Monday, July 5, 2010

Back from Prague

And exhausted. But Metaphysics: Aristotelian, Scholastic, Analytic was a very interesting conference, and evidence that serious old-fashioned metaphysics is very much alive. Keynote speakers were Michael Loux, Peter van Inwagen, E. J. Lowe, Edmund Runggaldier, Uwe Meixner, David Oderberg, Robert Pasnau, and myself. (Another keynote speaker, Gyula Klima, had to cancel at the last minute, but his paper was read in his absence.) There were other interesting presentations as well. (Here is a shot of me with Robert Pasnau. I am not asleep in the photo, by the way, but merely looking down at a handout! But I’ve been asleep much of today…)

Regular blogging to resume this week.


  1. Quote for the picture:

    Quit arguing with them, man.
    They're not buying that you're not wearing a wig.

  2. "I am not asleep in the photo, by the way, but merely looking down at a handout!"

    Ah, one you had painted on the back of your eyelids? ;)

  3. It was nice meeting you in Prague Edward! I'm sorry to have missed your talk (hence no photo of you speaking), 9am was too early! I did enjoy our chats though.

    All the best for your future work!

  4. You've got a good head of hair.

  5. Thanks, Tuomas, I enjoyed meeting and talking to you as well.

    My readers should know that Tuomas -- who gave a fine presentation at the conference -- is editing an important anthology on Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics for Cambridge University Press, with contributions from Lowe, Fine, Simons, Oderberg, Crane, Heil, and many others. I'll certainly be promoting it here when it is published.

    And while you're at it, go over and check out Tuomas's website and blog. (I've put up a link in the sidebar.)

  6. Re: the hair, er, thanks, everyone! I'll tell my stylist...

  7. Hmm, looks like Blogger is acting up again. I didn't delete the earlier comments, and if history is any guide they'll probably re-appear once Blogger works the bugs out.

  8. Hi Dr. Feser.
    I didn't mean your hair.
    That was what you were saying to the guy who kept on talking. I should have been more clear :)

    One more serious thing.
    I'm reading Aquinas and I'm having the hardest time what Kenny (and Gottlob Frege) are saying about essense and existence.
    I've read the section numerous times and i'm just not getting it.

    Not only do I not get 'the beef', I don't really get what Kenny is even contending.

    If you're able to provide some clarification I'd really appreciate it!!

  9. Hi Hype,

    Yes, I know you weren't referring to me -- I was responding to the other commenters.

    Re: Frege and Kenny, the claim is that existence is entirely captured by what in modern logic is called the existential quantifier, usually written as a backwards E when using logical symbolism, and in English as "There is an x such that..." Hence to say that dogs exist is to say "There is an x such that x is a dog." And given this analysis of existence, Kenny's claim is that to say that God's essence is His existence is non-sensical -- it cannot even be coherently formulated. But the problem with Kenny's claim is that it assumes, falsely, that Aquinas is or should be working with a Fregean understanding of existence.

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  11. Ad Hype:

    Klima's paper dealt (among other things) with Kenny on the essence-existence distinction. Check his web, he has also a review of Kenny and other good stuff there.

    Perhaps a good way to get at what Frege means is by reading his posthumously published "Dialog with Pünjer on Existence". Brilliant anti-Fregeans are Barry Miller and Bill Vallicella. In Czech there is an excellent defense of Aquinas on existence by Stanislav Sousedik.

  12. So when he says "there is an x such that..." should that be read as stating "there is this thing that exists.... and that thing is a dog"?

  13. Thanks for advertising the volume and my blog Edward -- I see quite a lot of traffic to my site from here already.

  14. Ed,

    I believe that the envious comments regarding your head of hair are because, as in Dilbert, this is burgeoning evidence of Executive Competence.

    If you can distill all of Aquinas into a 30 second elevator, you too could join the ranks of senior executives...

  15. Oops. Should say "elevator pitch:

  16. Speaking of Inwagen, since you mention him in this post:
    I've Read Inwagen's 'Methaphysics' recently. Although I liked Inwagen approach I was very disappointed at his chapter on the Cosmological Argument... Also he devotes Aquinas only half a page, which is a bit unforgivable in my taste for a professor from Notre Dame... and then claims the Cosmological Arument is a failure (which is debatable...).

    Although I understandh his book is to introduce people to methaphysics, not to give an opinion, I think he could have put things in a different light.

    On the whole it was a good read though.