Expanded Reason Congress – Round Table: “The wonder of the world through quantum physics and ecology”.

Michael Taylor. Founding member of the International Institute “Laudato Si” of Granada and former adjunct professor at the Edith Stein Institute of Philosophy (Archdiocese of Granada, Spain). Visiting Professor at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, NH. Taylor holds degrees in Philosophy, Bioethics, Biology and Environmental Studies. Winner of the 5th edition of the Expanded Reason Awards with The foundations of nature: metaphysics of gift for an integral ecological ethic.

The second round table of the Congress sought to discover the metaphysics of gift in order to appreciate the beauty of creation.

The moderator Álvaro García-Tejedor, a biochemist and expert in Artificial Intelligence, opened the round table by pointing out that the micro (referring to particles) and the macro (referring to ecosystems) are two worlds that are closely interconnected.

Michael Taylor has confessed that astonishment is the first emotion he wanted to rescue from his childhood in order to make a deeper reflection on nature. Thus, amazement, in philosophical terms, demonstrates the humility that one must have before reason, because it exposes oneself to an overabundant objective reality that becomes intelligible. He explained that the world communicates truth and beauty so that the human being receives the gift of wonder and this, precisely, reminds us that man is limited, but that he can also embrace a portion of reality.

The professor of the University of Navarra, Javier Sánchez Cañizares, remarked that the astonishment of the scientist comes from living in a world that is not chaotic and from knowing that in a few seconds it will not explode into a thousand pieces, since there are a series of stable patterns. “It is part of the sense of mystery,” said Professor Cañizares, but not as an excess that shows human limits, but as an amazement at the ability to understand how the processes of nature work, something that Albert Einstein himself recognized. In other words, it is a matter of noting that, unlike the order that can be found in a dictionary, which is the result of conventionalism, the order of nature has not been configured by human beings, and that there is an obvious connection between this order and the possibility of knowing it.

In this sense, M. Taylor asserted that this leads to the formulation of a metaphysical question par excellence: why there is something and not nothingness, a question that science does not seek to answer because it takes for granted that there are things that are already here. He clarified that the metaphysics of gift only alludes to a way of understanding the world: creation does not give itself existence, but is received and, therefore, exists insofar as it is given. This, he explained, can be seen in chemistry, but also in ecology (the animal and mineral relationship in nature), and in the person who is not understood as an isolated individual. Thus, it must make disposition to see reality with gratitude and relational search.

On the other hand, although one cannot do metaphysics without knowing physics, Javier Sánchez Cañizares pointed out that a large part of the current problem occurs when science and philosophy are separated and, while the philosopher thinks he can focus on metaphysics, the scientist interprets nature exclusively with science. In short, he has advocated a philosophy of nature that allows a more complete construction of reality.

Precisely, M. Taylor has proposed a third way of approaching reality in order to avoid reductionism to a simple mechanical structure. In his opinion, the dominant ideologies understand it as a great flow of energy that pigeonholes man into a stardust. For this reason, he has called for a traditional view of the individual as a substance that is not separated from other individuals, with a dignity that is not at war with nature and that sees nature as a gift of his existence.

However, common principles do not explain the whole of knowledge and any reduction is an ism that hypertrophies, according to Sánchez Cañizares. Sometimes, it can be useful to avoid inventing new things at every step that human beings take, but science cannot forget its ontological presuppositions, when it does not take into account that the fact that the universe exists is something given or that things have an essence. Nor can it forget its epistemological presuppositions, because it needs to connect with other knowledge. In his opinion, scientism occurs when it is believed that universal knowledge has been found and is not complemented by access to other ways of knowing reality or by a real influence of beings on each other. Rather, in nature there is a causality that allows its development at different levels because there is a deep analogy of the human being with these different levels.

In this way, being has characteristics that are truth, goodness and beauty, even in the most banal, as developed by Michael Taylor, who is convinced that the agnostic vision of the goodness of the created world runs the risk of understanding the method in an absolute way. And so, in a world that apparently needs quantum processes, the issue of consciousness and freedom coexist dangerously. For Professor J. Cañizares, this issue has recently aroused massive interest as seen in the latest film productions of the Marvel fiction universe, which, on the other hand, shows that the objective and the subjective are intimately united. However, physics is related to the mind from the moment when there is experience that freedom is not an illusion and when the quantum world makes room for this capacity to coexist. It has warned against the mechanistic view of history because, although it helps to know reality and avoids boring automatisms, it does not solve everything: the purpose of nature is being discovered. “The human being is an evolutionary vertex that does not fit into mechanistic understandings,” he noted.

The speakers echoed Joseph Ratzinger’s thesis that substance and relationship are equally paramount, since one does not arrive at something without being in relationship. M. Taylor spoke of a clear tension between death and the tendency to reach an eternal stability. Well, the so-called ecophilosophy, which explains life and the immateriality of the soul from the property of emergence, needs to get out of matter and stop encapsulating knowledge within a mere evolution that does not solve the problem of meaning. In his book he defends an essence that starts from the constant relationship between the material and the immaterial. Javier Sánchez also noted that there is a vision of emergence understood as something that seems novel, but he clarified that it is only apparent because it could be described from basic components, such as the rainbow. However, there are other properties that are ontologically emergent and even if the properties were known, they would not be giving a reason for how an entity emerges. It is a contemplation that leads one to intuit a personal god, in fact, J. Ratzinger said that with this unfolding story that would be the only thing one would expect from a god for whom relationship is so important. “It gives color to a cold nature based on pure calculation,” he exclaimed.

