mystical Life (the experience and interpretation of the divine presence in the human being), b) Experiential Sciences (related to the study of the human subject open to the absolute: theology, psychology, anthropology, law, economics, and bioethics, among others), c) Epistemology/Knowledge, d) Aesthetics (artistic creativity and perception), and d) Experimental and Formal Sciences. This variety of disciplines provided a broad horizon for stimulating dialogue among the specialists taking part.
The President of the Idente School, Dr. José María López Sevillano, delivered the opening address, “The Complementarity of Metaphysics and Mystical Life in the Thought of Fernando Rielo,” pointing out the intimate nexus between the two fields which would characterize many of the papers at the Conference: the conception of an intrinsically communicative absolute originating an abundance of inner life and interpersonal bonds. Among the contributions by Main Speakers, the following may be cited by way of example: Lourdes Grosso García, “Ontological Grounding of Ecclesial Communion”; Joseph Rice, “Metaphysical Foundations of Catholic Education”; Juan Manuel Morilla Delgado, “Teresa of Avila and Fernando Rielo: From the Theology of Mystical Life to Mystical Life as Ontology”; Jesús Conill Sancho, “Metaphysics of Personal Interiority”; and Ildefonso Murillo, “Metaphysical Superseding of Scientific Naturalism.”
The sensitivity present at the Conference towards joining clarity in thought to the vivacity and passion of personal experience injected a special energy and dynamicity into many talks which the audience could readily appreciate.
The Most Rev. Carlos Osoro, Archbishop of Madrid and Vice President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, during the closing ceremony—while calling to mind Christian art in the early centuries—stated that Christ was the “philosopher” capable of teaching the essential art, “the art of being an upright man, the art of living and the art of dying,” and added that “metaphysics, wedded to mystical life and to an enhanced, inclusive epistemology open to dialogue, can stand at the forefront of a vital, creative humanism, which is at the heart of the question regarding the human person.” And he concluded, “Pope Francis invites us with his pastoral theology—a true and authentic theology—to respond to everyone who asks us to account for our hope.”
The Rector of the Pontifical University, Dr. Myriam Cortés, after inviting those present to offer a brief prayer for peace in the world, and especially for the victims of the violence in Paris and their families, encouraged everyone to go on working—as this Conference had been doing—to increase awareness of the need to develop “the transcendent dimension of the human being, the basis for the true dignity of persons in their condition as children of God.”
Conference Director David G. Murray read a short final declaration approved by all present:
“The Sixth World Conference on Metaphysics expresses its profound sorrow over the victims of the indiscriminate violence which took place yesterday in France. And it declares that divine love in the human being and among human beings is the origin, principle, and end of life, culture, society, and religion. The validity of all thought and all action in this world derives from their compatibility with this absolute foundation.”