Can Aquinas’ Cosmos Still Be Our Cosmos?

Paradiso_Canto_31When returning to learn from the great thinkers of the past, especially with an eye for what they can contribute to our discernment of what the modern age claims as true or to be believed, a balance must be struck so that, on the one hand, the truth from prior ages is not so emaciated in the transfer that the only connection it has with its original proponent is its author’s name, which we tack on as a helpful label to remind ourselves why it is made by that association important, and, on the other hand, that those truths from bygone eras are not weighed down by cultural and scientific baggage that encumber the truth still lurking within the work’s yellowed pages. Good intentions can lead to errors on either end, and this seems especially true when history reports that a thinker is one to be revered. St. Thomas Aquinas is frequently subjected to this. For instance, a recent short essay by Paul Krause claiming that “Thomas Aquinas’ cosmology and doctrine of the soul are vitalistic” is an example of the latter extreme, despite the good intentions of the essay’s author.

Continue reading Can Aquinas’ Cosmos Still Be Our Cosmos?

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First part of review essay published

9788432149160Just out in the journal Scientia et Fides is the first part of a three-part review essay, which I coauthored with Geoffrey Woollard, of Naturaleza creativa. The abstract of this first installment follows:

The short monograph Creative Nature (Francisco Javier Novo, Rubén Pereda, and Javier Sánchez -Cañizares. 2018. Naturaleza Creativa. Madrid: Rialp. ISBN: 978-84-321-4916-0. 196 pp. Paperback, €14.25) is a welcome contribution to the philosophy of nature that arose from interdisciplinary conversations between authors who are both up-to-date in the scientific literature and deeply grounded in the western intellectual tradition. The authors draw from modern physics, biochemistry, evolutionary biology, developmental biology and ecology to argue that nature is creative in the sense that an “open future” of our evolving world lies ahead. In this review essay, divided into three parts, we offer a chapter-by-chapter summary covering Nature, Life, Change, Limits, Functions and Creativity. In conclusion, we offer some pedagogical possibilities. The second part proposes certain points for deeper reflection.

Essay for The Federalist

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Just published today at The Federalist is an essay of mine analyzing, and providing some broader philosophical context, the recent Kansas Supreme Court decision regarding abortion and SB95. An excerpt:

The framers at Wyandotte in the times of “Bleeding Kansas” could see well enough, despite their limitations, the truth in the phrase “All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights.” Because of this, they constituted Kansas a free state, without slavery. Stegall has shown us that the killing of unborn children in Kansas, a state “birthed in the crucible of pitched battle between two opposed and irreconcilable ideas—government by consent or consent by government,” can only be declared a natural right by undermining the political liberty of its citizens.

A Natural Philosopher’s Lament

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Over at Public Discourse is a new essay of mine, “A Natural Philosopher’s Lament.” An excerpt from the essay:

There already exists a tradition of natural philosophy, originating with Aristotle and his medieval commentators. Just as a Thomistic natural law theory still defends the fundamental knowledge about which a wide-ranging tradition of jurisprudence and constitutional law has developed, so also this Aristotelian-Thomistic natural philosophy would defend knowledge that is fundamental to the modern sciences. The complexities of the modern sciences and the claims of rival versions of natural philosophy can be addressed by this tradition. Aristotle may yet have his revenge.

Chilean philosophy course comes to a close …

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After the end of the course, with those who attended the series of lectures.

Thanks to the good folks at Universidad Gabriela Mistral, and my good friend Pablo Maillet, my short extension course, a series of lectures on “God and Philosophy,” came to a successful close this week. A short description and news story from UGM can be found here. The Spanish text reads:

Yesterday saw the successful conclusion of a course given by Prof. John Brungardt, PhD Catholic University of America, which was conducted in our university during March and April. The course treated the contemporary debate over the existence of God and whether or not it is possible to demonstrate that God exists by way of modern science. The instructor, John Brungardt, with a doctorate in the philosophy of science and a current postdoctoral researcher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, reviewed the principal modern theories utilized by modern atheists. Among others, he considered the Big Bang Theory in the work of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, as well as Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which tend to be employed as demonstrating the non-existence of God. Dr. Brungardt explained that these theories do not support such a claim, much less in a conclusive or demonstrative way. Among those attending the course were religious, lawyers, and philosophers, complemented by the presence of students of various fields at our university.

Now that the course has finished, we are revising the text of the lectures. They will be published as a short book: Dios y la filosofía: La existencia del divino, la sabiduría de Santo Tomás y la cosmología moderna.

A Genius in Rome & the Genius of Rome

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The engraved frontispiece of Galileo Galilei’s Dialogue of the Two Chief World Systems, published 1632; showing (left to right) Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Copernicus.

The following essay is a reflection based upon William R. Shea and Mariano Artigas’ Galileo in Rome: The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius (New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2003). (Originally posted, 28 December 2012.) Continue reading A Genius in Rome & the Genius of Rome

Call for Papers: CEPOS 2019 at the ACPA

For those interested, consider submitting papers to CEPOS. Details below.

Catholic Engagement in Philosophy of Science at ACPA 2019

CEPOS Satellite Session(s) at the 2019 meeting of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

November 21-24, 2019

Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Send ~ 500 word abstracts to dist0011@stthomas.edu by May 1, 2019.

We invite abstracts for papers related to Catholic Engagement in Philosophy of Science (CEPOS) to be presented at CEPOS satellite session(s) at the 2019 ACPA meeting in Minneapolis, MN.

Catholic Engagement in Philosophy of Science (CEPOS) seeks to cultivate sober perspective on the history and current state of engagement with (especially mainstream, anglophone) philosophy of science among Catholic intellectuals. CEPOS aims to articulate, explore, and evaluate a variety of approaches to philosophy of science as they relate to the Catholic intellectual tradition. These approaches include explicit philosophies of science, as well as ones implicit in and shaping theological work, hierarchical church documents and actions, and evaluations of the relevance of the sciences to metaphysics, philosophy of nature, and theology.

Questions to Peter Distelzweig dist0011@stthomas.edu.