|L. Statistician to the Stars; C. yr.obt. svt.; R. Philosophical rock star|
TOF wandered into NYC on this past Saturday to attend a free symposium about Thomas Aquinas & Philosophical Realism, the price being within his range. One of the featured speakers was the estimable philosopher Ed Feser. TOF's Faithful Reader may recall that that the good Doctor provided philosophical review of TOF's soon-to-be-beloved-classic "Places Where the Roads Don't Go," which features a philosopher as one of its characters. (A computer scientist and a topologist round out the major characters.) Dr. Ed allowed as how TOF did not screw up the philosophy stuff too badly.
Also present in the audience was Wm. M. Briggs, the famed Statistician to the Stars, who has left an account of the symposium on his own blog at the link just given. The esteemed Dr. Briggs, whose name is William but calls himself Matt, is a post-Bayesian who delights in skewering various statistical studies in what are puckishly called the social "sciences." TOF, in his secret identity, exercises his way kool mind powers as Ye Olde Statistician when in puckish mood, but is merely a poor, simple-minded quality engineer.
Thus the blogging mojo concentrated in one spot nearly reached critical mass. Curiously, two guys who comment on Ed's blog were also present, and both were named Matt. What is the probability of that, you may ask. Don't ask, since there ain't such a thing absent a model.
As Faithful Reader can discern from the photograph above, both Matt and Ed have the height on TOF. But, aha!, TOF has them beat on the other two dimensions.
The symposium was held in the Catholic Center at New York University hard by Washington Square and Greenwich Village. The Center is run by Dominicans. TOF is more accustomed to Franciscans in brown robes, so all those white robes made him nervous wondering where the torture chambers were hidden. Or perhaps the albino assassins...? But no, the albino assassins are run out of another Order.
Dr. Briggs has a more detailed review of the proceedings and interested readers are referred there, but a few observations follow.
The first speaker was James Brent, O.P. (Order of Preachers), from The Catholic University of America, who spoke on “The Principle of Non-Contradiction Yesterday, Today, and Forever.” He was in favor of it, which was a relief. But it is astonishing how many Late Moderns buy into the ancient Greek and medieval muslim notion that humans are in general incapable of knowing Truth. This is only one of the many mice nibbling at the foundations of Western Civilization these days. Fr. Brent's talk was given in the form of a dialectic Question, a joy of clarity and logic.
The second speaker, Dr. Candace Vogler, made a case that notions of natural teleology have been creeping back into late modern discourse. Not the true quill, of course, and philosophers always have to give things a new name to prove they are not just repeating the ancients, but it has been coming up more and more in various guises. Of course, in the sciences one finds teleology constantly denied and constantly relied upon: attractor basins, equilibrium states, completion, adaptation, and so on. Dr. Vogler didn't mention such things, but they came irresistibly to the mind of TOF.
Dr. Ed Feser gave a marvelous presentation on what sounded like an all-purpose cosmological argument. The part where the divine attributes clicked into place one after the other was mathematically elegant. Afterward, TOF went up and got Ed's autograph on two of his books that TOF just happened to have brought with him. (He also gave Matt and Ed autographed copies of The January Dancer.)
Dr. John Haldane was the final speaker and addressed the question of philosophical realism per se, distinguishing several cases and raising the possibility that Thomas was not a realist in the pure sense. Then he looked up and said, Don't worry. Derrida has not just slouched into the room.
In between, TOF and the Incomparable Marge had lunch with the impeccably dressed Statistician to the Stars and his Number One son. Three-piece suit, pocket square, fedora. He lacked only a silver-headed walking stick and kid gloves. Sure and it was enough to make TOF wish he had dressed up, or at least brought his shillelagh. We repaired to a nearby pub which, ominously, was empty at lunch time. Fortunately, the food was good, and the place filled up as time went on. TOF ordered a Guinness, which started a stampede for the black gold.
After the symposium, TOF and the Marge went over to St. Joseph for mass. Good organ, real pipes as far as TOF could tell, and not a single Marty Haugen ditty to be heard. The cantor (a Dominican) was in good voice.
After the mass we connected with Julio, a friend we have not seen in a while, and hunted up dinner at a place called McCoy at the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal streets. Can't get more Village than that. Along the way there, the Marge saved TOF's life again, for he twisted his ankle on one of those curb cuts designed to aid wheelchairs and a staggering step allowed TOF to grab hold of the Marge and not fall to the pavement and perhaps damage the concrete.
The place was also empty when we arrived, but the food turned out to be both outstanding and sufficient and again we were simply ahead of the curve. TOF had the yellow-fin tuna. Julio used to get us tickets to the opera, but he thinks the Met has gone downhill in the past few years. They have not run a Gilbert and Sullivan play in a while.
A long drive back to Rath UaFhloinn and enough time to rise early the next day and head to Cherry Hill for a brief appearance at Philcon. But that is a tale for another day.