William Desmond, a native of Ireland, is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), and the Cook Visiting Chair in Philosophy at Villanova University. For spring 2017, he will be the Visiting Austin and Ann O’Malley Chair at the Bioethics Institute.
The work of Prof. Desmond is truly breathtaking, and addresses questions in metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of religion, and political theory. The author of over 20 books and countless scholarly articles, he is, as Paul Weiss put it, “the leading philosopher of his generation.”
Let me expand on such judgment by mentioning at least three reasons for regarding Desmond’s work as extraordinary. First, there is the broad spectrum of philosophical concerns I already mentioned. Second, there is a willingness on his part to address philosophical issues in their ultimate significance and existential importance. The practice of philosophy is, in a sense, before, or perhaps beyond, theory. It begins in the between, feeding on the wonder for the givenness of being, and on the systematic articulation of the perplexities raised by such presence: Why is there being and not nothing? What does it mean to be? What is to be good? What of being religious, and how does mindfulness of reality alert the thinker to the signs of the divine at the heart of things? Third, the work of Desmond is characterized by an incessant dialogue with the great figures of the history of philosophy, Plato, Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche in particular. The dialogue is a carried out as a respectful attempt to gauge the answers of those who, coming before us, have already entertained the depth of the perplexities we also face; yet it is a conversation that aims at retrieving the heart of the philosophical matter, rather than getting lost in an endless conflict of interpretations about authors and ideas. All his books reveal a freshness of thinking, and a moving, in fact poetic, originality of language.
The height of Desmond’s presence at the Institute will be the O’Malley Chair lecture, on February 15th. The title of the lecture is “Chattel of the gods: Assisted Suicide and the Politics of Patience.” We have envisioned his presence, however, as one that extends beyond the confines of the Bioethics Institute. Events are scheduled for several departments and academic units, including Philosophy, Theological Studies, and Irish Studies. (For a schedule of events, please, click here).
William Desmond will have an office at the Bioethics Institute, and share in the life of the Institute for the time of his stay.