Monday, March 21, 2005

NYU, #1 School for Philosophy?

According to Leiter Reports, NYU is ranked #1 in Philosophy programs nationwide and internationally!? Of course, I am not even in any position to judge that, nor am I protesting this, I'm just surprised. I'd never even heard of NYU's Philosophy Program, which is why it hit me out of the blue.

In looking at NYU's philosophy faculty's website, I see there's a lot of Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Mind and Philosophy of Language types. I suppose that's pretty much what conteporary philosophy is all about these days: mind/body issues, language and meaning, and science issues.

I find this interesting because Catholic Philosophy departments are a whole different animal. For instance, Catholic University's Philosophy department, to the contemporary eye is a History of Philosophy program. There's a pre-socratics person, a Plato(nic) [Plato-Augustine type] person, a bunch of Artistotaleans, Medieval Arabic person, Franciscan Scholastics Person, a bunch Thomas Aquinas people, a couple of Moderns, a couple of philosophy of science people and a healthy slew of German Kant to Husserl types. For its specialties, it is pretty top notch.

Boston College appears to have a similar faculty distribution and focus as Catholic University.

My perception is that Catholic philosophers feel that the work has been all done and all that's needed is basically a restatement in terms of modern science and contemporary world views. I've heard Catholic U philosophy students speak of with no hesitation of the utility of Aquinas' five ways of proving God's existence. I suppose that's why I am in Theology.

However, looking at Notre Dame's faculty, it's hard to see how one can get any more well rounded than that. But Notre Dame's a different beast. With all that money, they can do whatever they want. Georgetown, I suppose, is in the same boat. They have a very well rounded faculty and the school has boat loads of money to throw around.

Part of my interest here has to do with my present reading. I am reading about Newman and his Oxford buddies in the 19th century. Apparently, Oxford at the time was a joke educationally speaking and lagging in intellectual quality to the continental developments. Great Britain is always an interesting test case because it is a study in the effect of isolation and intellectual inbreeding. Most intellectuals in England at the time were simply unaware of developments in Germany and other places. There was no cross pollination of ideas and the few times English men ventured to explain the developments in German theology, it raised huge outcries.

Not that the German rationalists would have done much positive for British theology and piety, it is nonetheless exciting to imagine how John Henry Newman and others would have reacted to that stream of intellectual thought from the Kants, Hegels, and Schleiemarchers of the world.

I say this because the situation in Catholic schools seems to mirror that kind of isolation. Catholic philosophers engage in discussion among themselvs without much awareness of what's going on outside of those circles (simplistic and broad statement, I agree). Of course there is the issue of an anti-Catholic intellectual bigotry in the secular philosophy world, but why not? After all, religion has always appeared to impede honest intellectual investigations. Also, compounding things is that fact that the compatibility of faith and reason is a principle of faith. To the secular eye, it is hard to argue that Catholic philosophy is not operating with a presumption in favor of Church dogma.

Anyway, that's that.


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