During the question time, J. Sánchez Cañizares assured that Einstein’s deterministic vision does not give reason for a temporal nature where the past is different from the present and the future, and the figure of the dice attributed to Hawking is for M. Taylor nothing more than an incentive to confirm that it is the simple ones who find god, as a way that god wanted to preserve their freedom to love him.

Sanchez spoke of theological currents that introduce new visions on how god would act in evolution without being interventionist, but, in his opinion, we should speak of a theology of creation that does not forget the relationship between nature and its creator, and that emphasizes that creation is made with a view to the incarnation of a god that seeks the divinization of the universe (that god be all in all). M. Taylor argued that the god of Newton or Galileo can mistakenly lead to a deistic vision of a great watchmaker creator of the world, but that he forgot about him. His thesis is the vision of a transcendent god, but more intimate to the human being than the human being himself, present in everything in a mysterious way, allowing the freedom of the human being and the development of the laws of nature.

Regarding the doubts about evolutionism, M. Taylor answered that, if everything is matter and form, there should also be an immaterial accompaniment, a qualitative leap in the human being, when the soul is self-conscious and relates to God. Finally, Javier S. Cañizares included the scientific advances within the Darwinian framework without saying that it has been surpassed and agreed with Benedict XVI in a spiritual evolution of the human being.

In the debate, a call was made to strengthen the collaboration between science and faith so that reason can reach a more mature science. John Slattery gave the example of a group of American professors debating the notion of evolution. He revealed that they could only accept dialogue when they gave their views on ecology, creation and psychology. In his opinion, it is important not to be forced to understand, but to go deeper into the content in order to reach a deeper level.

The virtues are tools that help reasoning, according to J. Arthur, but it is necessary to integrate them with the intellectual ones so that reason can be expanded; this is what he called the “practical wisdom of good sense”. Thus, the virtues make it possible to know, to desire and to act with good reasoning. All that is needed are intelligent and practical people who are leaders in their professions.

Verónica Fernández said that it is a challenge to educate in open reasoning because one educates as one has been educated and if one wants to improve, the teacher must be a master. This depends on how he looks at the person in front of him, who is not an object of content consumption, but someone with whom to establish a sapiential relationship. He also needs to be a point of reference, because a teacher is not just what he says, but an integral person with prestige, capable of welcoming his students and helping them to grow. In his opinion, for there to be unity in knowledge, several levels of the person must be taken into account, ranging from the set of atoms to the need for respect. He intends to rethink the title of each subject to forge self-taught students who see in the other a brother or sister.

Artist Etsuro Sotoo’s desire to find the right question has led Curtis Baxter to say that good scientists should be brought into the classroom to raise questions about new patterns of thinking: how the brain works, climate change, evolution, sexual abuse… John Slattery added that whether it is science or theology, the basic questions are similar and the conversations revolve around the same issues. James Arthur asked again what are the desires of human beings and took a stand against relativism and the loss of human nature. He considered that European humanism and Judeo-Christianity come together and fall apart very easily today with respect to anthropological issues. In his opinion, the decline of religion, the displacement of philosophy by psychology and the emergence of constructivism have been determining issues. She advocated recovering the idea of a human nature that can be understood through many perspectives such as philosophy, psychology, the arts…, just by making knowledge centered on human flourishing fashionable.

Verónica Fernández added that the UFV’s pedagogical model (awakening, discovering, deciding) is especially aimed at students who are only concerned about the exam and do not seek to enrich themselves with wisdom. It is based on the relationship: of the professor with other professors, of the professor with the student and of the students with each other. It is about asking pertinent questions and seeking answers together, crystallizing in decisions that lead to personal growth. To this end, the communities of Open Reason seek to bring to the attention of all, the questions of the different subjects in order to extend their conclusions to an interdisciplinary field.

Along with this, dismantling scientistic prejudices is also a way of opening horizons in the formation of future clerics. John Slattery pointed out that there are so many scientists involved in the project that the results of the interaction have been very fruitful. Curtis Baxter pointed out that in the end it does not matter whether the scientist has faith or not, because the only important thing is whether they are willing to cooperate.

As we have seen, Open Reason means openness to all dimensions of the subject. James Arthur explained that teaching must awaken to true education, therefore, it is not just textbook knowledge or transmission of information, but must involve transformation. Education is not what the student knows, but what the student has become during the process of opening to knowledge.

From the Faculty of Education, Verónica Fernández recalled that if education is a challenge, it is because it involves human freedom. On this point, she affirmed that accompaniment is one of the most appropriate strategies to be close to the student in times of difficulty, and she bet on continuing to strengthen the mentoring system that assigns a mentor to each student for personalized follow-up.

In the question and answer session, it was asked to what extent it is important to distinguish between compelling or respecting. Slattery responded that there is no perfect solution, but rather a combination of subjects: “It is a debate about what is considered essential at the disciplinary level and the limits of such teaching,” he said. In his opinion, the key is to generate spaces to put into play the existing issues, in fact, in the project of the seminars they start from a basic education, but then it has been observed that other subjects arise that do not entail a regulated context.

