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Scott Sullivan Defends Sufficient Reason in Dissertation

Scott SullivanScott Sullivan, a doctoral candidate in the University of St. Thomas Center for Thomistic Studies program in Houston, publicly defended his dissertation on Jan. 17 before the University community and his dissertation board.

Sullivan’s dissertation was accepted by the Center for Thomistic Studies, and in May he will be the 23rd recipient of a doctorate in philosophy from the University of St. Thomas.

His dissertation, titled “Nihil Est Sine Ratione: A Defense of the Principle of Sufficient Reason,” focused on the idea that things happen for a reason. While that may seem overly simplistic, the philosophical question is what justifies that inference?

“Common sense tells us that things just can’t happen without a cause at all, and most philosophers in the history of Western philosophy have agreed with this,” Sullivan said. “The problem for some philosophers arises from the fact that once you accept this idea as a universal principle, the traditional arguments for the existence of God start looking very sound. That is why some philosophers have either denied or try to put limits on this principle.”

Pictured (L to R) Dr. R. Edward Houser, Dr. John Hittinger, the Rev, Ronald Tacelli, S.J., Scott Sullivan, Dr. John F.X. Knasas and Dr. Randall SmithSullivan credits his wife, who homeschools their eight children, for his success and ability to finish the program.

“When we arrived at St. Thomas we had two.” Sullivan said. “That number has gone up quite a bit over the last eight years.”

Outside of philosophy, Sullivan owns two martial arts-related businesses, a martial arts gym in Houston as well as a video production business that specializes in the production of martial arts instructional videos. He plans on combining his previous experience in video production with the knowledge acquired during his doctoral studies to produce writing and videos in the area of the philosophy of religion.

“I spent some time teaching at universities, and I enjoyed it very much,” Sullivan said. “But, my primary reason for earning a Ph.D. was to further my work in a non-university environment.”

Sullivan’s dissertation committee included Dr. Randall Smith, professor and Scanlan Foundation Endowed Chair in theology; Dr. John F.X. Knasas, professor of philosophy; Dr. John Hittinger, professor of philosophy; Dr. R. Edward Houser, professor and Bishop Nold Chair in graduate philosophy; Dr. Thomas Osborne, associate professor and chair of philosophy; and external reader Rev. Ronald Tacelli, S.J., associate professor of philosophy, Boston College.

The Center for Thomistic Studies at UST is the only graduate philosophy program in the United States uniquely focused on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. CTS has 22 alumni across the globe working and teaching at institutes such as Donduk Women’s University in South Korea and Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. For more information about the program and its graduates, visit www.

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