Last year at this time we celebrated the opening of our new home in the Comal Building. Most of the new building issues have been resolved, and we are delighted to occupy one of the most welcoming and functional buildings on campus. If you have not visited us since we moved, please stop by when you can!
This year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our Philosophy Dialogue Series, unique for the breadth of topics, number of events, variety of formats, and public outreach. In fall 2015 we will host over 60 events, involving thousands of students in philosophical reflection and conversation outside of the classroom. Seven of these events will take place at the San Marcos Public Library. Consider including a Dialogue in your visit to the department or your time in San Marcos.
We open the year with the largest faculty ever – 37 full-time faculty members – and the largest enrollment ever – over 6000 students in fall courses, an 18% increase over Fall 2014. In fact, we teach more students than any two other philosophy programs in the state – more than twice as many as UT or TAMU. We graduated over 40% of all philosophy Masters degrees in Texas, and teach over 21% of all philosophy students at public universities in the state. We are involved with the rare public university where there remains a broad commitment to a foundational core education, one where philosophy has an indispensable role.
We also open this year with some good byes. Two treasured and irreplaceable members of our faculty have moved into retirement – Gil Fulmer and Jeff Gordon. The current flourishing state of the department owes much to their efforts over the years – tireless advocates for more reflective living, clearer thinking, better reasoning, and continual learning. We miss them in the day-to-day life of the department, and look forward to their visits.
We also say goodbye to our colleague, student, and friend Victor Holk. Victor passed away in August after suffering severe burns while rousting his family, friend, and dogs from their burning San Marcos house in June. Victor was an irrepressible spirit, sharing his joy in living, his love of music and creativity, his delight in philosophy and reflection with everyone he encountered - changing, growing, and becoming more vibrantly Victor in our midst. Many of us were privileged to know or work with him, and his energy and commitment stand as inspiration across the department and the broader community. We will honor Victor’s love of learning and teaching by establishing a graduate scholarship in his name for a MAAPE student.
Perhaps more than other professions and avocations, we philosophers are asked why we do what we do (and not infrequently by ourselves). As has been the case since Socrates, our presence is sometimes discomfiting to others. Why do we do what we do? Why philosophy? I share one answer, words from one of my first philosophy teachers, John J. McDermott: “Philosophy teaches us that every day, everyone has access to the depth of being human…. Philosophy sanctifies our reflective effort to ask why and, above all, philosophy makes an effort to tell the truth. In our time, what could be a more outlandish and coveted activity?”