Regarding the virtues that every educator must have, these are part of the path of those who seek the greatest good, according to Veronica Fernandez, who at the same time intuited them in the form of a cluster. Arthur specified that he expects all educators to be honest and sincere, to have compassion, interest and respect for the students. He even added that education is influenced by architecture and environment, so the teacher’s code of conduct should include humility and truth.

Regarding students who may approach with a hostile attitude or some resistance to open reason, Slattery presented research being conducted in some biology classrooms in the USA on how devoting a portion of the class to recognizing that there are two different points of view changes the environment, because the mere fact of recognizing that there was one group with one theory and another group with another positively influenced the results. Arthur recommended the book “The Closing of the American Mind,” which talks about open-minded students who are not able to establish a judgment on anything, overly sensitive to so many issues. He confessed that these same young people do not realize that they are looking for something more, a deeper participation in society, and that if a student is closed, he or she cannot be trained, not even in technical knowledge.


Guillermo García, musical director: “The score is a tip of an iceberg that I go over in reverse to ask myself what the composer felt”


"I find it hard to understand that not everyone is dedicated to classical music"

Classical music has endured through the centuries because of its role as a bridge between generations. It was Chesterton who wrote that tradition is the democracy of the dead, and this is how this musical genre penetrates the horizon of human knowledge up to the present university.

The Director of Teatro de La Zarzuela, Guillermo García Calvo, feels privileged to be able to look at the works of history’s great musicians, and continues to be surprised that the planet is not devoted to classical music. He jokes that this fantastic activity is a secret so that there are not too many of them.

Interview conducted by the Instituto Razón Abierta, in collaboration with the production company Logosfera of the Mirada 21 group

Vocation as a leader

Guillermo’s story begins at the age of 7 in front of a piano. Since then he has conducted orchestras in such important places as London, Berlin, Florence and in Spain in several cities. He has reached this level of his professional career with the Opera XXI Award for best musical direction and with a humanistic education that comes from the pure pleasure of studying. His parents enrolled him in a small music studio in Madrid and without any pretensions or objectives, just for mere enjoyment and curiosity, he became who he is today. He has always been interested in everything related to humanism and letters, at home he read a lot and loved going to Mass for what was spectacular about it, he feels that perhaps this enjoyment has a hedonistic touch, but that is how he got to conducting, not for the power or recognition, but for the operatic repertoire that he did not have in any other instrument.

“My rise in music was very natural and unforced, I was not aware and still am not aware of the power that comes with it”.

On his journey he has been accompanied by important teachers with whom he has learned to think. The most decisive was his teacher Almudena Cano, now deceased, who encouraged him to leave Spain and study in Vienna. He considers her to have been a “visionary” who believed in his talent and encouraged him to leave the piano as a concert instrument, opening up new horizons for him abroad. He regrets that he has not been able to see the fruits of her teaching. He has lived in Vienna since 1997, his wife is Austrian and his two children are Viennese, so he combines the two cultures and the two languages.

Expanded reason orchestra

The university mission of Razón Abierta in its quest for the unity of knowledge leads him to speak of the integration of the orchestra as a whole. He sees the orchestra as a reflection of society and the human need to form a community. The soloist is the exception. And as a conductor, he seeks to coordinate the group as if he could push a button and create a harmony. Even when doing opera, zarzuela or ballet, where the stage and technical equipment come into play, the art is even more total.  He connects with childhood and enjoys being in the front row, expressing that “to be a director is also to be a spectator”.

He confesses that he is still amazed every day when he listens to the orchestra. In fact, he has been working for a month on a very complex production, The Magic Opal, and although he lives the moment beforehand with a lot of nerves, wondering why he is there or why he has to do that, when it starts to work, he lives it as a magical moment. Every day he renews his passion, every time he conducts the orchestra, and he considers it a great good fortune because every production is different.

“If I didn’t live music with such passion, in such an enriching way, I wouldn’t be a conductor any more.

Experience of beauty

For Guillermo García, the philosopher López Quintás, who connects classical music with the roots of man, is an inspiration. “In music, achieving beauty is something that has no end”, working on sound, tuning, homogeneity, musical phrase, emotional expression… are challenges, and there is no other activity in the world that requires so much sacrifice, but at the same time allows us to optimise so much, because there will never be a definitive version: “We will never reach perfection, that’s the beauty of art, to be able to try”.

The relationship with beauty is his daily motivation, because deep down he is always searching for it: not only as a question of balance sheets, but also from a moving perspective, to reach the public with a beauty without words, from the sincerity of emotions. It is about connecting with the emotion that the composer felt when writing that music and being able to transmit it to the audience with sound.

As part of the university’s educational project, which consists of awakening to questions, discovering the truth and deciding what changes to make in life, the conductor enjoys, above all, the moment in which there are no more words and he only connects with body language and the gaze.

“At the concert I stop being myself and enter a meditative state, I merge with the musical moment and I am receptive to opening the door to another dimension.

His life is not without a certain complexity, having a family in another country and working in two other countries apart from Spain: “The moment of making music is something therapeutic, a balm for me, I feel happier and more optimistic afterwards”.

