Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, is speaking Thursday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Friday at 4 p.m. in Dow A & B to address logic, heaven, and Christian unity.
The Catholic Society partnered with InterVarsity, the Lutheran Society, and the departments of education and philosophy and religion, and the chaplain’s office to sponsor this lecture series, which will cover a range of subjects from the possibility of Christian interdenominational unity to the apparent tension between Aristotelian and modern logic.
Kreeft has written 75 books on logic, Christian apologetics, Catholic Christianity, C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and surfing.
Catholic Society President junior Ryan Asher said the society’s board members wanted to start a discussion across campus. Asher said Kreeft came to mind because he’s a notable academic speaker and author who, while Catholic, would appeal to campus as a whole because of his philosophical background and ability to give an ecumenical talk.
“We need to change the dimension in which we think about Christianity,” Asher said, regarding the tendency to focus on denominational differences. “We need to go back to square one: We share a lot more than we disagree on, and what we share isn’t superficial.”
Asher predicts Kreeft’s lecture will urge Catholics and Protestants to see Christ in each other’s faith.
Junior Emily Barnum, who is involved with dorm ministry at Olds Residence through InterVarsity, said the topic reflects the genuineness of faith on campus.
“The fact that we have a speaker coming shows these are the things we are thinking about, that we’re all passionate about Christ but that we’re willing to engage people we disagree with, which helps make the faith here so strong,” she said.
As for Kreeft’s lecture on heaven, Asher said it’ll be especially relevant since it’s the week after Easter: “Heaven is what we’re all moving toward.”
Junior Hannah McIntyre, a philosophy and religion major, learned about Kreeft through friends who read his proofs for God’s existence and the small reflections on aspects of the spiritual life, like joy and peace, he posts on his website.
“He’s good at making these ideas practical and accessible to anybody looking to take their spiritual life seriously and cultivate these virtues, using great analogies,” she said. “They’re eloquent and simple and pretty profound.”
McIntyre said she’s excited for both the discussions of the spiritual life and the relationship between logic and philosophy his lectures will inspire. In particular, Kreeft’s lecture on traditional versus modern logic interests her.
“I know there’s some controversy about the nature of what modern logic ‘has done,’ but I’m not super familiar with the debate,” McIntyre said.
Because of this, McIntyre said, there’s a tendency, especially among students, to fall back on Aristotle and Aquinas, anything classical or medieval, to scoff at modernity.
Since taking her second class with Ian Church, a visiting assistant professor of philosophy on campus who specializes in analytic philosophy and logic, however, McIntyre said she has started reconsidering the tension
She said Church’s classes have shown her the depth of contemporary analytic philosophy and how it’s possible to take good things occurring in the movement and incorporate them into the tradition of Aquinas to make it better.
In Church’s view, modern logic is the gold standard in contemporary philosophy, but that doesn’t put it in conflict with the Western intellectual tradition. Historically, he said, contemporary philosophers pitted modern logic against Aristotelian logic to show its deficiencies, but he said he doesn’t see a need to maintain this opposition.
“The Western intellectual tradition isn’t bound to the past, it lives on today,” Church said. “I don’t think modern logic is in any way at odds with the kind of liberal-arts education we love here at Hillsdale.”
Whether in the realm of philosophy or the realm of religion, Kreeft’s lecture series will provoke discussions about unity within the tradition. Church is using this as an opportunity to discuss the development of modern logic as well as the contemporary philosophers using this philosophy to uphold the Western tradition. Asher said Kreeft’s talk will be an opportunity to return to square one and find commonality between Catholics and Protestants.
“Disunity is a tragedy, not a source of pride, and it can be dangerous,” Asher said. “We need a change in atmosphere here — which is sometimes negative — and we need to focus on our common ground, which is a love of Christ.”