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A Note About This Site »

This blog is migrating soon!  For the new and more up-to-date version, please go to:

sites/stlawu.edu/lrediehs

The purpose of this site is to serve as an electronic CV for my writings.  This main page is a blog which also collects postings from some of the other blogs I write for.  The links above take you to other relevant pages.  This site continues to be a work in progress and is not yet fully updated, and so feel free to check back for further information that might be added, such as a listing of works in progress, research interests, and maybe even a page of my musical performances.

A further note:  this site aggregates blog postings from other blogs.  For the blog postings you see here (except this very one), if comments are “off” that is because the posting was imported from another site.  Clicking on the title of the posting should take you to where it was originally posted, and there you can (usually, if not always) post comments.

Modern Philosophy Timeline »

Here is a timeline I created when I taught my (Early) Modern Philosophy course in Spring 2017:  Modern Philosophy Timeline

Religion and Science Essays »

I have now collected my science and religion essays in chronological order.  They can be found here:

Religion and Science Essays

Religion and Science »

Huffington Post has invited me to blog for them on religion and science.  Here is a link to my first posting:  Nature Mystic on a Philosophical Quest.  And here is a link to a page listing all of the essays.

On Philosophy and the Academic World »

Yesterday there was a New York Times piece on philosophy that I found interesting. The authors lament how philosophy has changed in order to maintain a place in today’s universities. It has lost its role of teaching wisdom and goodness, and instead has become so technical and specialized that it has become incomprehensible and irrelevant to most people.

I have a lot of sympathy for these concerns. Like the authors, I too am a philosophy professor and thus practice what philosophy has become in today’s world. I try really hard to write clearly, and I think my academic work is important, but when it comes down to it, most of my friends’ eyes glaze over when I try to explain what I do, and they nod off when they try to read my academic writings. There are maybe three other academics in the world who read my work, but they really like it and regard it as important! This is about as much success as an academic philosopher can hope for. A few become somewhat famous, but, honestly, can you name three of them and summarize the insights that made them famous? My guess is that if you can do this, it is because you yourself have studied some philosophy at the college or graduate school level.

This situation may look bleak, but I do not think it is really as bleak as it looks. First of all, I do think there is value in what academic philosophy has become, both in terms of the writing and the teaching that academic philosophers do. Second, I do not think it has to be only that – I think universities can maintain this kind of philosophy and re-create the older version that we have almost, but not completely, lost. And, third, the true spirit of philosophy lives on outside of academia too.

There is much I can say about the first and third points I mentioned above, but I most want to discuss my second point. The dilemma the authors of the New York Times piece illuminate does not have to be an either/or dilemma. We can have both. What I mean is that academic philosophers can practice the older form of philosophy as well as the version demanded by today’s academic institutions. Philosophy departments can also promote both modes of doing philosophy. That is, in addition to upholding the current academic requirements of philosophy, philosophy departments can also choose to promote true wisdom, and can assume the role within their universities of attending to the ethical dimensions of life and education.

In fact, I am fortunate enough to be part of such a philosophy department. I teach at a small liberal arts college, and we talk frequently about the ideals of a liberal arts education. The philosophy department is small, and we realize that most of our philosophy majors are not going to become academic philosophers. In fact, most of our students are not actually philosophy majors or minors. What is our responsibility to them, then? Our answer is that our responsibility to them is to encourage them to care about goodness and excellence, to help them develop their powers of imaginative and creative thinking as well as their powers of clear and rigorous thinking, to teach them to look for how ideas change the world, and, above all, to inspire them to seek wisdom.

On Contemplation »

I have decided to try regular blogging as a way of reflecting on life and giving voice to the flow of ideas. Blogging is not entirely new to me. I have started various blogs over the years, but have not blogged regularly for a while.

I teach philosophy and peace studies at St. Lawrence University. We are a week and a half away from starting our spring semester. I am concerned about the state of the world, and constantly wonder how the world’s problems might be solved. I like to think that my teaching and writing might have some positive influence, but to be honest I am not at all sure about that.

I find today’s world busy and full of distraction. I am trying to be more intentional again about carving out space and time for true contemplation. There are so many forces in today’s world vying for our attention, and if we are not careful, we can let those forces do our thinking for us. Contemplation is the path back to the true independent thinking that arises from our authentic selves. There have been times when contemplation was disparaged as “naval gazing,” implying that it is a selfish activity of those privileged enough to have that rare luxury called “free time.” I have become convinced that the real reason people try to discredit contemplation is because it is actually very powerful and thus threatening to those who would try to control us by controlling our thinking.

In truth, contemplation is the most unselfish thing we can do, because contemplation is how we free ourselves from fear-based reactive modes of existence and learn to live from love instead of fear. When we live from fear, we are likely to be furthering the agendae of the forces of society that operate through manipulation by fear. But when we live from love, we give from what we uniquely have to give, and we give what the world most needs from us.