Copenhagen story: learning to use the philosophy department

Dear Reader,

Just to clarify, I have walked into the philosophy department before. I even took Philosophy 101, which I found delightfully rewarding. I’ve just never saw a reason to enter the Blanchard Hall first floor offices after that class besides the occasional cup of hot chocolate — which the philosophy department secretary serves free of charge.

But for the first time since I’ve started to write for the Record, I interviewed a philosophy professor at Wheaton — and I learned that philosophers are a great crew for journalists to have on call!

The article I was writing was titled, “Copenhagen: a twofold conversation about expression and religion” on millennialinflux.com, and likely to be named something else when it comes out in the Record this Friday. Read it here!

Assistant professor of philosophy Adam Wood gave me nearly 42 minutes of dense, well-thought-out answers to my interview questions, which flowed in a confident stream from behind his book-laden desk. Dressed in a Notre Dame sweatshirt and jeans instead of his usual button-down and thick tie, it became apparent that, prepared or not, he could zero his philosophical mind onto a topic he was only vaguely familiar with and form cogent, educated assessments of the situations I presented him with.

What Dr. Wood was able to do a few minutes into the conversation was decide for me how to make Wheaton College students care about the Copenhagen shooting. His philosophical training made him focus on the fact that Islamic terrorist organizations have eschatological beliefs, he deconstructed the premises of their arguments for committing horrendous acts of violence, and he compared those acts to the extreme deeds of medieval Christians preparing for the end times.

Amazing. The philosophical minds of professors like Dr. Wood seem to me to be mines for offbeat translations and combinations of seemingly unrelated topics. The ability to explicate a perplexing topic by disentangling premises and piecing them back together in a different order is a priceless tool for journalists, and sometimes we need a more veteran thinker to do it for us.

I think that the first floor of Blanchard will see me a little more often, and for more than just their beverages.

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