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Fall 2020 - Spring 2021 Junior Fellowship: Modernity

A year-long adventure in ideas for university students from across California

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Fall 2020 - Spring 2021 Junior Fellowship: Modernity
Fall 2020 - Spring 2021 Junior Fellowship: Modernity

Time & Location

Nov 24, 2020, 6:30 PM PST – May 21, 2021, 7:00 PM PDT


About the Event

“We propose to call ‘religion’ the bond that is established between the same and the Other without constituting a totality.” –Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity


The Junior Fellowship is a year-long funded program which brings select undergraduate students from across California together around the table of knowledge. Its logic is both receptive and generative. On the level of reception, Junior Fellows will study the structure and meaning of the human spirit—constituted by being, reason, and gift—in modern (largely continental) philosophy and theology, in order to envision a more humane future. Of enduring concern will be the paradigm of modernity in light of post-modernity. Questions related to modernity shall be explored through three areas: relational metaphysics, ontological reason, and alterity & the gift. Beyond reception and on the level of generation, Junior Fellows will present their own conference papers at the end of the year, drawing on texts & ideas from the fellowship, and on their imagination.

Junior Fellows will be led by renowned scholars and thought leaders, many of whom have designed their own schools of thought. Their areas of research include the philosophy of history, process metaphysics & political theology, political theory (before & after personalism), transcendental Thomism (Lonergan, Rahner), 20th-century Catholic theology & metaphysics, Jewish theology & natural law thinking, Paul Tillich, and Eric Voegelin. Of central interest will be the possibility of a relational metaphysics. If human being is substance in relation, as opposed to primarily substance (pre-modern metaphysics) or primarily relation (modern phenomenology), how are we to think of areas of common life such as law and ethics?


In light of the paradigm of post-modernity, and the dual gifts (like continental philosophy) and metaphysical challenges (like scientism) of modernity still bearing upon the community of being, humanity has to grapple with how to respond. In what sense can we say, unconditionally, that we are responsible to the Other? That reason does not operate in the realm of instrumental rationality alone, but, instead, is always already open to being and truth? In this year-long funded fellowship, we will inquire into who we are—human being, the shepherd of Being—by examining the structure and meaning of what we are—being, reason, gift—in order to envision a more humane future. Central to the foundations of our inquiry will be relational metaphysics. Relational metaphysics is a metaphysics of hope. It unites insights from classical & neoclassical metaphysics, and, in its application to our being-in-the-world, helps to ground substantively the most important—and most undervalued—dimension of our moral & political existence: our emotional engagement with the (lonely, suffering, or helpless) Other. The I-Thou relation—whose existential meaning Buber saw was clear & simple, yet constantly violated—can't hold any unconditional meaning, for us, without a foundation in the structure of being. We need metaphysics, then. Metaphysics is the search for those fundamental principles which both undergird and transcend all of reality. Substance & flux, dynamics & form, act & potency . . . Done well, metaphysics is an act of love. In searching for those principles common to being, including human being, we experience what holds being together in its inner relationality. If we could discover a metaphysical ground for our existence, with the Other, could we then grasp and actualize gift?

This year, we will explore key questions related to modernity through three areas: relational metaphysics (continental interpretations of Aquinas, process metaphysics, Voegelin); ontological reason, insofar as it is capable of reaching the highest possibilities of knowledge & experience; and, lastly, alterity & the gift. Beyond these ideas at a theoretical level, we shall consider the applications of metaphysics to immanent concerns. These include the nature of religion, as well as moral & political aspiration amid the tragedy of existence. We shall also consider whether being is tragic alone—a dominant consensus in modern continental philosophy—or whether it's possible to say, with Ulrich, that being is gift.

The lecture series component of this fellowship was generously made possible by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.


Applications are open to undergraduate students at Stanford University, U.C. Berkeley, Thomas Aquinas College (Ojai, CA), and Zaytuna College (Berkeley, CA), in addition to undergraduate students who are alumni of Zephyr's high school philosophy programs. We are interested in students who are not just fascinated by the texts & ideas under discussion, but are also invested in being part of a community of ideas (and meeting new interlocutors). If you cannot make all of the required dates, including all five days of the conference, please do not apply.

