Not Your Father’s Philosophy

April 1, 2016 By easternmagazine
Photo: Professor of Philosophy Kevin Decker

By Kevin Decker, PhD

Photo: Professor of Philosophy Kevin DeckerAction figures? Check. Lightsaber? Check. Blu-ray copy of the latest J.J. Abrams film? Check.

These are not the normal tools of the college instructor, much less what the average philosophy professor brings to class. But because I teach philosophy and popular culture at Eastern Washington University, I also have to carry things like graphic novels, DVDs, posters and cuddly toys to class with my course rosters and whiteboard markers.

The academic study of popular media is new, but philosophy is old. In fact, philosophy is the oldest discipline; it traces its lineage back more than 2,500 years to the Greek Thales, who broke away from traditional religious explanations for the world’s order by claiming that everything was ultimately composed of water. Today, we might think that Thales is all wet, but he created a way of thinking later named by combining the Greek words philo and sophia (“love of wisdom”).

While the study of philosophy includes learning critical thinking, logic, methods of arguing properly, how to frame good questions and cultural criticism, it always returns to the issue of how knowledge about the deeper issues of life, the universe and everything should change the way we live.