About

I first fell in love with philosophy when as a sixteen year old I chanced on Thomas Aquinas's five proofs of God. Though I read the proofs with more bafflement than understanding, it was somehow crystal-clear to me that whatever the saint was doing in that strange, precise, exulted prose was what I wanted to spend the rest of my life on.

A decade later, while I was finishing my PhD at Emory University, my wife told me that she was pregnant.  It dawned on me that I didn't want to live like Diogenes, the philosopher who slept in a discarded barrel and begged for his food.  (Once, when asked why he was begging from a statue, he replied, "To get used to being refused."  He was, needless to say, unmarried.)  Though I admired the work of scholarship, the normal path of zeroing in on a micro-specialty and licking the necessary wing tips to get tenure didn't appeal to me.  When my mom phoned to tell me that a job had opened up at Kirkwood Community College, not far from where I grew up, it seemed like a reasonable way of making a living and working freely on my writing and thinking.

What I found there awoke me from a dogmatic slumber.  Sure, there were plenty of indifferent students drifting aimlessly toward a job.  But there were also nurses, ex-cons, soldiers, aspiring chiropractors, social misfits, and many others, who believed, naively and correctly, that philosophy could make a difference in their lives.  I wrote The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone (University of Chicago Press, 2014) with such people—i.e., all of us—in mind.

I write movie reviews for Little Village and host Ethical Perspectives on the News, a Sunday-morning talk show on KCRG, the local ABC affiliate.  For the past decade I've also worked as an occasional sous-chef at Simone's Plain and Simple, a French restaurant on a gravel road between Iowa City and Kalona.  I first fell in love with cooking and baking when my sister and I as kids would press our faces to the stove window and bet on which of Mom's pita loaves would pocket first.  My dissertation advisor, Donald Phillip Verene, is a great Italian cook, trained by Giuliano Bugialli.  We talked more about olives and prosciutto than Plato and Vico. 

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