While we recognize that many of these texts are more commonly studied by graduate students than by undergraduate students, we nonetheless wish to underscore that graduate students are not eligible to apply. Please do not pretend to be an undergraduate; we can see through it.


$1,500 stipend, distributed at the end of each quarter as follows: $300 fall quarter, $500 winter quarter, $700 spring quarter.

The stipend is an investment in your Future, as a thinker & person committed to exploring the nature of human spirit, and how these texts & ideas could open up generous modes of intellectual & emotional engagement with the world. You may spend it however you wish. For example, you could spend some of it on books for your spring conference paper, which you can work on at your own pace.

The fellowship requires a year-long commitment in order to receive the stipends. You can't just take the money and run. (cf. Husserl: out of analogical perception arises the world of meaning).


Nine one-hour sessions: Fall 2020–Spring 2021. Tuesdays, 6:30–7:30 p.m. Pacific. 30 minutes of lecture & 30 minutes of discussion on a ~20-page required reading.

Fall Quarter – Being

Texts: Norris Clarke S.J., Voegelin, Whitehead, Wilhelmsen

Dates: Tuesdays, November 24 & December 1, 6:30–7:30 p.m. Pacific

Winter Quarter – Reason

Texts: Lonergan, Rahner, Schelling, Tillich

Dates: Tuesdays, January 26, February 9, & February 23, 6:30–7:30 p.m. Pacific

Spring Quarter – Gift

Texts: Arendt, Bloch, Buber, Jainist ethics, Jesus of Nazareth, Levinas, Dwight Macdonald, Marion, May, Murnane, Ratzinger, Ricoeur, Rosenzweig, Spivak, Tillich, Ulrich, David Foster Wallace, Walsh

Dates: Tuesdays, March 30, April 13, April 27, May 4, 6:30–7:30 p.m. Pacific

Spring Conference: Monday-Friday, May 17-21, 2021. Every day, 6:30–7:30 p.m. Pacific.

A festival of ideas: Junior Fellows present their own research on the structure and meaning of being, reason, and gift, with respect to questions of the common good & common fate. These will take the form of 20-minute conference papers, followed by some discussion for each paper. There will be no required progress meetings or check-ins in the preparation of the paper, though we'll host some optional sessions, run by recent Stanford humanities alumni who serve on Zephyr's young alumni council. All are alumni of Structured Liberal Education; several have presented papers at significant international humanities conferences and at the Zephyr Institute. These sessions will focus on writing clearly & intelligibly, with some attention to the aesthetic qualities of language, and their effect on receivers.

The spring conference attendance is limited to Junior Fellows, Junior Fellowship faculty & staff, select invited guests of Junior Fellows, and select continental philosophers, theologians, and political theorists in the Zephyr Institute network.


Being – Fall Quarter

“Rather than being the work solely of an impersonal objective drive of the mind to fully understand the real as far as it can by the use of reason, the metaphysical quest now turns out to be at a deeper level but one expression of an existential pull from a Transcendent Source be­yond us, drawing our whole being — intellect, will, imagination, emo­tions — in two primary directions, which ultimately turn out to be one: the Beginning (where it all comes from) and the Beyond (the ultimate Goal, which is also beyond all the levels of finite being).” –Norris Clarke S.J., “Beyond Metaphysics”

  • Norris Clarke S.J. – Person and Being (Marquette University Press, 1993)
  • Eric Voegelin – “The Beginning and the Beyond: Meditation on Truth,” What Is History? and Other Late Unpublished Writings, Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 28, eds. Thomas A. Hollweck and Paul Caringella (University of Missouri Press, 1990)
  • Alfred North Whitehead – Process and Reality [Gifford Lectures 1927-28] (Free Press, 1979)
  • Frederick Wilhelmsen – The Metaphysics of Love (Routledge, 2015)

Reason – Winter Quarter

“The depth of reason is the expression of something that is not reason but which precedes reason and is manifest through it . . . It could be called the ‘substance’ which appears in the rational structure, or ‘being-itself’ which is manifest in the logos of being, or the ‘ground’ which is creative in every rational creation, or the ‘abyss’ which cannot be exhausted by any creation or by any totality of them, or the ‘infinite potentiality of being and meaning’ which pours into the rational structures of mind and reality, actualizing and transforming them.” –Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology I

