“Liberal Arts Majors: most people do more before 8AM than we do all day.” My fellow philosophical aspirants and I at Texas A&M University embraced our rebel-slacker status at a predominantly engineering-focused school in a typically career-focused time of life. Some did this by wearing shirts sporting the above slogan, while others simply wore a shade of self-mockery and cynicism on their sleeve. The obvious insinuation for any who choose to major in philosophy by all of their friends and family is three-fold: 1) they must prefer the company of uninteresting tomes to that of people 2) they have no plan on producing anything in life besides a garbled “would you like fries with that?” and 3) they hope to make enough from delivering the above line to enable them to sleep late, drink coffee regularly, and support their love of books and nicotine. While I am sympathetic to this perspective, I chose philosophy out of a desire to be intentional with how I lived my life without yet knowing where that would take me professionally.
Thus I spent my undergraduate days studying Greeks and Germans while also beginning, slowly, to engage in conversations with such a spectrum of people that I began to understand and respect people who had widely different perspectives than my own. Upon graduation I began looking for a way to synthesize my intellectual interests with a growing desire to be involved in the world; this led me both to and away from theological study at the graduate level. While in seminary, I had married and begun a family which has now grown to include three children. Finding myself with an increasing level of responsibility, I decided to temporarily suspend my search for international work and take a job as humanities teacher at a college preparatory high school.
Looking back upon my undergraduate days and my current vocation, I believe that the study of philosophy matters because it develops the ability to think critically, to build an argument based upon sound reasoning, and to demonstrate the power and value of ideas aside from their culturally assigned monetary value. It is this mind-set that prompts the questions: “what makes a society just” and "how do we work towards a more just world?" In the classroom, I have thus attempted to train my students to see the cultural progression apparent in the art of Masaccio, Van Gogh, and Pollock; forced them to wrestle with the ideas put forward by writers such as Boethius, Paine, and Dostoevsky; and through it all have tried to instill the love of truth, as well as the ability to make incisive analysis and articulate arguments.
Outside of the classroom, I have been personally confronted with the difficult questions concerning social justice and the responsibility of the community as I have had occasion to befriend the homeless in the different cities where I have lived. Spending a summer working with a Muslim family from Russia that had come to the United States as refugees opened my eyes to the very real problems of discrimination and persecution while developing an appreciation for the complexities behind immigration and assimilation. I have had the opportunity to travel to western Europe on several occasions and witness the intermingling of cultures, particularly in cosmopolitan cities such as London, Amsterdam, and Paris. I have read about the development of the European Union, the opening of national borders to foster more efficient and profitable trade, and the E.U.'s place as an international arbiter of power. I am fascinated by the interaction of different cultures, the development of transnational entities, and the new opportunities that will be present as a result in the future. Besides the language classes I have taken in Spanish, Arabic, and Latin, I have dabbled in German, French, and Russian independently because of my personal drive to interact with and learn from those whose understanding of the world differs from mine. At the same time, I have read histories and journalistic accounts of atrocities being committed such as genocide, the enslavement of children as soldiers and prostitutes, and the brutal protection of business interests at the expense of the poor. I am horrified by this and at the prospect for many of these conditions to worsen as the above-mentioned trends continue.
I do not have a messianic complex regarding my role in these affairs, but I believe that the rule of law provides an invaluable access point to be involved in a significant way. I want to enter the fray. My desire is to study the law, to learn how it works, to grow in my ability to think critically and reason effectively, and to use that education for those who lack an advocate as our world becomes more interconnected and their cries become more difficult to hear. As a father, I long for my children to see the beautiful complexity of our world and the very real need to engage in work of a rigorous nature as public servants, advocates, and leaders. This is the direction that I want my life to take. This is the example that I want to set before them.