The Rev. Canon Victor Lee Austin, Ph.D. is a priest-scholar with a background in both the parish ministry and the academic world as a former parish rector and university professor. In 2005, Fr. Austin served as Theologian-in-Residence at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City. His book, Up with Authority: Why We Need Authority to Flourish as Human Beings, was published by T&T Clark and was shortlisted for the very distinguished 2013 Michael Ramsey Prize. Saint Thomas Church published a collection of his short pieces, Priest in New York: Church, Street, and Theology, reflections on theology and everyday life. His most recent book, Christian Ethics: A Guide for the Perplexed, is also published by T&T Clark. Finally, Losing Susan, a theological reflection on the loss of his wife, was published in 2016.
The Role of Authority in Carrying Forth a Tradition: Biblical and Epistemic Reflections
This talk aims to recover a sober, positive appreciation of authority in relation to the tradition today. Drawing on political theology (as recovered by Oliver O’Donovan), it specifies how authority functions in perpetuating a tradition. Drawing on the post-critical epistemology of Michael Polanyi, it shows how practitioners (teachers, administrators, et al.) within a tradition have and exercise authority. Parallels will be drawn with the functions of the scriptures of Israel and Israel’s judges and other leaders, on the one hand, and the texts and teaching institutions of classical education, on the other. Advocates of classical education today need be embarrassed neither by the authority implicit in the classical tradition nor by their own personal authority.
Workshop: Authority in Practice: In Classical Education Today
Authority is necessary for our flourishing as human beings, in part as it preserves and advances traditions. Yet although necessary, authorities are not always correct in their judgments. Polanyi argues for the necessity of authority in science, despite the risk of truth being suppressed; as Thomas Kuhn also shows, there is no science without frameworks or paradigms within which to work.
Classical education today is faced with regulatory authorities that sometimes embody judgments that the tradition should not be taken as authoritative. How can we navigate this space?
Participants will examine a short paper by Polanyi (“The Potential Theory of Adsorption”*) about the rejection by the scientific establishment of his, Polanyi’s, early views on this subject. Polanyi’s views were later taken to be correct. Nonetheless, he urges us all to see that such erroneous judgments cannot be avoided.
The goal of the workshop is to equip participants with a strong, realistic understanding of intellectual framework differences that they can use.