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Conor Cunningham

Associate Professor in Theology and Philiosophy, Faculty of Arts

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  • workRoom C10 Department of Theology and Religious Studies
    University Park
    Nottingham
    NG7 2RD
    UK
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Biography

He was born in Belfast and only left that idyll to read Law at the University of Kent. There, he came under the influence of the Catholic Marxist, David Mclellan who, despite holding the Chair in Political Theory, decided to also read for a Law degree. Following graduation, Conor moved to the University of Dundee to study for an M. Phil., in Philosophy under the supervision of the Jean-François Lyotard and Giles Deleuze scholar, James Williams. On completing his M. Phil. with distinction, Conor went to the University of Cambridge to read for the Diploma in Theology. Upon completion of this, he was awarded a British Academy Studentship to study for a Ph.D. Initially doing so under the supervision of John Milbank, but when he took up a Chair at the University of Virginia, Graham Ward took over the mantle.

After completing his PhD., he was awarded a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Nottingham, where he set up the Centre of Theology and Philosophy - www.theologyandphilosophycentreco.uk. Conor was then offered a lectureship in theology, and has since been made an Associate Professor in Theology and Philosophy.

In 2009, Conor wrote and presented the award-winning BBC documentary - 'Did Darwin Kill God/?'

In 2012-2013 he was a Fellow at the Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, where he worked in a team of 12, composed of mainly atheist scientists, a philosopher and three theologians on the question of 'Evolution and Human Nature'. Whilst in Princeton, he was 'theologian in residence' in 2013 at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Expertise Summary

Conor's first monograph was Genealogy of Nihilism: Philosophies of Nothing and the Difference of Theology (Routledge: London and New York, 2002), this is being translated into Spanish.

Conor's second major book was entitled - Darwin's Pious Idea: Why Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get it Wrong. (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 2010) -560 (Winner of a Catholic Press Award.) Korean translation: 다윈의 경건한 생각(Darwin Ui Kyung GeonHan Saenggak) (Holy Wave Plus Publishing Co., 2012); Spanish translation: Idea Pías de Darwin (Granada: Editorial Nuevo Inicio, 2014)

This book was recently reviewed in the Quarterly Review of Biology (Chicago) by an atheist evolutionary scientist, who described it thus: "Cunningham is not shy about pulling the ontological pants of materialism down to its ankles. He supplies an unremitting attack on the scientific and philosophical views of Dawkins and his ilk in the course of his first four chapters. The level of scientific sophistication on display is remarkable for a theologian; his reading and his ruminations have been extensive, more than sufficient to provide a devastating critique of the narrative stories and metaphors of Dawkins not just with respect to religion, but also with respect to evolutionary biology itself."

In addition, it was also reviewed by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in the Times Literary Supplement: "Despite its length, Darwin's Pious Idea is a very readable book, engaging and often acerbically witty. It has some serious and original things to say about what always threatens to turn into a sterile debate between rather fictionalized and trivialized versions of science and religion. . . . The sheer exuberance of the presentation is a delight. The final, largely theological chapter, is a tour de force of condensed exposition and reflection, worthy of commendation to anyone who wanted to see the logic of the classical orthodox synthesis laid out with lyricism as well as intellectual depth.. . . This is certainly the most interesting and invigorating book on the science-religion frontier that I have encountered."

Conor is also co-editor of three book series: Veritas (Wipf and Stock Publishers, and SCM); Interventions (Wm B Eerdmans); and Kalos (Wipf and Stock). He is also a co-editor of two professional journals: Radical Orthodoxy: Theology, Politics and Culture, and Syneses: Beyond Secular Faith, and he is on the editorial board of the new, peer-reviewed journal, Science, Philosophy, and Theology.

Conor's expertise includes:

- philosophical theology

- systematic theology

- the relationship between science and theology,

- phenomenology

- and metaphysics.

He is currently writing a book on the soul (which is under contract with Wm B Eerdmans), after completion of that work, he is writing a companion book to Genealogy of Nihilism, doing so for Wipf and Stock..

Teaching Summary

- The relationship between science and theology

- Phenomenology in relation the natural and the question of the divine

- Grace and Nature, or the supernatural and the natural, how are they to be understood?

- Metaphysics and ontology, and their relation to the very possibility of thought: is there someone to think, and is there something to be thought, and what is it to think?

- Reason and Faith: Do they require each, maybe to the extent that are inseparable?

- The question of Beauty: What is its theological significance, and how does it relate to the Good and the True, what the medievals called the transcendentals?

- The question of whether the idea of the soul and indeed the person is tenable in light of modern philosophy and science. If the soul and the person does exist, how are we to understand them?

- Trinitarian theology, and how it might be the highest form or indeed the very possibility of metaphysics

- Nihilism, both in analytic and continental philosophy, as well as in literature and art: what can nihilism tell us about theology?

- Philosophical theology

PEOPLE OF ESPECIAL INTEREST:

Plato and Aristotle

The Church Fathers and Doctors, generally, but particularly, St Irenaeus, St Grergory of Nyssa, St Augustine, St Maximus, and most of all St Thomas Aquinas

Johann Georg Hamann

Soren Kierkegaard

Maurice Blondel

Henri de Lubac

Charles Peguy

Samuel Beckett

Michel Henry

Alain Badiou

Quentin Meillassoux

Research Summary

I am writing a book that will explore whether the soul is real. Simply put, is there a soul or not? If there is not, can we still speak of people? If there is a soul how should we understand it? The… read more

Recent Publications

  • 2015. 'Dawkins is Dead: Long Live Evolution!' New Blackfriars. 269-279
  • CUNNINGHAM, C., 2013. Nihilism and theology: who stands at the door?. In: ADAMS, N., PATTISON, G. and WARD, G., eds., The Oxford handbook of theology and modern European thought Oxford University Press. 325-344
  • 2012. In: ‘Dawkins the Neanderthal and Darwin’s Pious Idea’ The Unknown God: Sermons responding to the New Atheism. Wipf and Stock. 29-45
  • CONOR CUNNINGHAM, 2012. -‘A Short Meta-Critique of Quentin Meillassoux’s Divine Nihilism’. in Radical Orthodoxy: Theology, Politics, and Culture (Wipf and Stock: 2012), pp. 138-151.

