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. After a short stint in the philosophy department at John Carroll University in Cleveland, he came back to St. Louis University in 1961.
Professor Blackwell is an authority in the history of philosophy, the history and philosophy of science, and is one of the world’s foremost experts on the Galileo affair. 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, Bernard Lonergan, 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 Robert J. Richards (Chicago); Gary Gutting (Notre Dame, 1942- 2019); and Dominic Balestra (Fordam, 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 uninformed 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, his even temper and gentlemanly manner inspire me to this day. 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.