Music opens up questions

As an orchestra teacher, he is pedagogical and didactic, he likes to capture the group’s state of concentration and is concrete and punctual in the directives he gives them. He believes that it is important to hit the right key to get everyone involved, and to this end he uses a number of metaphors. For example, Strauss’ Salome always sounds very loud, but he wanted to make the group see that in the original libretto she is a young teenager and he managed to make the orchestra sound lighter and lighter, getting emotionally involved: “I find the way to seduce the orchestra if I ask myself the right questions beforehand”.

Precisely, he reveals that the questions come with the study of an abstract score that has no literary text behind it. Then he sits down at the piano and asks himself what the composer wants: “The score is a tip of the composer’s emotional iceberg, I go backwards to find out what he felt and what it means, translate it and then explain it to the orchestra”.


Expanded Questions – Emilio Delgado: “The important questions in architecture are those that have to do with life, with everyday life”

[Transcript of the interview]

-Today we are going to talk about a discipline that is part of the structure and the way we organise our lives, which is Architecture, and we have with us Emilio Delgado, Vice-Dean of Research at the Polytechnic School, and it is a real pleasure to have him on the set of the Faculty of Communication. Hello Emilio, how are you? 

Hello, good morning.

-Thank you very much for having this meeting with us. We wanted to ask you how you combine the two perspectives of Architecture. On the one hand, a slightly more technical part, the characteristics in the way a building or property is constructed. And, on the other hand, the part in which you think about whether the person who is going to live in that space is going to have a full life, how to give meaning to the life of the human being who will live in that building? I suppose that these two parts are not entirely inseparable, is there a point of union, how do you experience it in the exercise of your profession?

It is a very good question and it is a question that I think we architects have been asking ourselves for a long time. It is curious because, on many occasions, we make buildings and projects for people who do not have a specific charge, they are citizens, when we make a museum, a supermarket, when we design social housing. It is clear to us that people are going to live there, but we often don’t have them as identified or valued when we do an institutional commission as when the commission is personal or private.

In the end, we have to stop treating man as a generic being and discern the complexity of the person who is going to inhabit the space. One thing happens and that is that thinking about a building is a very complex thing because in the end it lasts a long time, longer than the people who inhabit it at a given moment. It is difficult to cope with the contingency of the current inhabitant when the building easily lasts 50 years, in the best of cases 100, and we have evidence of buildings that have lasted several centuries. We are faced with a situation that is certainly complex because of the persistence of architecture over time.

"We have to stop treating man as a generic being and discern the complexity of the person who is going to inhabit the space"

-There is an architect you probably know, Etsuro Sotoo, the Japanese architect who is finishing the project for the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, who thinks that we have become “badly accustomed” to our Christian roots simply because we take them for granted, what meaning do you find in what Etsuro thinks, what relationship does Christianity have with European culture in the world of Architecture?

Christianity says one thing that is fascinating in relation to Architecture and that is the way in which it was able to grasp, from its beginnings and coming from a Jewish culture, the value of the transcendent and symbolic embodied in matter and that has given rise to a very particular type of art. On the one hand, it has been able to capture the face of Christ, a marvel in the development of Christian art, since it somehow understands the importance of incarnating the face in matter through artistic representation. And, on the other hand, it is fantastic how he tries to make this incarnation evident in the construction of spaces and places that are also capable of representing the longing and hope for a future world. Even in cities, because Western culture with these roots is somewhat aspirational: the city becomes a longing not only for the present, not only for our surroundings and activities, but also for the future, something related to the city in the eschatological realm, the heavenly Jerusalem.

It is curious because on many occasions, as we are seeing today, when we put in crisis the entity of the city and what has to do with it, the region, the nation, we see that this shakes our culture and supports, and our references disappear. We live linked to the city in a very special way.

-Do you have an architect who has inspired you, who has influenced the way you work?

Man, I have a master who is a reference for me, Alberto Campo Baeza, who we met here at the house. I had the opportunity to work with him for 10 years and he built the sports centre here on campus, but I have also participated in the development of works and projects with him. For me he is a point of reference for the way in which the architect puts his all into providing the best possible setting for the people who are going to live in it.

-As a teacher you are also constantly at play, in that way that teaching leads students to ask themselves questions that may perhaps start from something technical or quantitative and move on to a question that has more to do with an anthropology of man, an epistemological question related to truth or an ethical sense, that is, the four questions that mark the Expanded Reason course. Do you have any specific example of your students that you can pass on about a subject that they have started from one point and arrived at another?

The basis of teaching, not only in Architecture, but in any science, must be learning to formulate questions: learning to identify them, on the one hand, and to verbalise and confront them, on the other. Knowledge, although we may think it is unlimited in terms of the number of questions we can learn, in itself has its limits. By going deeper into a subject we can go deeper into what we want to know, but over time, as I am experiencing and discovering personally, there are a series of underlying questions, which have to do with the Expanded Reasoning proposal, that amplify more and better the way in which we face the response that we professionals should be expected to give in the present and in the future.

We experience this when we try to put into focus not a technical question, but a question of an experiential nature that has to do with life, the place in which we are immersed. Sometimes we try to theorise and abstract things a lot in the teaching and professional sphere, but in the end the issues we deal with are very day-to-day, very everyday.  In this sense, with the students, for example, in the first year, we have a subject on creativity and we try to put before them questions related to the meaning of their profession. There is a very typical question we ask every year: What is Architecture? If you think about it and reflect on it, you realise that you put something at the centre of your science in order to be able to define it, understand it and express it more intensely, and if you are then going to be able to champion that definition throughout your life. It is always limiting, but it gives you a direction and maybe then it changes or is modified.

