Thursday, May 31, 2018

Can you ethically study philosophy when so many are suffering?

When I was in college I had the opportunity to attend a summer seminar in philosophy for Christian students who were considering graduate school. Nicolas Wolterstorff came in to talk with us, and one brave student asked a question on everyone’s mind: is it really ok to spend our lives studying this sort of thing when there are people suffering all over the world? I’ll always remember Nick’s reply: people suffer under a lot of things, and one thing that makes them suffer is the weight of bad ideas. I’ve come to see the truth of this first-hand. I see it in my students and, increasingly, in the wider culture. A lot of people are enmeshed in intellectual confusions that have real implications for their own and others’ lived experience. I have a sense of vocation to address bad ideas—in particular bad ideas about ethics, values and justice—and to make some incremental contribution towards replacing them with better ones.
--Kyla Ebels-Duggan, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Northwestern University