Philosophy

Philosophy Program Statement of
Anti-Racist Solidarity

We, the undersigned, on behalf of the faculty of Philosophy at Sam Houston State University, stand in solidarity with the Black community and with all marginalized communities in this time of outrage, grief, and struggle for justice.

As philosophers, we are trained to question what is otherwise taken for granted by deploying reason to unearth subterranean logics from life’s mysteries, our experiences, and socio-cultural systems. Though this questioning plays an essential role in the ongoing struggle for justice, this is a time when affects like discomfort, anxiety, anger, and despair threaten to overpower our efforts to think clearly.

For, despite the fact that the canonized history of philosophy in the global North is almost entirely a matter of the testimony of dead White men, critical philosophers (of race, feminist theory, and political economy) have long understood that complex mechanisms of power function to promote the interests of some to the exclusion of others. Such exclusive functions of power target “others” through disparities in income and social mobility, through lack of access to resources, and, as the global pandemic of COVID-19 has made plain, through suffering from comorbidities that disproportionately increase susceptibility to illness. Moreover, since identity in large part determines one’s place in this network of marginalization and privilege, in its most nefarious forms, exclusive power costs its targets their dignity, their hopes and dreams, and, as recent events have once again reminded us, even their lives.

We have witnessed the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police just as we have witnessed the continual targeting of Black people by police, by vigilantes, and by perpetrators of hate crimes that lead to murder. Though these may seem at first glance to exemplify a failure of reason, a tragic expression of the world gone mad, in truth these events are testimonies to a system that functions as it was designed to function. This is neither the first time (nor will it likely be the last) that those targeted by the system and their allies will cry out for justice. Thus, in the critical spirit of philosophy, we join our voices with those who say, “Enough!” and stand with all who make it their mission to expose the function of this power so as to dismantle it in the hopes of building a better world.

To do so, we must make clear that we understand “power” is neither a neutral term nor an empty concept. In America, the system’s power has a history and a legacy that converges on the central organizing principle of White supremacy. Philosopher Charles W. Mills said it best when he asserted that “Whiteness is not really a color at all, but a set of power relations” (The Racial Contract). We condemn the logic and the operation of White supremacy, even as we pledge to deepen our study of its entrenchment in American life so as to better resist and destroy it.

As a program, we commit to acknowledge and promote critical philosophies of race – and, indeed, all critical philosophies that confront the injustices that plague our world. Because all too often such pledges remain only that, pledges that fail to be enacted, in our role as teacher-scholars at SHSU, we commit ourselves to the following: as scholars, we will further develop and extend our research in critical philosophies, and, as teachers, implement them in curriculum and pedagogical practices. We will be vigilant in our efforts to root out our own implicit biases, to intervene on racist practices when we encounter them, and to use our position to mentor and advocate for the flourishing and academic success of our students of color by being sensitive to their struggles in the face of systemic racism. We will hold space. We will listen.

We call upon the University to support our endeavor to keep the critical spirit of philosophy alive by allocating real resources to our initiatives. And, in full recognition that such efforts require a diversity of perspectives and thrive when informed by the voices of the community, we urge you to share with us your thoughts, concerns and suggestions via Philosophy@shsu.edu or call 936-294- 1174.

In solidarity,

  • Jessica S. Elkayam
  • Zachary Bachman
  • Ian K. McDaniel
  • Harris B. Bechtol
  • Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin
  • Maria Botero
  • Thomas Brommage


Welcome to Philosophy

To a person the Philosophy Program faculty believe that Philosophy is the most exciting and challenging field of human thought because it concerns our efforts as human beings to understand and deal with issues such as the existence of God or the basis of morality, issues which have been the subject of discussion for over 2,500 years.
While progress has been made, definitive solutions for these questions are elusive, and Philosophy has no set method for resolving them. Philosophy, unlike fields such as biology or economics, also has no prescribed subject matter. Instead, contemporary philosophers range widely over issues presented by the sciences, history, the arts, politics, and more. Since Philosophy has no set method and no prescribed subject matter, we favor defining it as a matter of an attitude that anyone can have. This means that no special credential is needed to become a philosopher. All a person has to do is have the appropriate attitude.

First, a person exhibits a genuine philosophical attitude when they are deeply curious about the fundamental questions raised by particular areas of human endeavor ranging from physics, criminal law, and religious mysticism to music, medicine, sports, and beyond.  Second, while trying to answer these questions, the philosophically inclined person wants answers that make sense, that have good reasons to support them. Third, the person will be open-minded and realize that those with whom we disagree often can teach us more than those who agree with us if we but listen carefully to what they say. Fourth, the person has the courage to challenge whatever passes for the conventional wisdom. Socrates is not remembered so much for the answers he gave to the questions he raised as for his bravery in raising them, an act that ultimately cost him his life. Finally, the person who has a philosophical attitude wants beliefs that fit together and that are as coherent and free of contradiction as possible.

Training in reading the works of classical and contemporary philosophers, in presenting analyses of their views, and in sharing critiques of one’s own ideas and the ideas of others, are all valuable ways of preparing for careers in a variety of fields such as law, the ministry, business, or academe. Should you choose to major or minor in Philosophy or simply take a course or two, the faculty of the Philosophy Program at SHSU are committed to doing their best to provide you with a rich educational experience that--if you allow it—can transform your life.

Contact us for more information