20th Annual Philosophy Day Explores Marshall McLuhan’s “Spiritual Vision”

November 8, 2022

St. John Fisher University will celebrate Philosophy Day with the theme, “Marshall McLuhan’s Spiritual Vision for a Virtual Age,” to be held from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, in the Golisano Gateway Midlevel.

Marshall McLuhan speaks at Fisher's Commencement ceremony.

Philosophy Day, sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Culture Organization (UNESCO), and held on the purported birthday of Socrates, is observed throughout the world as an occasion for people to reflect upon the importance of critical thinking, world peace, international cooperation, and the love of wisdom. Fisher is the only institution in the United States to continuously participate in Philosophy Day since UNESCO first celebrated it in 2003.

This year’s theme commemorates the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of St. Basil and the 20th anniversary of Philosophy Day, by exploring the Canadian philosopher who had an indelible influence on the study of media theory. Perhaps best known for coining the terms, “the medium is the message” and the “global village,” McLuhan’s theories focused on looking at the ways in which technical advancements shape our sense of who we are and what we know, said Dr. Tim Madigan, professor of philosophy and organizer of Philosophy Day.

“McLuhan lived during the age of radio and television and died in 1980, when the computer revolution was just starting. He wasn’t necessarily in favor of these innovations; he supported the need to understand them, but not let them overwhelm us,” Madigan explained.

Fr. George T. Smith, CSB, will discuss McLuhan’s connection with the Basilians, and Nick Ripatrazone, culture editor, Image Journal, will discuss his new book, Digital Communion: Marshall McLuhan’s Spiritual Vision for A Virtual Age (Fortress Press, 2022). Dr. Ann Marie Fallon, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, will moderate the discussion.

“McLuhan was also interested in paradox that we are more connected than any human beings in history but are also lonelier; the speakers will focus on his emphasis on community—not just in the virtual sense—but in the old fashion sense of face-to-face connections,” Madigan said.

Madigan also noted McLuhan’s relationship with Catholicism and the Congregation of St. Basil. He was known as the “Civilian Basilian” and interacted with and knew key figures in Fisher’s history, including Fr. Lavery, Fr. Hetzler, and Fr. Murphy. According to a chapter Madigan wrote for the book, McLuhan: Social Media Between Faith and Culture, the philosopher was instrumental in helping to found Fisher’s Communications Department. During Fisher’s 15th Commencement, Fisher bestowed an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters upon McLuhan.

“This is an opportunity to make people aware that a major 20th century figure who is still influencing the 21st century had strong connections to Fisher,” Madigan said.

Philosophy Day is supported by the St. John Fisher University Department of Philosophy and Classical Studies, Department of Religious Studies, Office of Campus Ministry, Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, and the William and Helen Cavanaugh Chair of Catholic Studies. For more information, please contact Tim Madigan at tmadigan@sjf.edu or at (585) 385-5259.