Philosophy major on department vacancies

Erik Hahn (‘16)

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It has recently come to my attention that a department critical to the liberal arts and arguably the one that best embodies the tradition of critical thinking (this department being the philosophy department) will functionally lose approximately 50% of its teaching  faculty next fall.

The problem with having a small philosophy faculty is not just that there are fewer philosophy classes offered. More importantly people will not have exposure to what philosophy is and what it can teach you. I believe too many people go through college and later life without taking a course in philosophy. A truncated philosophy faculty means that people will not be exposed to philosophy through philosophy faculty teaching other courses. This is important because (I will invoke a ubiquitous trope) my exposure to philosophy has changed my life. Yet this change manifested itself in my 102 Paideia class with Dr. Storm Bailey. My story is not unique, there are at least three other philosophy majors that have similar stories. Discovering one’s passion or uncovering one’s intrigue for philosophy by participating in a course in another discipline taught by a philosophy professor is a critical aspect of exposing students at Luther to philosophy. If I had not had exposure through philosophy faculty teaching other classes then I can imagine living the rest of my life unexposed to a particularly philosophical a way of life: the examined life.

Currently there are five faculty members in the philosophy department and one religion professor teaching philosophy of religion. In the fall of 2016 only two full time faculty will be teaching philosophy courses. Associate Professor of Philosophy Dr. Jensen will be on sabbatical and only teaching environmental philosophy. Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy Dr. Mueller will not return next year and Luther has not filled her position. Nor will Dr. Jesson return. Neither of these positions have been filled. This means that Dr. Bailey and Dr. Moore will both teach only philosophy classes in the fall. This means that no philosophy faculty will be teaching courses in Paideia or in Intersections programs next fall.

Although budgeting issues are affecting the college as a whole, I see two particular problems in ‘cutting’ members of the philosophy faculty by not filling the positions of Dr. Mueller and Dr. Jesson. One, the Luther community as a whole is largely in the dark about not rehiring faculty positions. Two, the effects of having philosophy faculty only teach philosophy classes at the surface does not seem to be problematic but a critical aspect of filling philosophy classes is philosophy faculty’s ability to teach courses in other disciplines. Philosophy faculty teaching in other courses can expose students to a way of thinking that quite literality shapes the ways we think. Since you readers of Chips may not be exposed to a philosophy through philosophy faculty next fall, I encourage you now to take a course in ethics or an introduction to philosophy course in the coming spring. Perhaps you will be like me or other philosophy majors. It may be that philosophy will change your life.


Erik Hahn  (‘16)

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