In Ghent

Posted on March 22, 2011

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Last week I was at the University of Ghent in Belgium. The main reason for my visit was that I was on the doctoral committee for Maarten Boudry but I also took the opportunity to give a talk to some of the people in the philosophy department there. Given that the defence is now over, it is probably OK to say that I was very impressed with Maarten’s thesis. His interests and approach are very similar to my own but, much more importantly, he has shown the ability to synthesise a lot of information from a great variety of sources to argue for significant conclusions. I have been recommending to people who are interested in my work that they look at his, also. He had already published a number of papers that are helping to push forward thought on thoroughly naturalised approaches to science and religion. I will be making use of some of them in my own book.

The talk I gave was the first run through of one of the talks I will be giving in the US. While I wasn’t altogether satisfied with the way in which I presented the talk, the audience was particularly knowledgeable in the area. Both Helen de Cruz and Johan Braeckman attended – as did Maarten of course – which meant that there was extensive and interesting discussion after the talk. While I enjoy presenting in front of almost any audience, having one that is familiar with the general topic makes it possible to engage them at a much more productive level. It also means that any faults in my presentation are all that much more likely to be spotted and analysed.

Finally, I should mention that Ghent would have to be one of the most beautiful places to do philosophy. The hotel I stayed in is located right next to the castle and is surrounded by streets and canals lined with renaissance townhouses, each more striking than the next. The sheer quantity of stunning architecture on show seemed almost profligate, being more than sufficient for several historical towns and certainly much more than I could have hoped to grasp in a single visit. Will have to do something about that in the future, I think.

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