I'm honored - and flabbergasted - that I won the Hiett Prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in the humanities, "an annual award aimed at identifying candidates who are in the early stages of careers devoted to the humanities and whose work shows extraordinary promise and has a significant public component related to contemporary culture."
I am very honored to be one of the six finalists for this year's Hiett Prize, "an annual award aimed at identifying candidates who are in the early stages of careers devoted to the humanities and whose work shows extraordinary promise and has a significant public component related to contemporary culture."
John F. Brehany reviews my book in the latest issue of The Review of Metaphysics. His main point is glowing:
The Deepest Human Life is an engaging book that can benefit anyone interested in learning more about philosophy It can also benefit anyone who teaches philosophy, for Samuelson provides an inspiring example of an engaged teacher who both loves wisdom and sharing the fruits of his own reflections.
He does offer two "gentle and constructive critiques." First, I don't give enough time to questions of knowledge. Second, I don't give enough time to scholasticism. They're both thoughtful points. I wondered about both of them while I was writing the book.
Though they're decent criticisms, in a way the review answers itself. Instead of a book about heavy-duty epistemology and the apparatus of scholasticism, I wrote an engaging book.
I'm teasing - sort of. Brehany does mention Jacques Maritain's Introduction to Philosophy. That is a marvelous introduction to the sorts of things that Brehany wishes I dealt with more.
Write simply but never simplify.
Here's my take on The Interview, Kim Jong-un's attempt to shut it down, and the Charlie Hebdo massacre. My take-away is:
I’ve been thinking about the horror of living in two different worlds—one where nothing’s mocked, the other where everything’s a dumb joke. Thank God we don’t live under the rule of Kim Jong-un or ISIS, but I don’t particularly want The Interview to epitomize a free society, even though I firmly believe a free society should tolerate crass, stupid movies.
We are Charlie. We are even James Franco. But we are a lot more. As I was enduring The Interview, after shelling out $4.99 to download it, I kept thinking that surely there’s a better way of exercising freedom than by helping a big corporation recuperate its losses.
Here is my piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education. It's behind a pay wall, alas. I conclude,
I worry that philosophy—and the humanities more generally—is often taught to students as if the endgame were for them to become professionals in the discipline. We should be wary of what passes for philosophy but is really sophism. How are we going to mount a good defense of the humanities against crass economic logic when we teach our classes, particularly introductory classes, as if we were preparing students for academic jobs?
Sure, it’s important that we produce some well-trained scholars and thinkers. It’s even more crucial that we initiate students into strong forms of thinking, reading, and writing. But the reason we should support the humanities in a general education isn’t so students can produce slick essays; it’s so they can lead examined lives. Philosophy should be able to speak to a mom in tears.
Where is philosophy? I’m quite sure that the spirit of Socrates pays regular visits to community colleges. But I don’t want to snub our elite institutions. Who knows? It might be possible to find philosophy there, too.