Current Research

I am writing a book that will explore whether the soul is real. Simply put, is there a soul or not? If there is not, can we still speak of people? If there is a soul how should we understand it? The book examines the work of the Church fathers, and a number of the Church Doctors, especially Thomas Aquinas, doing so in an effort to bring their theological and philosophical insights into a conversation with current philosophy and science regarding the human being, especially the mind. Doing so in an effort to construct a powerful account of the soul that not only is valid, but without which our common sense world would collapse, including, reason, ethics, the person, and so on. In short, it is not a question if science allows for the soul, but, rather, without the soul can there be any science.

Past Research

- Nihilism and Theology

- Theology and Science, especially evolution

- The work of Thomas Aquinas regarding metaphysics and Trinitarian theology

- Examining the question whether philosophical, ontological naturalism is really possible - I concluded that it is not

- Michel Henry, Jacques Lacan, Giorgio Agamben, Alan Badiou, Quentin Meillassoux

Future Research

A second volume on nihilism and theology.

  • 2015. 'Dawkins is Dead: Long Live Evolution!' New Blackfriars. 269-279
  • CUNNINGHAM, C., 2013. Nihilism and theology: who stands at the door?. In: ADAMS, N., PATTISON, G. and WARD, G., eds., The Oxford handbook of theology and modern European thought Oxford University Press. 325-344
  • 2012. In: ‘Dawkins the Neanderthal and Darwin’s Pious Idea’ The Unknown God: Sermons responding to the New Atheism. Wipf and Stock. 29-45
  • CONOR CUNNINGHAM, 2012. -‘A Short Meta-Critique of Quentin Meillassoux’s Divine Nihilism’. in Radical Orthodoxy: Theology, Politics, and Culture (Wipf and Stock: 2012), pp. 138-151.
  • CUNNINGHAM, C., 2011. Naturalism lost: nature regained. In: TALIAFERRO, C. and EVANS, J., eds., Turning images in philosophy, science, and religion: a new book of nature Oxford University Press. 156-188
  • CUNNINGHAM, C., 2010. Darwin's pious idea: why the ultra-darwinists and creationists both get it wrong Wm B Eerdmans.
  • 2010. ‘Natura Pura: Invention of the Antichrist? Communio: International Catholic Review. 243-254
  • 2010. 'Creation and Naturalism’, Rivista Anthropotes. 121-171
  • 2010. 'Darwin i dzieło stworzenia’, Part Two Znak.
  • 2010. 'Darwin i dzieło stworzenia’, Part One Znak.
  • CUNNINGHAM, C., 2009. Being recalled: life as Anamnesis. In: GORIS, H.J.M.J., RIKHOF, H.W.M. and SCHOOT, H.J.M., eds., Divine transcendence and immanence in the work of Thomas Aquinas: a collection of studies presented at the Third Conference of the Thomas Instituut te Utrecht, December 15-17, 2005 Peeters. 59-80
  • 2009. Être sans souici: transcendence et immanence de Thomas d’Aquin à Michel Henry’,. In: Michel Henry Editions L’Age d’Homme, Lusanne Suisse.
  • CUNNINGHAM, C. and CANDLER, P., eds., 2007. Belief and metaphysics Norwich: SCM Press.
  • CONOR CUNNINGHAM, 2007. Suspending the Natural Attitude: From Aquinas to Henry. In: C. CUNNINGHAM AND P. CANDLER, ed., Transcendence and Phenomenology SCM Press. 260-287
  • 2007. ‘Trying my very best to Believe Darwin, or, The Supernaturalistic Fallacy: From Is to Nought’. In: Belief and Metaphysics
  • 2007. 'Suspending the Natural Attitude: Transcendence and Immanence from Aquinas to Henry’,. In: Transcendence and Phenomenology SCM.
  • CUNNINGHAM, C., 2006. The End of Death? In Yearbook of the Irish Philosophical Society, ed. James McGuirk.. 19-42
  • CUNNINGHAM, C., 2005. Nothing Is, Something Must Be: Lacan and Creation from No-One. In: DAVIS, C., MILBANK, J. and ZIZEK, S., eds., Theology and the Political: The New Debate Durham, NC : Duke University Press. 72-101
  • CUNNINGHAM, C., 2004. Lacan, Philosophy's Difference, and Creation From No-One American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. 78(3), 445-479
  • CUNNINGHAM, C., 2002. Genealogy Of Nihilism: philosophies of nothing and the difference of theology London: Routledge.
  • CUNNINGHAM, C., 2001. Review of: 'The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations of a Creational Hermeneutic' (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2000), James K A Smith Modern Theology. 17(4), 518-520
  • CUNNINGHAM, C., 2001. The Difference Of Theology and Some Philosophies of Nothing Modern Theology. VOL 17(PART 3), 289-312
  • CUNNINGHAM, C., 1999. Wittgenstein after Theology. In: MILBANK, J., PICKSTOCK, C. and WARD, G., eds., Radical Orthodoxy London : Routledge. 64-90

Department of Theology and Religious Studies

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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