March 21, 2023


Scholars from around the world presented at a conference March 13-14 to honor 40 years of work from David Walsh, professor of politics and a leading philosophical scholar at The Catholic University of America. 

Walsh is one of the most prominent political philosophers in North America and is the author of multiple books, including The Priority of the Person: Political, Philosophical, and Historical Discoveries.  

Graduate politics student Thomas Holman, a main organizer of the event, said that to hear “Dr. Walsh talk is a rare and special treat. … Dr. Walsh has been a mentor for an entire generation of philosophers, all of whom display an acute awareness of the personal aspect of their intellectual endeavors.” 

The conference, titled “Continuity Amid Crisis: The Person in the Philosophy of David Walsh,” consisted of presentations and panel discussions on Walsh’s reflections on the meaning of “person” in philosophy, history, theology and art. Topics included contemporary biopolitics, the American founding and the Trinitarian theology of St. Gregory of Nyssa. 

University President Dr. Peter Kilpatrick introduced Walsh’s public lecture at the conference, recognizing his four decades of service to the University.  

“He’s had a long and special career,” said Dr. Kilpatrick. “And maybe the most impressive thing that I can say about him is the care he’s shown to all his students.” 


In his work to discover the importance of “person,” Walsh uses a personalist approach to political philosophy, following a long line of eminent political philosophers throughout history. Dr. Kilpatrick said he has a special appreciation for Walsh, whose books he read when he applied for the president position at the University.  

“I fell in love with the (University) and it was largely because of people like David,” said Dr. Kilpatrick.  

During his lecture, “Person Means Relation,” Walsh explained a new way of thinking that includes “a personalist language of persons.” 

“We cannot have a language of persons that refers to them as things, which has been one of the long-standing problems of what’s known as personalism, as a philosophical movement,” said Walsh. “It slips back into thinking ‘persons’ are ‘things,’ they’re like objects. Person always means relation, ‘someone’ is always different from ‘something.’” 

Co-sponsored by The Institute for Human Ecology in collaboration with several of Walsh’s current and former students, the conference featured many University faculty and students who participated in panel discussions on topics that included “David Walsh in Conversation with Leo Strauss”; “The Theology of the Person in the work of David Walsh”; “David Walsh in Perspective”; “David Walsh in Contemporary Context”; “A Recovering Voegelinian: Walsh and Voegelin”; and “Taking Stock and Looking Ahead.” 

The Institute for Human Ecology is the nation’s leading academic institute committed to identifying the economic, cultural and social conditions vital for human flourishing.