My Academic Geneology
I received my Ph.D. in philosophy in 1992, completing my dissertation under the direction of Richard J. Blackwell, who at the time held the Danforth Chair in Humanities at Saint Louis University. He is currently Professor Emeritus.
Professor Blackwell (1929 -) was educated at MIT, (where he studied history and physics) and St. Louis University, where he received his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1954. Later he did graduate work in physics. After a stint in the philosophy department at John Carroll University in Cleveland, he came back to St. Louis University in 1961. He is an authority in the history of philosophy, the history and philosophy of science, and is probably the world’s foremost living expert on the Galileo affair about which he written four books:
1) Galileo, Bellarmine, and the Bible
2) Science, Religion and Authority: Lessons from the Galileo Affair
3) Behind the Scenes at Galileo’s Trial
4) A Defense of Galileo, the Mathematician from Florence
He was the 2001 recipient of the Aquinas Medal for: “Outstanding teaching; personal publications of permanent and scholarly value; [and] influence upon American philosophical thought without reference to membership in the American Catholic Philosophical Association.” Past recipients include some of the most illustrious names in 20th-century philosophy: Jacques Maritain, Etienne Gilson, Frederick Copleston, Yves Simon, Vernon J. Bourke, James Collins, and Ernan McMullin. In addition to his outstanding record of scholarly achievement, Professor Blackwell directed more than 30 dissertations during his tenure at St. Louis. His Ph.D. students include Gary Gutting (Notre Dame) Robert J. Richards (Chicago) and Dominic Balestra (Fordham, 1947 – 2016), among others.
Professor Blackwell’s dissertation, Aristotle’s Theory of Predication, was completed under the direction of Leonard J. Eslick. Professor Eslick, who died in 1991, received his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in the early 1930s. I met him once at a Christmas party where he told me that Professor Blackwell was the best student he ever had.
I was especially influenced by Professor Blackwell’s belief that philosophical thinking not informed by modern science—particularly physics and evolutionary theory—was superfluous. Through a series of his seminars, I came to realize that physical, mental, social, biological and cosmic life all evolve. This led me to conclude that through the process of development lies the only viable hope for humankind and their post-human descendants. Moreover, Professor Blackwell was one of the most humble, kind, and generous men I’ve ever known. I will forever be indebted to him for his contribution to my education.
I was also influenced by Professor William C. Charron. He is an authority on game theory, modern philosophy, social and political philosophy, and the literature and philosophy of T.S. Eliot. His clarity of mind and love of the craft of writing still influence me today.