-What do they put at the centre?

When one enters the career at the beginning one usually chooses technique, others put art understood as pure creativity, or even the architect, which is a mess because the designer himself is put at the centre, others choose beauty, the inhabitant, the function or use to which the building is destined… it is a complex and beautiful exercise.

-If you could wish what the architect of tomorrow should be like, what is your image of that integral architect who puts the right thing at the centre?

It’s not easy, it’s not easy to know?

-Besides, you have more experience and you can glimpse where there is no mistake in what you put in the centre, while the students are still learning, but with a few years behind you you can say something about the vision of Architecture and what to put in the centre…

I answer you with a reflection and then an example. When I think about what legitimises me as an architect, it is something very beautiful and it is all the architects who have been behind me. It gives me a lot of calm. If it were up to us alone we would be lost. When one thinks that we are small continuators, little dwarfs who stand on the shoulders of the giants of the great architects who have existed for centuries and also recently, one is very calm to be a continuator of this noble tradition. That is what I think about the architects of tomorrow, that they continue to be aware of and participate in this beautiful journey. Just as it gives me peace of mind, it will give it to those of the future.

As an example, I like the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which is like the Nobel Prize and was awarded yesterday to an architect called Francis Kéré from Burkina Faso, in Africa. When he was young, his parents realised that the best training he could have was not there but in Europe, and he went to England and Berlin, where he spent his teaching career and part of his professional career. I say “part” because for some time now he has been working in Burkina Faso. He has understood that his work does not lie in the possibilities that a life in the West can give you, but in becoming aware of returning to what has been given to you. It is curious because an award has been given to a type of architecture that is absolutely vernacular, very much rooted in the place, small schools and cultural centres that, seen from a European perspective, has nothing to do with high tech, new technologies or energy saving. There is sustainability because that is where the more local architecture begins, but it has given us a kind of “slap in the face” to the architects of the big cities. It is as if he were saying to us: look at what you have around you, see how it can inspire you, pay attention to the problems that are close to you because you need to be there to provide a service.

-The talents you have are to put them to use….

This architect seems to me to be exemplary, this way of going back to your origins and giving everything.

-Well, let’s learn from this great example. Thank you Emilio Delgado for being at the Instituto Razón Abierta and for broadening the horizons of that reason in a very hopeful journey. Thank you. See you later.

Thank you. Goodbye.

Giovanni Collamati, professor of History at CEU San Pablo University: “Dante educates the reader with a language that seeks the truth and the ultimate purpose of man”.

The influence of Dante Alighieri reaches our days through fields as different as history, politics and literature, but at the same time so unified in the human being. The truth is that Dante “is a pop character“, as the organizer of the conference, Giovanni Collamati, says, and for this reason he is still relevant in national and international identity: “There are recent video games inspired by Dante’s Inferno, many writers throughout history and playwrights have been inspired by the world of Dante to situate their works or new reflections, so that, to some extent, Dante is a language”.

Last November the University CEU San Pablo hosted a seminar on the figure of Dante, organized by the Cultural Foundation Angel Herrera Oria. The professor of medieval history, Manuel Alejandro Rodríguez de la Peña, explained Dante’s idea of empire as a world jurisdiction. Alfonso Marini, from the Sapienza University of Rome, unveiled the traces of Francis of Assisi in his poetry. Francesco D’Angelo, from the same university, reflected on the 13th century considerations of a distant Norwegian king, and Eduardo Baura García, p.h.D in medieval history and professor of University CEU San Pablo, went back to the Middle Ages together with Professor Collamati, to contemplate monarchies through the eyes of Dante.


Giovanni Dante ExpandedReason

“Dante can be, and should be, studied, because as a medievalist myself, he perfectly represents the Middle Ages. To study Dante is to study the Middle Ages, to study the Middle Ages is to study man. Although centuries have passed, there are realities of the person that do not change, and we are equally interested in what changes and what doesn’t”, he said.

Dialogue between the technical study of Dante’s work and his desire for knowledge

Giovanni Collamati argues that each tercet in Dante’s work is the cog in a much larger mechanism that guides the reader through the otherworldly world (hell, purgatory and paradise) and, at the same time, reveals the whole of Dante’s humanity as representative of an entire genre: the human race. By studying how Dante saw the powerful of his time, we can ask ourselves what we know of our time, of those who are now ruling the world. The image we have of them is filtered, so is Dante’s, and any verse of his calls us to know the world around us.

The search for truth

Odysseus is a particular character: he is in hell, he goes against the gods because he is proud, but at the same time what moves him is the search for truth. Dante is a man who is always asking himself throughout his work when sin begins and how far humanity goes. He doesn’t think that everything he does is automatically evil, but he likes to wonder about the limit and how far a man can go in the search for truth. And what is clear is that he must direct that search to what really matters: the epistemological question.

