“Lumen Christi keeps alive the possibility of a harmonization (or at least a productive tension) between humanistic and scientific inquiry in the modern university.”
What is your area of study and what is the focus of your current research?
I am a student in the Committee on Social Thought, where I study the political philosophy of John Henry Newman and the relationship between liberal education, religion, and liberalism.
How did you first hear about Lumen Christi? Which event did you first attend, and why?
I was late to the party, having been at UChicago for three years before I discovered Lumen Christi. But in April of 2014, I noticed that Social Thought and Lumen Christi were sponsoring a conference on “The Human Person, Economics, and Catholic Social Thought.” If you remember, by 2014, the nation had been forced to endure not only a presidential election but also a debate about the government shutdown, where the only thing more dispiriting than the arguments for “the economic position” had been the arguments against it. I attended the Lumen Christi conference in the (as it turns out, justified) hope that the Catholic position might be more thoughtful than that of either major political party.
How has your participation in Institute lectures, conferences, and seminars contributed to your growth as a scholar?
Political philosophy, as a discipline, is on uncertain terms with religion. It is willing, of course, to investigate the “utility” of religion, but it almost by necessity avoids the question of whether or not a certain religion might be true. Lumen Christi has helped me to move from arguments about utility to arguments about truth.
Is there a particular event (or encounter with a scholar) that has directly impacted the development of your academic work?
Ian Ker’s 2014 summer seminar on the thought of John Henry Newman. Newman’s Idea of a University had a small part in my Masters’ exams, but it wasn’t until the seminar in Oxford that I was able to study the entirety of Newman’s thought. Father Ker showed me the necessity of situating Newman’s university writings within his works as a whole in order to best appreciate Newman’s arguments about the relationship between Christianity and liberal education.
What do you plan to do after you have completed your degree from the University of Chicago?
I came to Chicago after four years as a high school teacher in Mississippi, wanting eventually to be a high school principal but believing I didn’t yet know enough about philosophy, history, or human nature to be a good one. Somewhere along the way, I was seduced by the idea of the academic life. To be fair, though, the prospect of being an administrator is never so attractive as when I’m trying to write my dissertation.
Please comment on the role you think the Institute plays on the University of Chicago campus.
As I understand it, the medieval university believed all knowledge to be ultimately inner-connected and part of a larger whole. There seems to be something fundamentally right about this belief, even if the modern university—with all its emphasis on specialization and ostensible “value neutrality” —is unable to see it. To that end, Lumen Christi keeps alive the possibility of a harmonization (or at least a productive tension) between humanistic and scientific inquiry in the modern university.