StFX’s Dr. Christopher Byrne is PROSE Finalist


Aristotle’s Science of Matter and Motion is one of three finalists in philosophy section

Beginning in 1976, the Professional and Scholarly Excellence awards, or PROSE awards for short, have been presented annually. The purpose of the awards is to give acknowledgement to outstanding scholarly books, journals, and other academic works in many fields.

The judges of the awards come from a variety of professional backgrounds, including academia, publishing, and editing, among others. In 2019, the judges reviewed over 500 entries in 49 categories. To earn a place as a finalist is quite the achievement.

Now, among those honoured few is StFX’s own professor of philosophy, Dr. Christopher Byrne.

About the honour, Byrne says he was “Surprised and elated. I didn’t realize it had been nominated in the first place.”

Byrne’s work, Aristotle’s Science of Matter and Motion, placed as one of three finalists in the philosophy section. This accomplishment is made even more impressive when the relatively niche nature of its subject matter is taken into account. Byrne himself noted, “I was quite gratified to receive this award, as the topic of my book is not exactly on everyone’s lips.”

The aim of Aristotle’s Science of Matter and Motion is to re-examine the understanding of physics of one of history’s most prominent thinkers. Byrne stated, “I was moved to write this book because there is a curious view of Aristotle that is still quite widespread: on the one hand, he is considered one of the most important figures in the history of philosophy, indeed, in many fields, having made important contributions to biology, ethics, political philosophy, logic, metaphysics, rhetoric, and the theory of tragedy; on the other hand, he is held by many philosophers and historians of science to have failed so badly at physics that he held back its development until the seventeenth century when the Scientific Revolution finally overthrew Aristotelianism.”



Aside from the international recognition given to Byrne and his work by the PROSE awards, the book also earned an $8 000 grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s (SSHRC) Aid to Scholarly Publications through the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences. The process is highly selective and earning it comes with high esteem.

Byrne found in his study of Aristotle that the man’s approach to science was not so foolish as some academics today insist. He notes that Aristotle created a systematic, logical method of understanding matter, motion, and change in the physical world. Considering the lack of previous science at his time to build off of, Aristotle’s worldview is not such a blunder.

Byrne stated that he learned of his placement as a finalist in the PROSE awards at the same time that he learned he was nominated, in a congratulatory message from his editor.

Although he didn’t win the category, he says “It’s an honour just to get on the list.”