Dante’s entire work is oriented in one direction: he begins in hell and cleanses himself in purgatory and then arrives in paradise. In such a way that when he is in front of the Virgin, who thanks to her has the permission to look at the Trinity, the privilege is to look as a human being. Only by passing through the three parts of the ultraterrestrial world could he reach the full vision of the truth. On the one hand, there is the inner impulse of man to seek knowledge, but one must also know how to refine it, and Dante directs it to the last canto of paradise: the contemplation of the Trinity.

The broadness of the horizon through literary symbols

What is interesting is that The Divine Comedy is a work for everyone, anyone can read it: “You can easily find the latest gossip of the moment in Florence when Dante was young or the little problems of the neighborhood, someone who disliked him particularly badly was given a little satisfaction by putting him in hell with the damned, but at the same time you find great theological disputes with problems of the time, Trinitarian type or with the Thomistic or Aristotelian currents of thought; it is all united and perfectly organized in this work, it educates you as a reader”.

He explains that hell is a simple part to read that an average man of that time can access and little by little notions are given, changing the language, until the content is elevated. In the end, paradise ends with the love that moves the world, which is God. That is to say, it starts from the lowest, literally below the earth, and ends up looking at the stars, which are higher.

The dialogue of science with theology and philosophy

Giovanni Collamati comments that “it is extremely easy because everything allows you to dialogue with philosophy and theology”. And he adds: “Any field of knowledge has to do with man, the man who thinks, the man who learns, and automatically this is already philosophy. If man then realizes that he is not alone, he can also open himself to theology”.

It is important to always leave a part of mystery open: “We live in a culture, a civilization, where doubt in general is given great importance, a legacy of the most modern age, and we have received the idea, which I personally do not fully share, that encourages the teacher to raise doubts, but I believe that there must also be answers, which do not have to be complete, but it is necessary to demonstrate that one has enough courage to have them and, at the same time, it is essential to always leave a little mystery so that the work that remains to be done can be done by the students. The worst thing that can happen is for a student to say to you: “So, what am I supposed to think? No! He obviously didn’t understand me. The goal is for him to reflect, so you always have to leave a bit of mystery, so that he can wonder and find there what I think is there and that he could also discover”.

Awakening wonder

Wonder is what is looked for in all university audiences, but the ability to be surprised is lacking. In a world where surprise is very difficult because we have everything at our disposal, how many of us can be amazed when we discover a living being like a lion, for example? It is necessary to seek amazement, to give students the ability to be surprised by the world around them, to really discover it, not just because they have seen it: seeing does not mean knowing.

The Dante Alighieri conferences are part of the path that every student can take within the university, whose mission is to guide and accompany them on the path of the search for truth.

Javier Aranguren _ Dorothy Sayers

Javier Aranguren about Dorothy Sayers’ book: “Learning to learn is to provide students with habits that make them capable of thinking on their own”

Listen to the full interview here:

A recent article in the cultural analysis website “Nueva Revista” leads us to the essay “The lost tools of learnign” written by the British author Dorothy Leigh Sayers in the 1940s, translated and with an introductory study by Javier Aranguren, professor at the University Francisco de Vitoria.

One of the main ideas of the author is to propose a return to the ‘Trivium’ in the classroom, that is, to recover what the three subjects of grammar, logic and rhetoric contribute to the entry and exit of knowledge, and also as a learning method to teach students to think.

In her book, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” Dorothy L. Sayers seeks to relate learning, not so much to content or activities, but to tools or baggage of habits with which to equip the learner to be able to think, act and decide on his or her own.


This has to do with how we learn in order to achieve an authentic transformation of society beyond the university environment. And this learning about learning is something that the author seeks, even if she is not entirely convinced, as Javier Aranguren considers: “Dorothy does not focus so much on the student having certain dynamisms, but on him acquiring concrete knowledge and reading great books such as the works of Aristotle from the age of 15. It is a learning to learn set on the shoulders of giants, not about nothingness for the student to build on, but about difficult questions that they have to face in order to find truth”. It is not, therefore, a matter of confronting content and creativity, but of the latter emerging from confronting more arduous issues. She is an advocate, for example, of Latin and mathematics as subjects that build intellectual seriousness and encourage the use of intelligence in a logical way, something that, in her opinion, fails in modern pedagogies.

Stimulating reason to explore the frontiers of the sciences is what leads Dorothy Sayers to write this book, in a complex sociopolitical context of World War II, in which the population had a high rate of education, but was paradoxically dragged down by propaganda and manipulated by advertising: “When ‘Learning and Working’ was written there was an educated civilization, but with hardly any education, citizens were passive subjects, subjected to instruction, and Dorothy Sayers sought to promote the ‘liberal arts’, that is, learning as a source of beauty that also makes you free,” specifies Javier Aranguren.

The author also devotes part of the book to explaining the attitude that a good teacher should have, who, as F. Nembrini wrote in “The Art of Educating”, needs more positivity and certainties than content, that is, to teach subjects that in turn teach how to get out of them: “A teacher is the one who facilitates the student’s encounter with a long tradition, with his or her own potential for creativity, with his or her confidence of intelligence. Often educating can be repeating, a game without rules, but for this author it is very important to cultivate dialectics, which, on the other hand, is something very medieval”.

