History of Conference

Biennial Conference in Philosophy, Religion and Culture

An Historical Note

The Biennial Conference on Philosophy, Religion and Culture had its beginning in a conference on the theme, ‘Christianity and Platonism’, held at the University of Melbourne in 1977. This first conference was organised under the auspices of the Australian New Zealand Society for Theological Studies by Eric Osborn and David Dockrill. The usefulness of that conference led Raoul Mortley to suggest another on the theme, ‘The Via Negativa’, which was held at the University of Sydney in 1981, organised by Mortley and Dockrill with the help of Eric Osborn and Godfrey Tanner.

The success of these two conferences led to a series of conferences, which until 1995 found its organisational base in Newcastle with Dockrill and Tanner and with the help of a number of co-convenors, including Eric Osborne, Raoul Mortely, David Coffey, John Hill, Patrick Ryan and Gerald Gleeson. During the eighties similiar conferences were run by Greg Moses and Neil Ormerod under the auspices of the Sydney College of Divinity Philosophers Association. In 1996, Andrew Murray, at the Catholic Institute of Sydney at Strathfield, became the organising secretary of the conference, and the two series were combined under the name, ‘Biennial Conference in Philosophy, Religion and Culture’.

The initial convenors were Peter Forrest (UNE), David Dockrill (Newcastle) and Andrew Murray (CIS). Stephen Curkpatrick (MCD & Monash) was a convenor for the 2004 conference. David Dockrill retired at the 2008 conference and was duly honoured for his long and effective involvement in the conferences. In 2009, John McDowell (Newcastle), Shane Mackinlay (CTC/MCD), William Emilsen (UTC/CSU) and Stephen Buckle (ACU) became convenors.

From the beginning, the conferences have aimed to bring together scholars in philosophy, theology, the humanities and other disciplines and to foster interaction between different religions and denominations and between persons from universities and theological colleges. Themes of broad scope have generally been proposed, in order to allow cross-disciplinary interaction and to ensure scholarly conversation between those working in religious and secular fields. Openness to different scholarly procedures has been a feature of the conferences. When funding and opportunity have been available, edited versions of the proceedings have been published.

Organisation of the conferences has benefited from the facilities provided by the Philosophy and Classics Departments at the University of Newcastle, Sydney College of Divinity, and Catholic Institute of Sydney. Funding assistance has been provided from time to time by internal research grants from Macquarie University and University of Newcastle. The Roos-Ashworth Fund of the Department of Classics at Newcastle, established by Rhona Beare and Godfrey Tanner, was particularly generous in its support for visiting guests of honour – Jaroslav Pelikan (1981), John Rist (1984), Maurice Wiles (1986), Max Charlesworth and Rex Davis (1990) – and in providing grants to aid the publication of edited proceedings. Gavin Ardley assisted with the publication of proceedings of early conferences as supplementary numbers of Prudentia. Since 1996, the conference has been self-funding with the institutional support of Catholic Institute of Sydney.

Past Conferences


Christianity and Platonism
The Via Negativa
The Concept of Spirit
Philosophy and Theology Conference
The Idea of Salvation
Second Philosophy and Theology Conference
Humanity and the After Life (SCD)
Tradition and Traditions
Human Beings and Nature (SCD)
Plato and Aristotle, Platonism and Aristotelianism
The Doctrine of the Trinity, Past and Present
Faith and Reason [Papers - click here]
The Supernatural [Papers - click here]
The Body in our Philosophical, Literary and Religious Traditions [Abstracts - click here]
Talking about God in Contemporary Culture [Abstracts - click here]
On the Good, Goods and the Good Life [Abstracts - click here]
Truth & Truthfulness in Uncertain Times [Abstracts - click here]
God, Freedom and Nature [Abstracts - click here]
Creation, Nature and the Built Environment [Abstracts - click here]
The Expressible and the Inexpressible [Abstracts - click here
Faith and the Political [Abstracts - click here]

Published Proceedings of the Conferences

Colloquium 1977 contained a number of articles from the Christianity and Platonism conference.

The Via Negativa. Edited by Raoul Mortley and David Dockrill. Prudentia (Auckland NZ). Supplementary Number 1981.

The Concept of Spirit. Edited by D. W. Dockrill and R. G Tanner. Prudentia (Auckland NZ). Supplementary Number 1985.

The Idea of Salvation. Edited by D. W. Dockrill and R. G Tanner. Prudentia (Auckland NZ). Supplementary Number 1988.

Humanity and the After Life: Some Australian Reflections. Edited by Greg Moses and Neil Ormerod. Sydney: Sydney College of Divinity Philosophical Association, 1991.

Human Beings and Nature: Historical and Philosophical Studies. Edited by Greg Moses and Neil Ormerod. Sydney: Sydney College of Divinity Philosophical Association, 1992.

Tradition and Traditions. Edited by D. W. Dockrill and R. G Tanner. Prudentia (Auckland NZ). Supplementary Number 1994.

Truth and Truthfulness. A Radio Progamme presented by Gary Bryson and featuring Andrew Murray, Doru Costache, Laurie Woods, William Emilsen, Veronica Brady, Richard Campbell. Radio National 29 October 2006.
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Broadcast of the Public Lecture of the 2006 Conference. Douglas Pratt, ‘Fundamentalism and Terrorism’, Encounter Program, Radio National, 3 December 2006.
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Broadcast of Excepts from the Keynote Lecture of the 2008 Conference. David Nash, ‘Blasphemy, Tolerance and the New World Religious Conflict: An Historian’s View’. The Religion Report, Radio National, 22 October 2008.
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God, Freedom and Nature. [Proceedings of the 2008 Biennial Conference in Philosophy, Religion and Culture] Sydney: Body and Soul Dynamics, 2012.
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Broadcast of Interview with keynote speaker, Elizabeth Aitken-Rose, on By Design, Radio National, 29 September 2010.
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Five papers from the 2010 Conference were published in Sophia 49 (December 2010): 461-519 [Editorial 1]