CSUN College of Humanties Newsletter
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“What does it mean to say that our actions are right or wrong, that our treatment of our fellow human beings is just or unjust? Why think that God exists? Why think that anything exists?”


Meet the New Philosophy Chair: Dr. Tim Black

Dr. Tim Black
Photo Courtesy of Tim Black

Tim Black was captivated by the field of philosophy from his first exposure, as an undergraduate at Auburn University. It was a symbolic logic course, he says, and he felt right at home with the analytical rigor of its content. On exploring the field through additional courses, he found a mentor in Professor Kelly Jolley. “[He] made a point of learning what my interests were in philosophy and of cultivating those interests,” Black says. “It was a new experience for me, having one of my instructors take the time to get to know me and to express a genuine interest in my academic development.” The Alabama native graduated Auburn with a double major in English and philosophy, then went on to earn his Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

As the incoming chair of Philosophy at CSUN, where he has taught for eight years, Dr. Black sees similar strengths in his home department. “We have a faculty that is very strong in a wide range of philosophical specialties,” he says, “[so] students are sure to find someone among the faculty who shares their interests and who can help them cultivate those interests.” Black, who has served as the department’s academic advisor since 2008, believes his colleagues are unsurpassed as both teachers and mentors. “We care about our majors and minors, and we try very hard to be involved in their academic development,” he says. “It is rare, I think, to find, in an institution as large as CSUN, a department as devoted to its students as we are in Philosophy.”

Black enthusiastically recommends his discipline to potential majors and minors, especially to those with analytical bents like his own, but he also thinks non-majors searching for elective courses should look beyond the critical thinking general education requirement. He acknowledges that philosophical inquiry can seem daunting to casual students. “It’s as difficult to understand philosophy as it is to understand ourselves,” he says, “[but] in my mind, there’s no more important business, even though it’s sometimes difficult to do, than the business of understanding ourselves.”

In considering questions and problems without explicit answers, “students of philosophy learn to think critically, to read carefully, to write clearly and persuasively, and to make thoughtful, smart decisions,” Dr. Black says. These are skills that are universally applicable, and the subject matter is endlessly interesting and relevant. “Students of philosophy get to ask, talk about, and try to answer the most interesting and intriguing of all questions, in my opinion,” he says. “What does it mean to say that our actions are right or wrong, that our treatment of our fellow human beings is just or unjust? Why think that God exists? Why think that anything exists?”

For students interested in exploring philosophy further, he recommends a number of potential courses with broad relevance and interest: Sexual Ethics; Philosophy of Religion; Existentialism; Philosophy and Feminism; Contemporary Social and Political Issues; and, for advanced students, Philosophy of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality.

“Why are we here? Why am I here? What does it mean to live a good and a happy life? These are questions that all of us ask and that all of us, at least in certain moments, are compelled to try to answer, even if we never enroll in a philosophy class,” Black says. “Now, answering these questions is certainly a hard thing to do, but anyone who is at all willing to reflect on herself and her situation in the world can appreciate and contribute to this project, the project of asking and trying to answer these significant, fundamental human questions.”

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