Phi Sigma Tau 9th Annual Midwest Undergraduate Philosophy Conference in Omaha, Nebraska

April 19, 2007 § 7 Comments

I just wanted to offer my thanks to everyone for all your support as I prepared my paper for the conference! Special gratitude is due to Dr. White and Dr. Matthias Vorwerk (for proofreading), Dr. Doolan (for his wonderfully helpful advice on presentations/questions), and Fr. Pritzl and Dr. De Groot for all their support. Everything went wonderfully. Not too many people came to hear my paper (nine or ten) but there was a half an hour of questions when I was finished, none of which I had expected. I thought there would be further questions on mimesis in Plato or maybe numbers in the Pythagoreans…no, most of the questions were about the quote from Augustine that I used in the second sentence of my paper (the one about the Eternal Numbers of God). Thankfully, we read that text in full for Dr. Doolan’s class a couple months ago, so I knew enough to give decent answers. I wasn’t nervous at all, and I think gave succinct answers to all the questions.

It was a lot of fun to chat and discuss philosophy with students from other universities and backgrounds. The conference as a whole was a real eye-opener: there were only two other students there out of 90 professors and students who had any real understanding in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy. In fact, I spoke with one professor and he said he hadn’t cracked open Aquinas in 40+ years! That is really sad…

Most of the papers were on Darwin, Marxism, Feminism, or even Peter Singer. After one paper (on Hard vs. Soft Determinism) the professors and students spent the entire half hour Q&A session discussing what “hylemorphism” means – they honestly had no clue. It just goes to show what students of Philosophy and especially professors at the CUA School of Philosophy are up against. Thank God for CUA Philosophy, passing on the torch of Western philosophy to the ages.

All things considered, I had a great time at the conference and wish I could have been there for the whole thing. Perhaps I will be able to either (a) deliver a paper again in the future or (b) simply attend another conference, whether graduate or undergraduate. I would definitely like to at some point.


§ 7 Responses to Phi Sigma Tau 9th Annual Midwest Undergraduate Philosophy Conference in Omaha, Nebraska

  • Ah! I didn’t even realize you had given this already. I thought you were doing that this weekend. I’m glad things went well.

    I sometimes wonder if Catholic programs are the only places that teach their students the entire history of philosophy. You’d think that if some line of thinking e.g. hylomorphism, had been “all the rage” up until the modern period that professors would deem it necessary to at least know what it means. But hey! Why do that when you could read such great authors like Singer?

  • Genna says:

    lol – I was talking to Dr. Vorwerk yesterday afternoon and told him the story about hylemorphism…he laughed and commented that any first-year student at CUA could define it in one sentence! Too true.

    But that is just the thing: Creighton is a Jesuit (supposedly Catholic) University with a “Catholic program”, and so they read…Singer? Ergh. What on earth is the world coming to?

  • James Bailey Brislin says:

    It’s hard to cram everything one ought to have into an undergraduate degree. You’re correct that there is a lot less attention to the history of philosophy in the secular academy. Still bully for you going out there and presenting. This actually is huge both because you illuminate philosophical topics that most of the conferees are unfamiliar with and in so doing advance the reputation of the school.

    Many of the philosophy students at other schools have a better training in logic.

    One of the reasons why I enjoyed the class at Fordham was because it opened my eyes up to how philosophy was studies in much of the rest of the academy.

    If you can, you should try to do a philosophy course at a place like University of Maryland to get a better vantage. CUA does a valiant job at trying to present philosophy post-Hegel, but reality is such that it is mostly covered in the last semester of senior year. I do think that the undergraduate philosophy program is second to none for what you’ll learn.

    I hope that you’re well.

  • Genna says:

    Wow, James, I didn’t know you were reading this blog too! I’m honored. :-)

    That is a great idea about taking a philosophy course elsewhere. As I am planning to pursue graduate studies in philosophy at CUA (encouraged by Dr. De Groot), it would probably be a good compromise to take a couple courses at University of Maryland just to broaden my horizons.

    I hope you are doing well too! Praying for you…

  • James Bailey Brislin says:


    I am doing well. Things are going so well up here. Spring has finally arrived, and it is finally gorgeous. The weather has become more temperate, but most importantly we have had lots of sunlight.

    On another note, I actually have some good news that I would prefer to share in person. Is there a time I can call you once the exam circus is over? Send me an email off-list. Don’t worry about being brief.

    Given that you’re in the B.A. program, I think it’s smart to get the M.A. at CUA. That said, you should probably get the Ph.D. at another institution. Where you go is going to depend on what you want to focus on. That said, I think you’re smart to milk the commuter student thing as much as you can- so many fewer headaches.

    I know that living at home can be annoying sometimes, but it is good from the moral, spiritual, health, and economic perspectives.

    You know it’s funny, I’ve been thinking about it. The evangelial counsel to poverty- it’s not so much about if a man’s a CEO- so much as how he behaves with his money. If there is one thing I ahve discovered, there is nothing to bog one down like necessary ownership of real property. “The more you own something, the more it owns you.” I learned that the hard way moving cross country. Of course considering that time is kingdom, I now undertand the point Christ was making to his disciples- don’t let things bog you down.

    I hope to make it down to Washington some point during the summer. I’ll tell you more about that when we talk. Until then, Christ’s peace be with you. Rest assured of my prayers.

    Christus Crescat!


  • phamilton says:

    So you two know each other, huh? James, did you find my blog through Genna’s blog, or did you find hers through mine?

  • James says:

    So, to answer your question, Paul, I do know Genna. We go back quite a while to gosh… let’s see here. I recall being introduced to Genna in the fall of 2004 by the erstwhile Mr. Kevin Donlon. Kevin was a good friend with whom I shared interests that ranged from Chesterton to traditional Hibernian culture.

    But to answer your question, I found your blog through Genna’s blog. It must have been either through a comment or a link.

    But so I saw that you were a St. Louis seminarian studying philosophy at T.C.

    Well, as a former CUA Ph.B. student, I was naturally interested in what you had to say on your blog.

    But so I suppose the lesson from this is that it really is a small Catholic world out there. It’s great to see how St. Louis is returning to its rightful place as a major center of gravity for Catholic life in America and of course CUA is a great Catholic intellectual crossroads.

    Christus Crescat!

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