Reflections on the Plantinga Retirement Conference with Tribute
May 24, 2010 — 15:23

Author: Trent Dougherty  Category: General  Comments: 7

The Plantinga Retirement conference was just amazing. It was a blast to see so many of the folks I like to talk to in one place, the average quality of participants and attendees was astounding.
Anecdotes were oft in play, and I’ve got a few of my own below the fold, but this is an occasion where I think I can safely say, without even taking a poll, that on behalf of the contributors to Prosblogion, we express our profound respect for Al’s amazing career and gratitude in teaching us (even those of us who disagree the most!)
We wish him the best for his “retirement.”
God bless you Al!
[This is perhaps a good time to revisit the winners of my little photo contest]

I first met Al in either the Fall of 1990 or the Spring of 1991. I was at Liberty University as Norman Geisler’s research assistant and Eleonore Stump was at Virginia Tech. She had him in for a lecture and a bunch of us went over to hear it.
Now this was a few years before the first two Warrant books were first published, so apart from metaphysics, I knew him best from “reformed epistemology” stuff and God and Other Minds. A fan of natural theology and a fairly classical foundationalism, I was no fan of Plantinga. This was before I realized–and I’m not sure how clear this was before the Warrant books–that his critique of foundationalism really didn’t apply to Chisholm (maybe it applies to C.I. Lewis). I am definitely happy to report that few in our party had the mistaken notion that the view denoted by “evidentialism” in his work for the view denoted by “evidentialism” in epistemology or that the epistemological view entailed the natural theological view. I think we all knew one could have evidence without arguments
At any rate, I’ll never forget how quickly we were all mesmerized by his voice. One wonders if Al would have been so influential if he’d had a squeak voice! LOL The presentation was from a printout of a core chapter of what would become WPF. Pretty much all the myriad concerns I have now I had within the first 10 minutes of the talk, but the really great part was the Q&A.
In a pattern I’d see repeated many times over the following two decades, he slowly paced, a bit hunched as he rolled up his sleeves, until stopping, pivoting, standing fully erect, and pronouncing “Why think that?”
Now I say “pronouncing” not just because he says those words in just the particular fashion he does–many readers will almost audibly hear it–but because it was a *pronouncement*. He had just pronounced the question unfounded! Rather than being baited into moving around deck chairs, he always challenges, when necessary, the very assumptions of the question. And of course that’s part of what makes Al Al, the penetrating analysis and refusal to get suckered.
After the public lecture, my friends went to get something to eat and he went to do a follow-up with some grad students. I, of course, just walked in and sat down with them. I barely remember the conversation–though I still have my notes–but I do remember *loving* the environment. I was made for academic philosophy. And Al was there from the beginning.

  • Tom Carroll

    Trent, have you heard whether the papers from the Plantinga retirement conference will be available online? Thanks.

    May 25, 2010 — 6:36
  • Videos of the conference will be available online. It might take a few weeks to get them posted, but they’ll be up there, along with video from the closing banquet. The papers will be published in a volume forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

    May 25, 2010 — 12:13

    The conference was amazing, as Trent has already said. The atmosphere was just great; Many excellent and influential philosophers were in attendance…In fact, I sat in front of and actually spoke with Richard Swinburne. It was a dream come true for a undergrad like myself! The moments when the audience gave a standing applause for Plantinga were very touching, and I’m sure he felt the love in the air.
    As for the papers, they were all excellent, especially Tom Flint’s and the paper by Trenton Merricks.

    May 25, 2010 — 18:22
  • Can you keep us (frequent readers of this blog) posted as to when and where the videos will be posted? I very much look forward to seeing them. I was sad I was unable to go. Thanks.

    May 25, 2010 — 21:44
  • It really was a remarkable conference–and quite moving at times too. There’s a nice collection of mini-tributes on the EPS blog:

    May 26, 2010 — 9:18
  • Andrew Moon

    What stuck out to me was that while people lauded Plantinga’s philosophical accomplishments, there was at least as much praise of his character and kind actions toward others. Everybody seemed to have a story to tell; when people spoke, you could tell that they loved him. I don’t think that this sort of conference could have been held for many other philosophers of similar philosophical accomplishment. This is a lesson to younger philosophers who also want to build a legacy.

    May 26, 2010 — 19:44
  • Chris

    The retirement was just as everyone is describing, an environment of warmth,adoration and appreciation. I’m sure I was THE novice in the house but I loved every minute.Thanks Trent for making conversation with my wife and I afterhours.

    June 4, 2010 — 15:45