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The D Society overview

The D Society is the main research seminar in the faculty for Philosophy of Religion and Ethics. It is chaired by Professor Catherine Pickstock.


Professor Donald Mackinnon
Professor Donald Mackinnon

Papers are invited from a wide range of philosophers, philosophers of religion and ethicists, both internal to Cambridge and from outside. A short response paper from a graduate student or faculty member usually opens the discussion.

Founded in 1921 by Professor James Bethune-Baker, the D Society was originally a subscription society intended to supplement the (then) predominantly biblical emphases of the faculty to include doctrinal and philosophical discussion. Under Professor Donald MacKinnon's chairmanship it became the main locus in the university for the interaction between senior members of the Philosophy and Divinity faculties; and under Professor Nicholas Lash it was transformed into a regular senior seminar in the faculty. 

The seminar is open to all interested members of the University, and to visitors who may wish to attend. Graduate students in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics are encouraged to come from the beginning of their programme and to make the seminars, and the enjoyable tea that follows, a place of regular interaction.

Members of the D Society are also encouraged to attend the regular public lectures in Philosophy of Religion, including the Stanton Lectures.







D Society Special Series 2020-2021 






9 October 2020 1.30-3.00pm [joint with ITIA, St Andrews] 

Catherine Pickstock (Cambridge), Introduction to the series: Metaphysics and Poetics 

Steven Toussaint (Cambridge), “Redeeming Poetics”.  


23 October 2020 1.30-3pm 

Valentin Gerlier (Cambridge), ‘Praise as Poetics: A Critical Intervention in Theology and Literature’.  Response by Dr Elizabeth Powell (Durham).  


6 November 2020 1.30-3pm [joint with ITIA, St Andrews] 

Rowan Williams (Cambridge), “Negative Theology: some misunderstandings”. Response by Patrick McGlinchey (St Andrews). 


20 November 2020 1.30-3pm 

John Betz (Notre Dame), “The Metaphysical Imagination: Toward an Analogical Poetics”.  



This year, the D Society is running as a 'special series' under the theme 'Metaphysics and Poetics', with some high profile sessions being run jointly with the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts at St Andrew's, and a study day later in the year.  All the seminars will be online

External attendees are also welcome to join the online seminars; please contact  Professor Catherine Pickstock