03 April 2006

recent presentations

recent presentations

I've been busy the past two weekends giving presentations at two different philosophy conferences. Both were good experiences, which generated helpful discussion in a spirit of collegiality.

The first conference was on "The Significance of Francisco Suarez" and was held March 24-25 at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. My presentation concerned the influence of Suarez on emergent Protestant (and especially Reformed) scholasticism in the first half of the 17th century, though it remained largely on the level of a sketchy overview. The other presentations were really quite good and profitable, addressing Suarez and his significance from a variety of angles.

Regarding questions of ontology, Daniel Heider's paper helpfully (at least for me) clarified Suarez's teaching on the univocity and analogy of Being, distinguishing his view from that of both Aquinas and Scotus. Daniel Novotny likewise explained some issues raised by Suarez's views on "entia rationis," while Mariano Crespo used Suarez's theory of beings to address and fill out Husserl's account of the constitution of objects.

John Montag gave a historical overview of Suarez's role in the composition of the "ratio studiorum" (a document that shaped Jesuit education), placing it within the context of the development of modern curricula as well as the struggle of the Jesuits for identity. Jorge Gracia likewise presented a historical overview, but he did so with a wide-angle lens, placing Suarez within the context of medieval category theory.

Steven Brust, Matthew Lomanno, and Jose Pereira all addressed, in various ways, the place of Suarez in the context of the rise of modernity and the political, making various arguments and suggestions about how Suarez is a transitional figure, yet still not fully "modern" in the way that Hobbes or Locke might be.

A number of other papers presented were also well-done and informative. I certainly came away with a much richer knowledge and appreciation of Suarez's contribution to philosophy and theology. I was also very much impressed by the students and faculty of Franciscan University. It's really quite an unusual school, on the more evangelical and charismatic end of Roman Catholicism, which flows over into the evident piety and spiritual vitality of their student body.

That translates not only into a high level of voluntary participation in the religious life of the campus (e.g., very active chapel attendance), but also a high level of intellectual curiosity along the trajectories of the Christian intellectual tradition. This evidenced by Franciscan having nearly 170 philosophy majors out of around 2000 undergraduate students. By comparison, a Catholic school such as La Salle has between 30 and 40 majors out of 3200 students, while a secular university such as Lock Haven has 11 majors out of 5100 students.

This past weekend, April 1, I attended the Spring meeting of the Eastern Pennsylvania Philosophical Association, which was held at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. I'd never been to Susquehanna before and would consider it more "central" than "eastern" Pennsylvania, but it has a very pretty campus in the river valley, surrounded by low mountains.

The conference was good, involving several concurrent sessions and a keynote speaker. I presented a paper on Aristotle, which worked out nicely in light of the several other papers that dealt, directly or indirectly, with issues of ancient philosophy, as well as the keynote address by Roslyn Weiss of Lehigh University concerning justice and moderation in Plato's Republic.

After two weekends away, I'm glad to be back, but have some catching up to do on various tasks and I look forward to this coming weekend at home.