Saturday, March 7, 2015

William Wallace, OP (1918-2015)

Fr. William A. Wallace has died.  Wallace was a major figure in Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy of nature and philosophy of science, and the author of many important books and academic articles.  Still in print are his books The Modeling of Nature: Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Nature in Synthesis (a review of which can be found here), and The Elements of Philosophy: A Compendium for Philosophers and Theologians.  Among his many other works are his two-volume historical study Causality and Scientific Explanation, the classic paper “Newtonian Antinomies Against the Prima Via” which appeared in The Thomist in 1956 (and is, unfortunately, difficult to get hold of if you don’t have access to a good academic library), and a collection of some of his essays titled From a Realist Point of View.  An interview with Wallace can be found here, and curriculum vitae hereHere is the text of a series of lectures by Wallace on philosophy of nature, and here is a YouTube lecture.  Some of Wallace’s articles are among those linked to here.  RIP.


  1. His book (well, textbook I think) was the first I sought out specifically for Aristotilean topics. I remember wanting to hear about this crazy idea that God's existence could be demonstrated, and wanted to work my way back to the source. I think Flynn recommended his book at his LJ, I stumbled upon it somehow (I think due to his connection to Wright), and picked it up.

    I was immediately in over my head.

    Still thumbed through it, trying to make sense of it all. But eventually along came TLS, and oh, now things make a bit more sense! I should go back and see if I can make it through the textbook now, I'm a bit more well-armed for it.

  2. (Those video lectures are the same ones for which Ed provided a link to the text.)

  3. Prayers offered. Thanks for posting this, Ed.

  4. Requiem aeternam, donas eis domine et lux perpetua luceat eis.

  5. A couple of Wallace's writings I turn to time and time again for clarification on things are his "Some demonstrations in the science of nature" and "The role of demonstration in moral theology". The latter is particularly important to me, as my dissertation pertains to ethics.

  6. Very sad to hear of his passing. A truly remarkable philosopher, a truly remarkable man. The keenest of intellect, a prolific writer, wonderful teacher. A real loss to all of us.


  7. From the Roman Breviary (forma extraordinaria): Præsta, quæsumus, Domine: ut anima famuli tui Gulielmi sacerdotis, quem, in hoc sæculo commorantem, sacris muneribus decorasti, in cælesti sede gloriosa semper exsultet. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

  8. RIP Fr. Wallace. I was fortunate enough to meet him and hear him lecture about the modelling of nature, and natural philosophy at the University of St. Thomas' Aquinas Lecture right after the book The Modeling of Nature came out. I was a graduate student in philosophy at the time. He was a very nice and a very astute philosopher.

  9. Fr. Wallace was a good friend and human being who struggled with his vocation because he had a large heart. Sometimes the intellectual life makes a scholar want to be more around other people, and transcend the boundaries of ideas personally.

    Wallace was my friend and mentor from 1994-1999, and we went our separate ways afterwards, but he will never be forgotten.

    He was the best of the best: a philosopher, theologian, palaeographer, physicist, historian, and engineer.

    But most impotantly, he was a human being.

    Ad lucem aeternam,

    John K. Hoover

  10. Tragically I think I accidentally threw out my copy of Wallace's book in the purge?**

    **I did a psychotic amount of cleaning. Don't ask.

  11. Gone to join his brother Lawrence Dewan. One man closer to filling up the full number of the just. Glory be.

  12. The Modeling of Nature, in spite of a couple of problems I have with it, is one of the most magnificent works in all philosophy of science.

    With Wallace, Smith, and other neos slugging it out in metaphysics until the very end, there may be a Revenge of the Thomists yet, in science as well as philosophy.

    He's already missed, and will be studied closely by many.

    1. What problems do you have with it?

      My only quibble with it is his mischaracterization of Duhem as a skeptic, anti-realist.

  13. Hey Alan

    It's the general directedness notion, along with some reservation about the notion of "natural". My copy is a ways from here so I've got another on the way. I'll revisit this and get back to you. I think it begins on page 14 or 15 where I had the directness issue.

    By the way, thanks for the incredible resource page. That's how I discovered Wolfgang Smith and others listed there.

  14. I studied with Father Wallace in the mid-1970s. Took classes in Causality and Scientific Explanation and in Aristotle's Posterior Analytics. He was one of the best teachers I ever had, always informative and thoughtful, a true teacher. And his passion for his subject and love of learning was always shining through. He shall always have a place in my mind and heart.

  15. Hey Edward

    Thanks for that.

    Wallace is an intellectual and even spiritual giant in my book. And it is a privilege to stand on the shoulders of him and others like him: Ed Feser, Wolfgang Smith, Boyle, Oderberg, Koons, Smith, Benignus, Clarke, Gilson, Grygiel, Copleston, and on and on.

  16. RIP, Fr. Wallace. I studied with him at CUA, in the honors philosophy program. He was an amazing teacher.