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Portrait Gallery: Carl Sachs, Philosophy

Carl Sachs, Department of Philosophy and Religion StudiesCarl Sachs was once attacked by a hippopotamus - quite a different experience than his usual days as a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies

What is your title?  What are your favorite courses to teach?

I hold the title of lecturer, and I've been at UNT for three years. I have a bachelor’s degree in biology from Oberlin College and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of California San Diego. I taught at two other schools before coming here: University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and University of Mary Washington. My favorite courses to teach are Ancient Philosophy, American Philosophy and Epistemology. I’m the sponsor of Phi Sigma Tau honor society

What do you most love and hate about philosophy?

I love two things about philosophy: the way in which we can see the world through the lenses of different philosophical theories, and the way in which the practice of philosophy can help make us better people.  I don't hate anything about philosophy, but sometimes the patient examination of arguments, which is necessary for good philosophy, can become argument for the sake of argument. That's annoying. 

What philosopher or theory do you most relate to and agree with?  Who in your mind is the craziest?  Most brilliant?

Philosopher John DeweyThese days I'm most sympathetic to John Dewey, right, who was one of the first philosophers to take Darwinism really seriously and argue that it doesn't have the negative effects on ethics and religion that it is often accused of having. Dewey also insisted, eloquently and passionately, on the interdependence of education and democracy. The most brilliant would perhaps be Spinoza or Leibniz, both of whom created metaphysical systems of staggering breadth and depth.  As for craziest; well, all philosophers are a little bit mad.  

Have you noticed any recent or predict any upcoming trends in our society? 

As Americans we're supposed to be a society of individualists, which leads us to avoid dealing with problems that require putting aside differences and working together. And while we can be very close-knit with our respective communities, the society is fragmented into so many communities that we have trouble empathizing or even communicating with those who come from different communities. Because of this, we're deadlocked on many serious social problems; they appear to be insoluble. 

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy hiking and drawing, when I have the time, and I love to travel, when I can afford it.  I've been to Ireland, England, Greece, Turkey, Israel and Kenya - though not all on the same trip.

What is something unexpected  about you that fellow employees wouldn’t know? 

Well, I was once attacked by a hippopotamus when I was in Kenya. It broke a bone in my wrist and one of the tusks grazed me across the back. I suppose most folks at UNT don't know that.

Tell us about your family.

I have two cats, Franz and Sophie. Franz is impetuous and Sophie is adorable. My parents, Don and Kathie, are retired and live in a suburb of Philadelphia. I have no siblings, and the extended family is pretty small, too. But we make up for it in quality.

(It's not possible to know everyone on a big, busy campus. So InHouse periodically publishes Portrait Gallery features to help us learn about our colleagues and their contributions to the university's success. Send suggestions for Portrait Gallery subjects by email to InHouse with "Portrait Gallery" in the subject line.)

(Dewey photo courtesy of the University of Chicago. Interview by Megan Beck, student assistant, University Relations, Communications and Marketing.)

Posted on: Mon 27 September 2010

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