|Fr. George F. McLean, OMI, Founding President, The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (RVP), and Founding Director, The CUA Center for the Study of Culture and Values (CSCV now MCSCV), was Professor of Metaphysics, School of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America (CUA).
Yet this expresses only a small part of who he was. Over the years, Professor McLean was a scholar and a teacher, but most importantly he worked to democratize philosophy promoting the research of philosophers coming from many different cultural traditions and publishing the academic work of teams of scholars from countries and regions around the globe in order to enhance the interchange of philosophical insight.
George Francis McLean was born on 29 June 1929 to a Scottish-Irish Catholic family. His great grandparents on both sides of his family came to the United States from Ireland 150 years ago. He grew up in Lowell , Massachusetts , the earliest developed industrial community in the United States . George F. McLean was the second youngest of five children (three boys and two girls). At the age of eleven, he made up his mind to join what he refered to as his “family” – the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), a Catholic missionary community founded by Eugene de Mazenod, a French priest. Its chief mission is to help the poor, the neglected and the abandoned across the world. After high school, McLean went to Newburgh ,New York , to begin college.
In 1949 McLean was sent to Rome for studies at the Gregorian University where he remained there for seven years, three years of philosophy and four of theology. This was a mind-opening experience for the young student by living with 100 scholars from 20 different countries. In 1955 McLean was ordained an Oblate priest, and in 1956 he was called back to the United States to pursue a doctorate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C.. In 1958 McLean finished his doctorate with a dissertation on Paul Tillich and began teaching at The Catholic University of America (CUA) as well as at Oblate College. In 1960 McLean was asked by the CUA School of Philosophy to organize a summer workshop for philosophy professors across the country, which he did annually until 1968.
Because of the success of the workshops, Professor McLean was asked by Professor James A. Weisheipl, O.P., the President of the American Catholic Philosophical Association (ACPA), to serve as its Secretary, a position he held for fifteen years (1965-1980). In 1968 Professor McLean went to Vienna to attend the World Congress of Philosophy. There began his involvement with the work of International Federation of Philosophical Societies (FISP). From 1978 to 1988 McLean served its Board, developing policies for the World Congresses of Philosophy and other philosophical meetings sponsored by FISP.
In 1974, Professor H.D. Lewis of King’s College ( London ) and President of the International Society for Metaphysics (ISM), appointed Professor McLean Secretary General of that organization. In the same year he began his service as the Secretary General of the World Union of Catholic Philosophical Societies (WUCPS) (with Professor Carlo Giacon of Italy , the Director of the Enciclopedia Filosofica as President). Professor McLean held both of these positions from 1974 to 1998. In the following year, 1975, he participated in founding as the first Secretary of The Inter-university Committee on Research and Policy Studies (ICR) and The Joint-Committee of Catholic Learned Societies and Scholars (CLS).
One of the first steps of Professor McLean’s international activity was his initiation of a series of conferences, beginning in 1976, sponsored by the International Society for Metaphysics (ISM). These conferences took place in major University centers around the world Shantiniketan ( India ), New York , Jerusalem , Bogota ( Columbia ), Nairobi , and other locales on the themes of the human person, society, and culture. Some of the conference papers presented at those meetings were later published by the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (RVP).
In the early 1970s Professor McLean began to work with philosophers in Latin America, especially in the countries along the Andes . A series of colloquia on moral education were held in Mexico , Colombia , Ecuador , Venezuela , Peru , and Brazil . Within a few years this initiative had extended to virtually all the countries of Central and South America.
By the mid 1970s Professor McLean began to organize joint colloquia with the Academies of Sciences of most countries in Central and Eastern Europe, such as in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechslovakia, Hungary, etc. Thusfar more than 50 volumes have been published by the RVP in its publication series.
By the mid 1980s McLean began to organize a similar series of colloquia with the Academies of Sciences in Beijing and Shanghai, and with Peking, Fudan and other universities in China. More than 30 volumes have been published from these joint conferences.
In 1983 McLean founded The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (RVP) as an extension of The International Society for Metaphysics (ISM) and The World Union of Catholic Philosophical Societies (WUPCS). The objective of the Council is to move beyond ideologies in order to engage deep human concerns, to bridge traditions and cultures, and to seek new horizons for social transformation. It aims to form research teams in order to study the nature, interpretation, and development of cultures; to bring their work to bear on the challenges of contemporary change; to publish and distribute the results of these efforts; and to organize both extended seminars for deeper exploration of these issues and regional conferences for the coordination of their work.
Starting in the early 1980s, through visits, lectures, and regional conferences, Professor McLean had been involved with the work of philosophers at a number of African universities. His initial trip to Africa brought him to some twelve universities and subsequent visits to a total of twenty-two African universities across the entire continent: South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, the Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote Divoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal. 17 volumes have been published in the African philosophical studies series by the RVP.
In 1991 and 1992 Professor McLean went to Cairo, Egypt, to study Islamic philosophy and religion at The Institute for Oriental Studies with Professor G. Anawati. There he lectured at the al-Azhar University , the world’s oldest university and center for Islamic learning. He gave lectures and organized joint conferences with Muslim scholars in such Muslim countries as Egypt, Mali, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and several Central Asian countries, such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. He also taught one month course in Qom, Iran. 18 volumes done by the Muslim scholars have been published by the RVP.
Since 1993, when Professor McLean took early retirement from his teaching position, he worked full-time promoting global philosophical dialogue and cooperation. He lectured in dozens of countries, traveling to places where key philosophical and cultural issues were debated. He helped to bring together professors from many countries and regions in order to create opportunities for dialogue, communication, and cooperation, and to assist in building research teams who, through their scholarly work, contribute to answering the vital questions of the day. In addition, each year he invited professors from different countries to participate in ten to five week seminars in Washington, D.C., on current and urgent philosophical issues. He initiated the annual seminar in 1984. It has lasted 33 years and will continue with the inspiration of his spirit.
Professor McLean served philosophy and philosophers in other ways as well. As the general editor of the RVP publication series “Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change,” he helped to bring the work of philosophers from the farthest reaches of the planet into the public eye. Much of this work is published in edited volumes, the result of regional teams working together on themes of common interest. He carefully edited each paper in every volume as he prepared them for publication. Thusfar 300 volumes have been published to date, and in addition to marketing through regular channels, they are distributed free to 350 university libraries throughout the world, particularly to institutions in ‘developing countries’. The full text of most of these volumes is also made available on the internet (see www.crvp.org). For Professor McLean, the dividends from the dissemination of ideas are of far greater interest than those from sales.
Professor McLean devoted not only all his mind, heart, and hands but all his energy, his financial resources, and virtually every waking hour to the philosophical endeavor. For him philosophy is a location, and his support for global dialogue stems from a deep sense of faith, hope, and love.
There are, Professor McLean believed, many philosophical traditions, cultures, and schools that seek truth, goodness, beauty, harmony, and above all wisdom.
At the end of any meeting, colloquium, or gathering, he always asked scholars to think “Where do we go from here?” “What is lying ahead of us?” “How can philosophy make a contribution to our complex globalized world” With his deep sense of faith, hope and love, he devoted himself for decades to serving society through promoting ideas that may serve to bridge cultures and traditions.
Professor McLean authored and co-authored 25 books and nearly 100 articles, as well as hundreds of lectures.