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24 January 2020

Research Seminar: “Towards a Morphology of Thought” – « Pour une morphologie du penser »

Third Research Seminar Meeting, January 24th, 2020

General Presentation

This Research Seminar is part of the construction of a multi-year research project on “The morphology of thought : between image(s) and concept(s). From Christian antiquity to the contemporary age” (provisional title). The aim is to develop topics and plan specific activities capable of advancing the questioning and understanding of mechanisms, functions, interests, and conflicts related to the forms and formativity of thought throughout history.

During the course of the year, it will first of all be a question of developing the notion of thought or thinking, an important notion if we want to develop an aesthetic and epistemology rooted in relationships. We can consider that the form concerns, or even constitutes, the relative disposition of the elements that our perception connects and, therefore, necessarily excluding others. The forms of thinking structure our perception of things and the creation of our worlds; they therefore determine the construction of our representations. The forms intervene both in relation to the things that are present in the mind and in the realities that our mind constructs without further external reference. The deep link between form and content draws attention to the operativeness of thought in the creation of figures, especially when they have a value of truth (a concept that is also transformed by them), deeply affecting the image we have of the world, of ourselves and of the transcendent, that is, of God.

During the first meeting the seminar project was discussed in depth; during the second meeting, we discussed on one hand the work of Luigi Pareyson and deepened the understanding of the notion and importance of “form” and “formactivity” in Law Studies and Practice.

Third Meeting

The third meeting was divided in two parts: in the first part, we worked on different books and methods; in the second part, we worked with two people who have developed an original reflection on the formativity of the mind in art. Each of them gave a lecture of about 50 min. that was discussed afterwards.

Our first speaker was Marc-Mathieu Münch, who studied the autobiographical writings, the poetics and the aesthetics of authors of different times and cultures in order to elaborate a general aesthetics theory. His major work, L’Effet de vie ou le singulier de l’art littéraire [The Effect of Life or the Singular of Literary Art] (Münch 2004) demonstrates that there are invariants that allow us to understand art as a human activity and production. The first invariant is the “virtual life” that works of art are able to create together with readers-auditors-spectators of different times and cultures; then there are six invariants describing different aspects of the works of art. These are (1) the play or interaction of (2) concrete materials and (3) forms, the (4) openness of the work of art, its (5) multivalence, and its (6) coherence. An international conference discussed the role of “form” in literature (Münch 2015). Münch spoke about the place of the “formactivity” of the human mind-brain in the production and reception of literature as well as in the reflection on literature and its interpretation.

The second speaker was Maxim Kantor, an internationally acclaimed painter and novelist (Kantor 2015), artist in residence at the LSRS. Kantor’s critical view of history, of the present times, and the political landscape is grounded in his extended knowledge of philosophy, literature, art history and art to which he was first introduced by his father. Books and art, writing and painting are two expressions of his same desire to shape a vision that may confront people with reality and push them to draw on the sources of our Humanist and Christian tradition in order to shape a possible future. Before being acquired by the Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art of Luxembourg, his Last Judgment was exhibited in Vienna together with Bosch’s triptych (Nauhaus 2018). An international conference offered a multidisdisciplinary approach to this work in June 2019, and another conference will be held from 1-3 October 2020 at the LSRS. In his lecture Kantor offered a reflection on his own desire and understanding of the “formactivity” of the artist, on the force of the “formactivity” of his creative writing and painting as a “materialized way of thought”, as well on the artist’s struggling with his own limits, and the necessity to overcome them if the artist wants to make a contribution towards “salvation.”

Several times I used the word “formactivity.” I use it to translate the noun formatività coined by L. Pareyson (Pareyson 1974; 2007), and I intentionally leave the “c” to stress that it is an activity of the human mind. For Pareyson, the form is not simply given before the creative process; it appears during this process, and the mind discovers what takes shape in itself through its own activity as this mental “content” materializes in front of it. As it is an activity, artists, aestheticians, philosophers, theologians… all need to be aware of what they do to act responsibly.


Part I
2:30 PM Opening (G. Cuozzo; J. Ehret)
René Gonner presenting: Hans Leisegang, Denkformen (Leisegang 1928)
Diana Mistreanu: On the Contribution of Cognitive Science to the Study of the Formactivity of the Human Mind in Literature
3:45 PM Pause
Part II
4:15 PM Marc-Mathieu Münch, “Forme & littérature [Form & literature]”
5:30 PM Pause
6:00 PM Maxim Kantor, “‘Formactivity’ & Salvation”
7:15 PM End of the Seminar
7:30 PM Dinner with guests at the Centre Jean XXIII
9:00 PM End of the official program


  • Kantor, Maxim. 2015. Feu rouge: roman cathédrale. Traduit par Yves Gauthier. Paris: Louison Éditions.
  • Leisegang, Hans. 1928. Denkformen. Berlin/Leipzig: De Gruyter.
  • Metz, Johann Baptist. 1962. Christliche Anthropozentrik. Über die Denkform des Thomas von Aquin. München: Kösel.
  • Münch, Marc-Mathieu. 2004. L’effet de vie ou le singulier de l’art littéraire. Bibliothèque de littérature générale et comparée 46. Paris: Champion.
  •  -, éd. 2015. Forme et réception: rencontres interartistiques de l’Effet de vie. Colloques, congrès et conférences sur la littérature comparée 24. Paris: Honoré Champion.
  • Nauhaus, Julia M, éd. 2018. Bosch & Kantor. Maxim Kantor: Das jüngste Gericht = Maxim Kantor: The Last Judgment. Wien: Gemäldegalerie de Akademie der bildenden Künste.
  • Pareyson, Luigi. 1974. Estetica. Teoria della formatività. 3e éd. Biblioteca Sansoni. Firenze: Sansoni.
  • -. 2007. Esthétique: Théorie de la formativité. Édité par Gilles A. Tiberghien. Paris: Éditions Rue d’Ulm.

Research Seminar Meeting co-organized by the Luxembourg School of Religion & Society and the Department of Excellence in Philosophy and Education Sciences of the University of Turin

Organizers: Prof. Gianluca Cuozzo (U Turin), Prof. Jean Ehret (LSRS)

Venue: Luxembourg School of Religion & Society
Centre Jean XXIII

52, rue Jules Wilhelm
L-2728 Luxembourg
LSRS – Centre Jean XXIII
52 rue Jules Wilhelm
L-2728 Luxembourg

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