Stephan van Erp

Project leader:

Prof. Stephan van Erp (KU Leuven)
with Prof. Inigo Bocken (KU Leuven), Prof. William Desmond (KU Leuven), Prof. Darren Dias (Toronto), and Dr Jake Benjamins


Metaphysics, Contemplation, and the Religious Life


This project is located within the ‘return of metaphysics’ in continental philosophy. The renewed interest in metaphysics implies a tension between reality as a whole and the particularity of one’s experience and understanding of that reality. The aim of this project is to explore this tension by examining the contemplative practices of the philosophical and theological schools of the religious orders and congregations (from the first half of the twentieth century onwards) with methods familiar to continental philosophy. Bringing together scholars working in phenomenology and metaphysics, as well as systematic, mystical, and historical theology, the project seeks to retrieve contemplative practices from within these religious schools as a way to engender new, practical forms of thought in the twenty-first century.

An investigation into contemplation as a practice has the potential to overcome commonly perceived dichotomies in philosophy and theology, such as subjectivity and objectivity, passivity and activity, and theory and praxis. This project will examine and present a variety of religious practices and traditions under the heading of ‘a metaphysics of contemplation’, a metaphysics which is not reducible to abstract theorizing, but reflects on its loci in historical, communal, and performative ways of encountering reality as a whole.