Spirit of the World Conferences on Metaphysics

In this period challenged by a pandemic, human reflection is in need of unifying responses which can contribute to alleviating the problems that beset the people of our time and to healing the painful cultural, religious, social, and political divisions which have marked modern history. Science, together with technology, cannot alone exhaust the field of culture. The economy alone does not provide a sufficient basis for community life. Nor can the religious dimension by itself claim total autonomy, since self-sufficiency in its approach would lead it down the ultimately destructive path of fundamentalism or fanaticism.

We human beings wonder what goes beyond sectorial knowledge. Here we see both our greatness and our limitation. Indeed, we seek the absolute foundation or origin—and the rational intelligibility—of the multiplicity we observe. Our thought cannot stop arbitrarily at a certain point along the way without suffocating, without inflicting a wound upon itself, because its dynamic is unlimited. And yet we realize that we cannot reduce the ultimate foundation of reality to our formulas, and here we find the unequivocal reason for the modesty which must characterize our thinking and our way of living. It is very healthy—even necessary—for us, for culture, to carry out this simultaneous twofold movement of expansiveness and humility in our vision.

Metaphysics has, then, a healing function, of balance, of intelligibility, for human society, its culture, its religiosity, its science. Once such a mission is admitted, in this time of often spectacular advances in all areas of knowledge, we have to ask ourselves whether we can today accept a metaphysical approach and whether it can contribute to real progress in all fields.

Surely there is something important to “correct” or “improve” so that this discipline may once again be placed at the heart of culture as a guiding light and truly fulfill its founding and integrating role in every sector of research applied to life: the physical, biological, and social sciences; reflection on medicine, law, economics, the arts, and the peaceful coexistence of peoples; and, in particular, the various religious traditions, which channel the most intimate aspirations of human beings. In this era of globalization and almost universal pluralism due to major planetary migrations, in which more than ever it is necessary to interpret and properly assess the various forms of experience and develop an authentic explanatory model which revolves around the magna quaestio of our time: the definition of the human person, with all its social, juridical, and spiritual implications.

Metaphysics—when joined to the mystical dimension and to an empowering, inclusive, and dialoguing epistemology—can stand at the summit of a vital, creative humanism which is the key to clarifying who persons truly are and their way of being, with a view towards protecting them from any possible manipulation or attempt on their lives.