Precisely in the Medieval Age, when universities were born, intellectuals based their learning on discussion, there were many open spaces for dialogue, Thomas Aquinas summoned to the discussion all the wise men of his time and of the past, and education was to seek confrontation in conversation through argument. This is the dream of Britishness, starting from basic tools: first, repeat, then take the student by the hand to learn how to learn for themselves. As one of Aranguren’s masters, the philosopher Leonardo Polo, said, to accompany the student to grow until he is able to argue for himself, without repeating socially correct positions, but being the source and origin of his ideas. “Probably these ideas have to do with the search for truth,” qualifies Professor Aranguren, “but that they are his own does not necessarily indicate that they are subjective, but that he has authentically encountered them.”

Dorothy L. Sayers, Chesterton’s great friend and author of mystery novels, “was quite a character”, as he describes her, “to whom we owe the unfinished translation of Dante and, without doubt, she is one of the Oxford university women of the 1920s who published the most interesting things”.



Verónica Fernández, professor at UFV: “We must overcome the conflict between science and faith, a conflict that only fragments the person”.

The seminar Dialogue between Faith and Science in Education, now in its second year, is getting off to a strong start this year with a very clear purpose: to renew teachers’ holistic view of education. Verónica Fernández, one of the promoters of the seminar together with Jesús Alcalá, notes that, at present, on one hand, we explain science, which has something great to tell us, and, and on the other hand, religion, as if it contradicted or inhibited what science has to say. Thus, in the education of a person, a fragmentation is generated, and this can be seen in his own university classes where he finds students talking about the creation of Adam and Eve, on the one hand, and Darwin’s theory of evolution, on the other.

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The seminar seeks dialogue between faith and science, but not only, it also aims to incorporate this reflection into the subjects of science and religion of ESO and Bachillerato, as well as to establish a network of teachers and centers that can share the results. To this end, working tables, conferences, dynamics, workshops and various forms of interaction will be organized to consolidate the fruits of the meeting, which can be followed online from January once a month and from June onwards in person.

In the binomial faith and science, the idea arises as to whether one of these disciplines needs the other more. For example, the philosopher of political theory Frederick Wilhelmsen said that science without metaphysics is incapable of good, or the German Hannah Arendt in her “Human Condition” warned of the dangers of a man dominated by “know how” who makes many advances with his technology, but thinks worse and worse.

Verónica Fernández tackles the question by assuring that there is no confrontation between the two, but rather we must not lose sight of who the person is, who has a transcendent part, but also possesses an intelligence and a capacity to access this search for truth: “One is not more than the other, there is no struggle, we must see how the two are integrated and one illuminates the other”. And he adds: “Science makes you see how capable the person is of advancing in knowledge and faith has much to contribute to all this, since this advance is not only to show that the human being can do everything, but that there are limits, why so much technology, is technology at the service of the person or the person at the service of technology? The seminar wants to show that there is no science-faith conflict, but that there comes a time when reason is limited and it becomes necessary to accept what faith adds”.

What would be the diagnosis of the current state of this situation? Veronica assures that there is no relationship, that it is totally fragmented, science goes its own way and religion also takes a step back.

Again, she recalls when her students tell her that at home they are forced to believe, but they wonder if they come from the monkey: “There is no unity of thought, today’s young people are disintegrated and it is necessary to introduce them to a reality that is not only tangible, in harmony with the tangible”.

It is also due to a problem of ignorance: “It is necessary to spread what is true, what is there and verifiable. The men who preceded us had a God without a world, but those of today have a world without God”. In the words of UFV professor Juan Jesús Álvarez, the truth is symphonic and it is necessary to look for all its faces to complete it.



Alicia Hernando, researcher at ICS of the University of Navarra: “Medicine must take into account all the dimensions of the human being, not only the physical”.


The philologist and professor at the University of Navarra, Alicia Hernando, has published an interesting article on the importance of palliative care in a society in need of answers in the last stage of life. And she does so by the hand of great authors such as Tolkien, Lewis, Golding or Frankl with whom she goes through their main plot lines in parallel to the human narrative itself that searches, suffers and wonders.

It is precisely on this review that she is currently deepening her research for her doctoral thesis:

The medical specialty, explains Alicia Hernando, should not only be reduced to a treatment, but, thanks to a whole interdisciplinary team involving doctors, nurses and other staff, has to put in place a more lasting accompaniment, extensive to the families, since with the patient also suffer their loved ones and need other health specialties such as psychological.

In this sense, the British nurse Cicely Saunders is a fundamental pillar on which to rely, given the valuable learning derived from her work in that hospice for terminally ill patients whom she accompanied until their natural death: “Cicely tells us that it is necessary to take care to cover a suffering that is total, not just physical pain, but spiritual and existential. The medicine that proposes palliative care alleviates other aspects and that is where these important values come into play”. He goes on to comment that “sometimes this implies a deep psychological accompaniment, other times it is just being there, keeping silent and letting the patient open up to resolve the conflicts that go behind and make him suffer in another way. We think of ALS or terminal cancer, but there are other aspects to cure, the person also suffers because he feels a burden, or because economically he has to face a series of situations, or he believes that there are conflicts that he has not been able to resolve previously…, that is to say, the end of life is not only medical suffering, but a whole set”.

