Philosophy professor discusses ideas, values of philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe


Alex Plato, assistant professor of philosophy at Franciscan University, spoke Sept. 24 to a group of Franciscan students, sharing the personality and the philosophy of Elizabeth Anscombe, after whom the Anscombe Society is named.

Plato, who holds a doctorate in philosophy, is fascinated by Anscombe, and he even wrote his doctoral dissertation on her ideas. Plato described the Anscombe Society as “a group of people inspired by Anscombe’s view on truth, ethics and human sexuality.”

Plato began his talk by telling stories about Anscombe, a woman whom he described as “brusque,” as she once ate beans right out of a can while giving a talk on the importance of formalities. Another time, when told that she was not allowed to wear pants, she promptly took them off, said Plato.

He said that Anscombe cared deeply about truth and justice and was known for disrupting the activities of abortion clinics.

Anscombe believed that in order to better understand ethics, it is necessary to look at things not as being “right” or “wrong,” “moral” or “immoral,” but rather in terms of what virtues or vices those things foster, explained Plato.

Plato explained that pride is exemplified in vanity and arrogance, and he also discussed ways in which lust disturbs a person’s judgment.

“Lust can’t see sexuality correctly,” he said.

He also talked about Anscombe’s idea of mystical values. He said one such value is respect for the human body, as seen in the fact that the dead are not simply set on the curb for the trash collector to pick up. It is not because this is a law, but rather because humans have an innate understanding of the dignity of the human person, said Plato.

Plato said that one reason he loves to talk about Anscombe is that “the best way to compliment a philosopher is to argue with them.”

Students were fascinated to hear Anscombe’s insight on their Catholic values.

“I think this talk offered a unique perspective, and one that will resonate outside of the hill of Franciscan,” said student Alex Anderson.

The Anscombe Society meets on a weekly basis.

“Each week, we discuss an article related to family, marriage and sexual integrity,” said Anscombe Society president Pablo Boteyo.

Plato’s lecture was sponsored by Student Government.