  • Bernard Lonergan – Insight (University of Toronto Press, 1992)
  • Karl Rahner – Spirit in the World (Bloomsbury Academic, 1994, first edition (German) 1939)
  • F.W.J. Schelling – Philosophy of Revelation (Munich Lectures, 1831-32)
  • Paul Tillich – Systematic Theology I, Reason and Revelation (University of Chicago Press, 1951)

Gift – Spring Quarter

“The polity is the community of the gift.” –David Walsh, Politics of the Person as the Politics of Being

  • Hannah Arendt – The Human Condition (University of Chicago Press, 1958)
  • Ernst Bloch – Natural Law and Human Dignity (MIT Press, 1986, first edition (German) 1961)
  • Martin Buber – I and Thou (Scribner’s, 1970, first edition (German) 1923)
  • Jainist ethics
  • Jesus of Nazareth – Sermon on the Mount
  • Emmanuel Levinas – Alterity and Transcendence (Columbia University Press, 2000)
  • Dwight Macdonald – The Root is Man (Autonomedia, 1995, first edition 1946)
  • Jean-Luc Marion – Prolegomena to Charity (Fordham University Press, 2002, first edition (French) 1993)
  • Rollo May – various
  • Gerald Murnane – The Plains (1982)
  • Joseph Ratzinger – Deus caritas est (2005)
  • Paul Ricoeur – various
  • Franz Rosenzweig – The Star of Redemption (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005, Galli translation; first edition (German) 1921)
  • Gayatri Spivak – “Can the Subaltern Speak?” (1983)
  • Sarah Thomas ’19 – preliminary sketches of her children’s book on relational metaphysics
  • Paul Tillich – Systematic Theology III (University of Chicago Press, 1963)
  • Ferdinand Ulrich, Homo Abyssus: The Drama of the Question of Being (Humanum Academic Press, 2018, Schindler translation; first edition (German) 1958: Attempt at a speculative development of the human being in the participation in being)
  • David Foster Wallace – Infinite Jest (1996)
  • David Walsh – Politics of the Person as the Politics of Being (University of Notre Dame Press, 2016)
  • David Walsh – The Priority of the Person (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020)


  • Molly Oshatz, Ph.D (Senior Fellow, Center for the Study of First Principles, Zephyr Institute)
  • Antonio Aguilar ’18 (SLE ’14-’15)
  • Hormazd Godrej ’19 G’20 (SLE ’14-’15)
  • Emily King ’19 (SLE ’15-’16)
  • Sarah Thomas ’19 (SLE ’15-’16)
  • Joel Dominic ’20 G’20 (SLE ’16-’17)


  1. David Walsh (Professor of Politics, The Catholic University of America · President, Eric Voegelin Society)
  2. Paul Caringella (Visiting Fellow (1979- ), Hoover Institution, Stanford University · Personal assistant to Eric Voegelin, 1979-1985 · Studied with Frederick Wilhelmsen, Emmanuel Levinas, Josef Pieper, René Girard)
  3. Patrick Byrne (Professor of Philosophy & Director, Lonergan Institute, Boston College · Co-Editor, Method: A Journal of Lonergan Studies)
  4. Frederick Dolan (Professor of Rhetoric, Emeritus, UC Berkeley, Lecturer in Continuing Studies, Stanford University)
  5. Stephen Fields, S.J. (Hackett Family Professor in Theology, Georgetown University)
  6. David Novak (J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Professor of Jewish Studies and Philosophy, University of Toronto · Gifford Lectures, 2017 · Founding board member, First Things)
  7. John B. Cobb (Professor of Theology, Emeritus, Claremont Graduate University · Co-Founder & Co-Director, Center for Process Studies · Founder, Cobb Institute: A Community for Process & Practice)
  8. Sarah Thomas (Associate Director, Zephyr Institute, 2019-20, Graduate Student in Metaphysics, Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven)


The fellowship director, Sarah Thomas ’19, may be reached at

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