Thursday, January 28, 2016

Upcoming Thomistic workshops

Today is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, and thus a good time to draw attention to several forthcoming Aquinas-related summer workshops.

Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY will be hosting the Sixth Annual Philosophy Workshop on June 2-5, 2016, on the theme Aquinas on Politics. The presenters will be James Brent, OP, Michael Gorman, Steven Long, Dominic Legge, OP, Angela Knobel, Edward Feser, Thomas Joseph White, OP, and Michael Sherwin, OP.

The Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies will be holding its 2016 Summer Program in Norcia, Italy from July 10-24.  The focus of the program will be St. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews and St. Thomas’s commentary on it.

The Witherspoon Institute will be hosting the 11th annual Thomistic Seminar in Princeton, NJ, on August 7-13, 2016, on the theme Aquinas and the Philosophy of Nature.  The faculty will be John Haldane, Sarah Broadie, Edward Feser, Robert Koons, and Candace Vogler.


  1. In Australia, John Haldane is teaching a 13 week unit called "The Good Society, its Nature and Foundations" at the University of Notre Dame. He's doing a little more while he's here, such as public lectures and seminars.

    One of those other appearances is at the 2016
    Aquinas Symposium
    run by the Australian Dominicans Friars. Other Australian philosophers and theologians will present.

    To be clear, I do not work for the University of Notre Dame. I'm sharing this out of love of neighbour and wisdom.

  2. Ed,

    I have a mathematics background, but I am very interested in philosophy on the side. Do you think I could apply to the Princeton seminar? I live in NJ. - Thanks

  3. Hi, JohnD. It looks like that one is open only to current graduate students. The one at Mount St. Mary College is open to anyone.

  4. Hello fellas,

    I've been thinking about Aquinas' cosmological argument for months now, and I still do not get it in its entirety.

    At this point, I still do not manage to reach the (intermediary) conclusion that there must necessarily be some unactualized actualizer of things if some things are to be changed - even after my reading of The Last Superstition and Aquinas and all the thinking.

    Could any one having understood the argument help me understand it or direct me to some author who presents the argument in a perhaps more accessible way ?

    Thank you very much.

  5. You may want to check Peter Kreeft, I recently read his work on Aquinas and found it to be relatively easy going and great as introductory material.

  6. Kreeft is worth a read. I'd also strongly recommend this for a slow, careful, thorough walk through the cosmological argument. It's not really specific to the First Way (if we distinguish that carefully from the Second and Third), but the exposition is solid and accessible and it will fill in a lot of blanks form someone new to the entire approach. In fact I'd probably read it even before tackling Kreeft.

  7. I'll check that out this week : thank you guys !

    Never studied so abstract an argument... Luckily, it's as abstract as it is interesting.

  8. Thanks for the link correction; I seem to have accidentally hit an extra key somewhere.

  9. What I do not really get is why there must be, as far as hierarchical series are concerned, a "first" (non-temporally speaking) cause that is pure actuality and that actualizes their potentials (and why, without it, no change could ever occur).

    What if there was an infinite NUMBER of members in a hierarchical series ?

    Then, could there not be no need at all for a purely actual cause ?

    I suspect professor Feser has already thought about it and that he figured out why a purely actual cause must exist.

    As far as I am concerned, though, I must say that it is far from obvious (to me) to figure out why, and, thus, here comes my failure to really find the argument persuasive.

  10. In short, why would an infinite NUMBER of members in a hierarchical series not be enough to produce change ?

  11. In short, why would an infinite NUMBER of members in a hierarchical series not be enough to produce change ?

    In a hierarchical series, the whole hierarchical series acts as one, so the number of members it has won't make much difference to the overall issue. If we look at the hierarchy of infinite movers itself, is that whole hierarchy a moved mover or an unmoved mover?

  12. Brandon,

    How could a "hierarchy" be moved or unmoved ?

    Pal, what do you mean by this sentence ? :/

    (I get the basic metaphysical concepts like potentiality / actuality, hierarchical series / linear series, the principle of causation and the principle of proportionality but I never get any answer to my question that convinces me.
    I do not do it on purpose : I'd actually be glad to understand Aquinas better).

  13. Anon, Brandon is simply asking you whether the hierarchical series as a whole, which acts as a unit, is an unmoved mover or not.

  14. How could a "hierarchy" be moved or unmoved ?

    As Scott said. A 'hierarchical series' something that operates as a whole. Thus if you have A, B, and C, with A moving B to move C in a hierarchical series, then A moving B works in a unified way as a mover. Precisely because it is a hierarchical series, A moving B works as a single mover. If it doesn't work in this unified way, then it is not a hierarchical series in the first place.

    If it's a mover, however, we can ask whether it is moved or unmoved as a mover, just like with any other mover. So again: If we look at the hierarchy of infinite movers itself, is that whole hierarchy a moved mover or an unmoved mover?

  15. Mm.

    It could be moved or unmoved... For I do not know all the members of the series, how could I know ?

    There seems to be something you guys grasp, while I still do not.

    I should probably go back to TLS or Aquinas, I guess.

  16. If it's an unmoved mover, then since the lower parts of the hierarchy are clearly being moved, there must be some part of the hierarchy that is not moved, in which case that is an unmoved mover. On the other hand, if it's moved, that says that it has a mover other than itself, but since the hierarchical series is that of all the infinite movers of the change, what could possibly be the mover outside of the entire series of movers? That's a contradiction. Therefore there is an unmoved mover. But an unmoved mover is going to be the first in a series of movers; therefore there is a first mover.

  17. Oooow, okay !

    Well thank you very much for your explanations, things are clearer now.

    That should help me understand Aquinas better, muchas gracias.

  18. How formal does a student's study of philosophy have to be/have been for the Witherspoon Seminar? I'm a grad student in Public History at Rutgers at the tail end of my program (and a Lay Dominican novitiate, so I'll admit that Thomism is something that I'm in the midst of learning), but I haven't taken actual classes in philosophy since back during undergrad.

  19. Looking at the speakers for the Witherspoon, I'm guessing it will be accessible. These conferences are always such great fun anyway; often you get just as much out of the conversation in between presentations as from the presentations themselves.

  20. Right where Brandon says there is a contradiction, or just before, sometimes it helps me grasp the 'contradiction' by saying that the hierarchy couldn't be infinite because if there then were no mover, then there would be no movement. With no initiator there would be nothing ignited. In cosmological terms, without there being an Igniter to the Big Bang, nothing would be moved - there would be no ignition without an Igniter that Itself has no igniter before it. I hope that is a logical axiom.