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Lecture by David Clark on “Cicely Saunders: Her Life, Her Work, and Her Legacy”

Alicia Hernando argues that the integral vision of man in all his dimensions raises the question of whether the palliative-euthanasia binomial is real: “The debate has become polarized and it is essential to break it down; they play with semantics, with euphemisms: is it a law that helps people to die, is there a real provision of aid? These are terms that permeate society with a purpose that is absorbed in a concrete way, although I would not go into this debate so much as into how to make palliative care better known, which in itself is very good.

The intention in any case is to alleviate suffering until the last moment. The euthanasia law justifies death by arguing that a point is reached at which no more can be done and that in that critical situation it is justifiable to die, but Alicia Hernando insists that this is misunderstood: “At that critical point the treatment ends, but not the cure, you can relieve pain in different ways, and palliative care seeks to heal in the deep sense of the term, not only physically, but in an existential and spiritual perspective, which is what society has not yet come to discover, in fact, I do not know anyone who knows what palliative care is and does not see it as something very good,” she confesses.

He gives the example of a doctor who treated a woman with refractory suffering who asked him for euthanasia, but they entered into a dialogue of understanding in which he understood that she was exhausted and could no longer cope, and in response he made a proposal: “well, we have already talked about what we have not, now let’s talk about what we have, what palliative care can do for you”, to which the patient replied: “I’ll give you two days”. In the end, the woman took on a very good palliative sedation experience that had a great echo in the family. In short, she considers that if palliative care were truly known there would be no way of saying no to it: “Of course there are limits, but we have to make it known what it is and distinguish it from what we get through the media; people do not know what it entails because of a manipulation of language”.

In this line of commitment to the dialogue between science and man, Alicia Hernando finds many reasonable arguments for broadening the academic horizon from the Medical Schools themselves: “In every curriculum it is necessary to delve into the subject of palliative medicine, it is essential that the students’ reflections touch on the question of being, that the medical intention to cure in all aspects is propagated, we must continue to fight so that advanced medicine can reach all universities”.

Faced with the paradox that in one operating room a life is being saved and in the opposite operating room another life may be being taken away, we are presented with a complex panorama: “Our Portuguese neighbors have already passed the euthanasia law and in other countries they are looking at the possibility of opening up these realities beyond refractory suffering, at this point training is key and it is necessary to form a team, to draw on the experience of all, because in a team the decisions are different,” he concludes.


In this line of commitment to dialogue between science and mankind, Alicia Hernando finds many reasonable arguments for broadening the academic horizon from the medical faculties themselves: “In all curricula it is necessary to deepen the subject of palliative medicine, it is essential that students’ reflections touch on the question of being, that the medical intention to heal in all aspects is spread, we must continue to insist that advanced medicine can reach all universities”.

Faced with the paradox that in one operating theatre a life is being saved while in another room another life may be being taken away, we are presented with a complex panorama: “Our Portuguese neighbours have already approved the law on euthanasia and in other countries they are looking at the possibility of opening up these realities beyond refractory suffering. Faced with this panorama, training in palliative care becomes even more relevant, if possible, and the different disciplines contribute to caring for the person in their human complexity,” he concludes.


Online meeting with the winners of the 4th Edition of the Expanded Reason Awards

The winners of the 4th edition of the Expanded Reason Awards will meet online on September 16th and 17th to showcase the works for which they have been recognized and the professional trajectory that has brought them here.

Despite the current impossibility of holding the Awards Ceremony in person, the Expanded Reason Community will have the chance to meet the professors and researchers who have stood out in this edition of the Awards for working in the spirit of Benedict XVI’s proposal to broaden the horizons of reason.

Attendance at this online meeting is open both to professors from the University Francisco de Vitoria and to professors and researchers from other universities and academic fields.

The seminar will begin on Wednesday, September 16 at 4:00 pm (CET) with a brief introduction, which will be followed at 4:15 pm by Samuel B. Condic (University of St. Thomas, Houston) and Maureen L. Condic (University of Utah). They will discuss from a biological and philosophical perspective the results of their research on the beginning of human existence and of the human person. Max Bonilla, International Director of the Expanded Reason Institute, will interview them to foster a brief dialogue afterwards.

At 5:15 pm will begin the presentation by James A. Arthur (University of Birmingham). Arthur has been awarded in the category of teaching for promoting a neo-Aristotelian approach to virtue and character formation in the academic programs of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtue (of which he is also founder). Afterwards, Javier De Cendra, Dean at the University Francisco de Vitoria, will interview him.

Thursday morning will be reserved for a presentation of the Expanded Reason Institute and discussion among the different communities of professors of the University Francisco de Vitoria.

At 4:00 pm William M. R. Simpson (University of Cambridge) will give a lecture on his second doctoral thesis for which he won on this year´s edition: What is the Matter? Towards a neo-Aristotelian Ontology of Nature, in which he explores a realistic conception of quantum theory and its philosophical implications. He will be interviewed by Javier Rubio, professor of Humanities at the University Francisco de Vitoria.

Finally, at 5:30 pm Paul C. Vitz, William J. Nordling, and Craig S. Titus (Divine Mercy University) will present the Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person, a unifying framework for the understanding of the human person that integrates psychology, philosophy and theology for better care by mental health professionals. They will be interviewed by Clara Molinero, director of the Psychology program at the University Francisco de Vitoria.

This online program does not replace the Award Ceremony traditionally held at the Vatican, nor the Expanded Reason Congress, both of which have been postponed until circumstances allow.