Union University

Union University Department of Political Science

Department of Political Science


Watson Presents Paper on Theologico-Political Problem

Jan 17, 2008

Dr. Watson presented a paper, “Spinoza, Strauss, and Fortin on the Theologico-Political Problem” at the annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association in New Orleans on January 10, 2008. He enjoyed driving through Mississippi and Louisiana and seeing New Orleans for the first time, including the world-famous Café Du Monde where he and Dr. Evans consumed a great deal of powdered sugar. In this paper, Dr. Watson presented and evaluated the approach of three political philosophers who pay special attention to the sometimes vexed relationship between religion and politics. Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) was an early pioneer of biblical higher criticism and attempted to “demystify” and rationalize the Bible’s teachings. Leo Strauss (1899-1973) famously wrote about the conflict between Athens and Jerusalem, teaching that between faith and philosophy there lies a chasm that cannot be breached. Ernest Fortin (1923-2002) was an Augustinian priest and professor at Boston College. He was also a student of Leo Strauss and so provides a good contrast as someone deeply familiar with Strauss’s thought yet committed to Jerusalem. This paper was adapted from a chapter in Dr. Watson’s dissertation on the theologico-political problem.