The Traveling Philosopher

Categories: Features

Earlier this summer, Fr. Michael Dodds, O.P., one of our professors at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (DSPT) in Berkeley, was invited to present at two conferences which attracted a number of esteemed scholars. He shares his experience below:

The first conference occurred at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where I spent an enjoyable week with our Dominican Community at Saint Albert’s Catholic Chaplaincy. The conference was titled, “The Uniformity of Nature: Natural Laws, Natural Powers or Divine Action.” Eight speakers, including philosophers, theologians, and scientists, presented lectures on various aspects of the topic to 80 participants, including Fr. Robert Verrill, O.P., a friar from the English Province who is now studying at DSPT. In my talk entitled, “Science, Causality, and God: On Finding the Right Conjunction,” I emphasized (with the help of Aquinas’ philosophy and theology) that natural laws, natural powers, and divine action are not mutually exclusive. That being said, it might have been better for the conference to use the conjunction “and” rather than “or” in its title.

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Fr. Michael Dodds, O.P., speaks with other conference participants. Photo courtesy of Mount Saint Mary College.

The second conference took place on the beautiful campus of Mount Saint Mary College, overlooking the Hudson River in Newburgh, NY. The fifth of a series of annual Thomistic philosophy workshops designed especially for MA philosophy students, it was entitled “Aquinas and the Philosophy of Nature,” and was sponsored by The Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture and The Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. It included nine major talks, as well as student presentations and panel discussions. There were about 180 participants, including Br. Christopher Wetzel, O.P., of our province. In my presentation, entitled “Degrees of Perfection in Nature? The Hierarchy of Forms and Modern Cosmology,” I pointed out that although the notion of  “hierarchy” is foreign to many scientists, the recovery of the notion of “form” in many branches of science that now recognize the phenomenon of emergence (which rejects reductionism and affirms that “wholes” are somehow greater than their parts) allows for an affirmation of degrees of goodness in nature. This, in itself, is the basis for Aquinas’ “fourth way” of showing that God exists (ST, I, q2, art3). Each day’s schedule included Mass in the college chapel, and ample time for conversations and debates over meals and at the evening social.