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Spotlight on a Traveling Thomist: Dr. Brian Carl

Dr. Brian CarlDr. Brian Carl, associate professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas-Houston, chair of the Philosophy Department and director of the Center for Thomistic Studies, took to the road this summer – Rome, Barcelona, and Washington, D.C., to present at several prestigious conferences. The Center for Thomistic Studies was founded in 1975 by Fr. Victor Brezik, CSB, and is the only graduate program in North America specially devoted to Thomistic philosophy.

Carl also serves as secretary of the American Catholic Philosophical Association where he is finishing a four-year term.

Carl received an M.A. in Philosophy from Saint Louis University and a Ph.D in Philosophy from the Catholic University of America, where he wrote his dissertation on the order of the divine attributes in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. He taught philosophy at the Dominican House of Studies, the home of the Thomistic Institute, from 2009-2019. He has been at the University of St. Thomas since 2019.

“I grew up in Houston, and then ended up studying Thomistic philosophy in graduate school, so coming to UST and to the Center for Thomistic Studies felt like a homecoming in more than one way,” Carl said.

Carl’s work focuses on medieval metaphysics, especially the philosophical theology of St. Thomas, as well as topics in philosophy of religion and cognitive theory. Some of his recent work has focused on the reconcilability of Thomistic metaphysics with the theory of evolution.

·         “The Divine Attributes”; a workshop for graduate students co-sponsored by the Thomistic Institute at the Angelicum and Rutgers University (in Rome) on May 8-12, 2023. For the workshop on the divine attributes, Carl gave three presentations on “Divine Simplicity,” “Divine Perfection,” and “Divine Goodness.”

Carl said, “For the workshop in Rome, in each case my presentations concerned how St. Thomas and Thomists think about God’s simplicity, perfection, and goodness; I was in each case paired with an eminent philosopher of religion who works on the divine attributes from the tradition of contemporary analytic philosophy. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together in conversation Thomistic approaches and contemporary analytic approaches. The conversations were excellent, and I think the workshop was very valuable for the graduate students present.”

·         Symposium Thomisticum VI: Aquinas on Nature (in Barcelona) on June 1-3, 2023. Carl’s talk in Barcelona was titled “In Search of Perfecting Being: Divine Perfection in Aquinas and His Sources.”

“For the conference in Barcelona, my presentation concerned the role of divine perfection in St. Thomas’ understanding of God,” Carl said. “I was arguing against a common recent interpretation of St. Thomas. This topic also involves engagement with contemporary philosophers, because ‘perfect being theology’ draws much interest in contemporary philosophy of religion among Thomist and non-Thomist philosophers.”

While at the conference, he visited several faculty members from Universitat Abat Oliba CEU, an ICUSTA university, who were involved in co-organizing the Symposium Thomisticum VI.

·         Thomistic Philosophy and Natural Science Symposium (in Washington, D.C.) on July 12-16, 2023. He spoke on “An Introduction to Philosophy of Nature.”

“The symposium in Washington, D.C. aims at bringing together Thomistic philosophers with contemporary scientists,” he said. “This year, for example, one of the scientists who gave a presentation was Stephen Mrenna, a particle physics scientist from Fermilab. The symposium always begins with a little ‘crash course’ in Thomistic natural philosophy; this is the first time I’ve been asked to give that talk. At past events, I have given talks on, for instance, how to reconcile Thomistic metaphysics with the theory of biological evolution.” This was the fifth annual occasion of this symposium, and Carl has been invited to speak at four of them.

Carl notes, “I regularly travel to present at other universities for invited lectures and talks, as do my colleagues – other traveling Thomists – Dr. Tom Osborne, Dr. Steven Jensen and Dr. Mirela Oliva.” Carl is headed to Cornell University to give two lectures in October, and to Trinity University in San Antonio in November. There has been a tremendous increase of interest in the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas over the last couple of decades, both within the Catholic world and beyond, and Carl and his colleagues in the Center for Thomistic Studies are blessed to participate in this renewal.