Tal Brewer headshot

Tal Brewer

Professor, Department of Philosophy

Who are we called to be, and what ought we to do with this life that is ours to lead? How should we human beings treat one another? These are among the central questions of my field, philosophical ethics. I have been exploring these questions for decades and have shared my views, throughs books and essays and talks, with ethical theorists at many other institutions. Yet it is quite clear that these questions cannot sensibly be delegated to academic specialists. They are everyone’s questions, and inescapably so. Before I enterthe classroom, I take a moment to allow myself to be claimed afresh by these questions –by their urgency, and their weight – so that I can join my students in serious conversation about them. This is a very unusual sort of conversation, because we ourselves are the ones whose calling we are trying to articulate, hence our articulations cannot but be self-formative. In my classes we take our bearings from written texts – often very old and “difficult” ones – and we take great care to determine what exactly these texts say. But when we turn to the assessment of these texts, I ask my students to say exactly what they themselves think. Because if they don’t do that, their thoughts are not in play, and the work of reflective self-formation has not been joined. My role in the classroom is to help students give birth to thoughts of their own and to refine these thoughts through probing and respectful conversation. This is the sort of conversation that draws me to philosophy, and it is the sort of conversation I hope to facilitate in my Engagements classes.