David Vander Laan wins prestigious award
David Vander Laan, Westmont professor of philosophy, has won the American Philosophical Association’s 2022 Alvin Plantinga Prize. Coincidentally, the prestigious award honors Mr. Vander Laan’s doctoral adviser, one of the most influential people shaping Christian philosophical thought during the past 50 years.
“To receive a prize named for Mr. Plantinga is a tremendous honor,” Mr. Vander Laan said. “As his former student and a beneficiary of his work, it’s incredibly meaningful to me.”
The prize, which includes a $10,000 award, recognizes Mr. Vander Laan’s forthcoming paper, “Satisfaction in the End Without End,” to be published in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion.
The paper, which follows up on Mr. Vander Laan’s earlier “The Paradox of the End without End” (Faith and Philosophy, 2018), examines the historically popular view that human life is aimed at a single, highest attainable good (the final telos) that quenches all desire.
From this standpoint, a life of everlasting growth and progress might seem to be incomplete since it’s forever partial or unsatisfying; the desire for future goods always remains.
“I argue that, on the contrary, everlasting progress need not be subjectively or objectively deficient and in fact must be more satisfying than any static good to temporal beings such as ourselves,” Mr. Vander Laan said.
He added that Mr. Plantinga, who took on important topics like the problem of evil and the rationality of belief in God, brought greater clarity and precision to them than he ever would have expected.
“His work is part of what inspired me to study philosophy in college,” he says. “Later, I found that he was not only an incisive thinker but also an affable and jovial soul who generously provided help and encouragement to younger philosophers like myself. I’m grateful to him.”
Mr. Vander Laan graduated from Calvin University, earned a doctorate at the University of Notre Dame and joined the philosophy faculty at Westmont in 2000.
He created Raft & Scupper, a two-player abstract strategy game played on a shrinking and morphing set of tiles.
“Two pirate crews battle for domination of the high seas — the round-bellied Yellowbeards and the square-jawed Blackbeards. Each crew strives to raft together all the ships of their preferred rigging or cargo. But victory also belongs to any crew who scuppers four ships while their opponent scuppers none,” said Mr. Vander Laan.
“Each turn, a player performs one of four actions — One: One of the player’s two pirates moves within a connected group of ship tiles of the pirate’s color (cargo) or shape (rigging); Two: A pirate sails a ship tile that it occupies to a new location: Three: A pirate scuppers (sinks) an adjacent ship tile; and Four, The player passes.
“Consecutive passes end the game in favor of whoever last scuppered a ship.”