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Silvianne Aspray


Silvianne Aspray (née Bürki) is has recently completed her doctorate in Philosophical Theology at the Divinity Faculty in Cambridge.

Her doctoral dissertation, Metaphysics in the Reformation: A Case Study of Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562) traces the metaphysical underpinnings of the Protestant Reformation through a close reading of the work of the humanist and reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli. Focussing on the way Vermigli envisages the relationship between God and the world, she argues that his thought simultaneously inhabits two different metaphysical frameworks. One of them is premised on a qualitative difference between Divine being and the being of the world, and the other rests on a univocal understanding of being. These two basic alternatives manifest themselves in different formulations of the relationship between Divine and human agency, the character of Divine gifts, the way in which God is thought to be present in the Church, and the way God’s power is envisaged.

The metaphysical plurality seen in Peter Martyr Vermigli’s work is not unique, but typical of the Protestant Reformation, she argues. This calls for a reassessment of the Reformation’s role in the genesis of modernity vis-à-vis the classic suggestion (by Max Weber, inter alia) of a causal link between Reformation thought and modernity, especially because modernity is said by most commentators to be predicated on a univocal metaphysics.

Silvianne's thesis was supervised by Prof. Catherine Pickstock and advised by Prof. Alexandra Walsham. She held a Cambridge International Trust doctoral scholarship, and a "Doc.Mobility" Fellowship of the Swiss National Science Foundation. During Michaelmas term 2015 she conducted research at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where she had been awarded an exchange studentship.

Being a Swiss native, Silvianne took a BA and MA in Theology from Bern University (Faculty prize), and studied for a year in Durham. Before moving to Cambridge in 2013, she was a research assistant both to the Praeses of the Swiss Protestant Churches and to Prof. Peter Opitz (University of Zurich).

Subject area and speciality

Philosophy of Religion specialists:

The Fate of Participatory Ontology in the Reformation


Pembroke College:
Graduate Student


Supervising paper A8 "Philosophy of Religion and Ethics"

Supervising paper B11 "Ethics and Faith"

Supervising paper B13 "Religious Themes in Literature"

Supervising paper D1d "The doctrine of God"


Widening participation

2017: Tutor and Lecturer for “An Introduction to Christian Doctrine”, 10 evenings, St. Alban’s Certificate in Theology, Bedford

2017: Lecture “Engaging Western Culture: Notions of Truth in an Age Shaped by Science”, King’s School of Theology, Derby

2016: Lecture and seminar on “What is Secularisation?” Sutton Trust summer school in Theology and Philosophy, Cambridge


Other Professional Activities

Organiser of the Graduate study day in April 2016 on "How to think about being"

Coordinator of the Aquinas Reading Group

Co-editor of the NOESIS Review vol. 2 (2015). NOESIS is the annual review of the Graduate Society for the Study of Philosophical Theology and Systematics, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge.



Refereed Journal Articles

Aspray S. (forthcoming, 2018) “An Augustinian Response to Jean-Louis Chrétien’s Phenomenology of Prayer”, International Journal of Philosophy and Theology (DOI: 10.1080/21692327.2018.1433549)

Aspray, S. (2018) “A Complex Legacy: Louis Bouyer and the Metaphysics of the Reformation”, Modern Theology 34/1, 3-22

Aspray, S. (2017) “Peter Martyr Vermigli's Preces Sacrae (1564) and the Problem of Prayers as Historical Sources”, Reformation and Renaissance Review 19/2, 87-103

Bürki, S. (2014) “Innere und äussere Angelegenheiten im Berner Staatskirchenrecht in historisch-theologischer Sicht”, Schweizerisches Jahrbuch für Kirchenrecht 19, 81-103

Chapters in Books

Bürki, S. and Peter Opitz (2014) “Der Heidelberger Katechismus im Kontext zeitgenössischer reformierter Katechismen”, in Handbuch Heidelberger Katechismus, Arnold Huijgen et al. (eds.), Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 184–192

Review Articles and Reviews

Bürki, S. (2016) Review: Johannes Hoff, The Analogical Turn, 2013, Reviews in Religion and Theology 23.1 (2016), 52-55

Bürki, S. (2016) Review: Christopher Baker et al, A Philosophy of Christian Materialism, 2015, Theology 119.3 (2016), 222-223

Bürki, S. (2015) “The (Missing) Praxis of Radical Hermeneutics”, Review: Thomas Pfau, Minding the Modern, 2015, Syndicate: A New Forum for Theology 2, 89–94 (online)

Bürki, S. (2012) Review: Amy Nelson Burnett, Karlstadt and the Origins of the Eucharistic Controversy, 2011, Zwingliana (39/2012), 157–161


Bürki S. (2016) “’There Can Be No Truth Without a Conversion’: Knowledge of God and the Transformation of the Self”, Noesis: Theology, Philosophy, Poetics 3, 26-31

Bürki S. (2014) “Abundance and Simplicity: Participation in Babette's Feast”, Noesis: Theology, Philosophy, Poetics 1, 16–21


Papers Presented

* Aspray, S. (2017) “Augustine, Anselm and the Paradox of Prayer”, International Conference of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, Universtiy of Zurich

* Aspray, S. (2017) “How (Not) to Read Prayers as Historical Sources: The Case of Peter Martyr Vermigli’s Preces Sacrae”, Philosophy and Theology Study Day, Cambridge

* Aspray, S. (2016) “The Metaphysical Ambiguity of the Reformation“, Noesis Seminar, Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge

* Bürki, S. (2015) “Peter Martyr Vermigli and the Metaphysics of the Reformation”, Radical Orthodoxy and Protestantism, University of Nottingham

Bürki, S. (2015) “Vermigli at Prayer: Genre and Performativity in his Preces Sacrae“, Sixteenth Century Society Conference, Vancouver

Bürki, S. (2015) “Hierarchical Mediation vs. Spiritual Immediacy. Perspectives on Peter Martyr Vermigli's Political Theology”, The Protestant Spirit. The Holy Spirit in Protestant Thought 1500-1900, University of Oxford

Bürki, S. (2015) “‘Liturgical’ Ontology in the Reformation? The Case of Peter Martyr Vermigli”, History and Ontology Conference, Delphi

Bürki, S. (2015) “Peter Martyr Vermigli's Metaphysics: Continuity or Discontinuity?” Society for Reformation Studies’ Annual Conference, Cambridge

Bürki, S. (2015) “Complex Causality in Peter Martyr Vermigli”, Early Modern History Workshop, University Cambridge

* invited speaker


Public engagement

2016: "Das Abendmahl als geistliche Praxis für unsere Zeit", Keynote talk at day-conference for vicars and interested laypeople in Basel, March 2016 (see here for an article about the conference, including a link to the manuscript of my talk)

2016: "Was bedeutet eigentlich das Abendmahl?", guest at radio broadcast, Radio Lifechannel


Current students and supervisors can access the Faculty’s Moodle page by clicking on the image below.