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Aquinas Lecturer to Address Power of Language

Providence, R.I. — Dr. David Twetten, an associate professor of philosophy at Marquette University, will deliver Providence College’s annual St. Thomas Aquinas Lecture on Thursday, January 26, at 4 p.m. in Aquinas Lounge.

Twetten’s talk, "The Power of Language and Reality: Philosophy of Language and Aquinas’ Doctrine of Being", will expand upon an ongoing campus conversation on the power of language. Sponsored by the Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies (CCDS), the lecture is open to the public. A reception will follow in the CCDS.

Aquinas places his doctrine of existence at the center of his philosophical system by asserting that the existence of something has to be “really distinct” from its essence — namely, that there is a real difference between “that something is” and “what something is”. 

Modern philosophers have had difficulty in determining the viability of Aquinas’ proof for this distinction, but in his presentation, Twetten will show how we can retrieve Aquinas’ distinction by refocusing our attention on Aquinas’ doctrine of essence and the classical philosophy wrapped up into this concept.

Moreover, in the 20th century’s “turn to language", Twetten also sees a possible inroad for reuniting these concepts of essence and existence by looking at the “power of language” and the “power of reality.” In this way, Twetten demonstrates the compatibility of classical categories with contemporary semantics and metaphysics. 

Twetten, who earned a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Toronto in 1993, has been teaching at Marquette since 1993. He has taught metaphysics, Aquinas, and analytic philosophy, in addition to other topics. Twetten’s areas of interest include contemporary semantics and essentialism, the history of analytic philosophy, metaphysics and the philosophy of religion, and Averroes, Aquinas, and Albert the Great. 

Twetten’s lecture is scheduled two days before the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a Dominican Friar, priest, philosopher, and theologian. He retrieved the wisdom of Aristotle and lent it to the service of divine revelation and, in doing so, effected a brilliant synthesis of faith and reason.

Aquinas is hailed as the "Angelic Doctor of the Church" and is the patron saint of Catholic schools and students.

The St. Thomas Aquinas Lecture on Philosophy and Theology is one of four annual lectures presented by the CCDS through the generosity of Edward J. Quinn, Jr. ’63 and his wife, Kathleen Reilly Quinn. 

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