‘The power of beauty’: Franciscan’s annual philosophy conference discusses aesthetics with hundreds of attendants


More than 200 people, including philosophers, theologians, musicians and artists from around the world, gathered at this year’s philosophy conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville to discuss the power of beauty.

The 2014 annual conference on Christian philosophy, titled “The Power of Beauty” was held Oct. 24-25. This year’s conference boasted the highest attendance since its conception in 1999 by Franciscan’s master’s program in philosophy.

“We had a very positive reaction from the participants. They repeatedly said that the papers presented were of a high quality,” said John Crosby, director of the master’s program and a professor of philosophy. Acquaintances and friendships were made, and the conference was a great success in terms of interaction among the participants, he said.

The event featured 65 papers on the topic of beauty. The papers were written and presented by professors, musicians, artists and students from various universities in the country and others from Italy, Austria, Canada, the Philippines, Spain and Chile. Franciscan students, faculty and alumni presented papers too.

The Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project, the co-sponsor of this year’s event, suggested the focus on aesthetics.

Crosby noted that there had never been a conference at Franciscan devoted to the topic of beauty before.

“It’s an important but neglected topic,” he said.

Joseph Danaher, the conference coordinator and assistant to Crosby, said people often talk about what’s true and good, but forget beauty.

“So it’s wonderful that this conference was able to focus on something that’s so important in everyone’s life – and that’s beauty,” he said.

In addition to the topic, Danaher and Crosby said that the collaboration of the Hildebrand Project and the master’s program in philosophy helped make the event successful.

The co-sponsored project shared the resources, expenses and volunteers of the two organizations.

Crosby and his son, John Henry Crosby, founder and director of the Hildebrand Project, orchestrated the event to make it possible, Danaher said.

Also, there were at least a dozen students and faculty who were involved in coordinating, planning and marketing the event. Selected faculty and philosophy graduate students moderated the sessions, as well.

“That was a great help to us,” Danaher said.

They were also able to bring in a well-known philosopher of aesthetics, Roger Scruton, for the keynote address followed by an open discussion.

Danaher said, “(The conference) helped get Franciscan University and the Hildebrand Project’s name out there as important centers for philosophical development.”

This is precisely the goal of each year’s conference. Crosby said it is not only to engage students and faculty but also to promote further philosophical discussion between ourselves and those outside the university.

As for next year’s conference topic, Crosby said, “We’ll put our ear to the ground for what issues are of interest.”

Video recordings of the conference’s presentations will be on Franciscan University’s and the Hildebrand Project’s websites in the near future. Also, Crosby said the best of the papers presented at the conference will be published within a year in “Questiones Disputatae,” the scholarly journal of Franciscan’s philosophy department.