This past March, the philosopher-theologian David Bentley Hart gave a lecture entitled “Beauty, Form and Violence” at Biola University. Thanks to the graciousness of Biola’s youtube page, the presentation in its entirety is available below.
Hart’s central concern is a metaphysical distinction between an “ontology of peace” and an “ontology of violence”:
One can think of the economy of being that is the way in which beings are related to the ground of being the end of being or being itself in terms of violence or in terms of peace. The Christian narrative necessarily implies that there is an original and ultimate peacefulness about the way in which being shows itself in beings, the way the absolute is made manifest in the contingent. This is simply the story that Christianity tells, that the act of creation is not an act of negation or struggle or violent decline from a more original state of purity. Within the course of creation, there is violence, there is struggle, there is loss, there is alienation. But the radical claim is that creation in and of itself is a graceful donation of being to beings.
But, throughout the history of Western metaphysics, it has been more common in some sense or another with any number of variations to think rather the relation between being and beings as … an ultimate ground of reality that has to be departed from or in some sense dissembled … in order for there to be anything at all there is necessarily a tragic struggle, a tragic, primordial, originary violence, the violence of difference.
Readers of our own Jens Zimmermann’s work will recognize the deep concord between Hart’s vision and Christian humanism, which emphasizes the fundamentally harmonius relationship between the infinite and the finite, Creator and creation.