Some of the most important work we do in the Department of Philosophy is teaching, and very few faculty members have seen as many students pass through the classroom as Dr. Ed Cox. Dr. Cox is a senior lecturer in the department, and he has been teaching at GSU since 2008. In the following interview, we talk with Dr. Cox about his experience teaching at GSU as well as his own philosophical musings.
Where did you go to school? What are your areas of specialization?
I attended the University of Chicago for my undergraduate degree and the University of Oklahoma for my graduate degrees. I specialize in philosophy of mind and metaphysics.
What drew you to Philosophy?
I was fascinated by philosophy (especially questions about the existence of God and the possibility of a soul) in high school but had little experience beyond reading whatever books I could find in libraries or at the local book store. So, I took a philosophy course in high school. This increased the number (and, I hope, sophistication) of my questions and made me even more determined to get the best answers to them.
How long have you been teaching at GSU and in the department of Philosophy? What were you doing before you joined the department?
I have been teaching here since 2008. I had previously taught at Murray State University in Kentucky, James Madison University in Virginia, and West Virginia University (I suppose you can guess where that is).
What are your favorite classes and lessons to teach to students? What do you see students get most excited about?
My favorite class to teach is probably about the problem of evil. I give students the example of Bob who builds a machine that kills people and then ask them why Bob is responsible for the deaths that his machine causes (if they think he is) but God is not responsible for the deaths that God’s creations cause (if they think God is not).
Students get most excited when they are asked to give their opinion about an individual case when that opinion is inconsistent with other beliefs they also have. The desire to reconcile their beliefs leads them to think philosophically.
What’s something memorable that has happened in a class?
On my second day in graduate school, I put forth a poorly formed opinion on Kripke’s Naming and Necessity. The professor sat back in his chair, put his feet on the table, and said something simple like, “But why do you think that?” I looked around the room and found that all the other students had taken an intense interest in the ceiling.
You were probably thinking of memorable things from my teaching but these experiences have shaped how I think about teaching since before I even started.
Why would you encourage someone to major in Philosophy?
There are simply a lot of important parts of life that we have to figure out for ourselves, and philosophy gives us the tools to do that.
Where do you see Philosophy outside the job? (media, daily life, etc)
Philosophy is important to thinking about almost every aspect of public and private life. Philosophy informs the way I think about politics and government, the responsibilities of the media, the ethics of my everyday activities. It is difficult to think of something unrelated to philosophy. Bagels, probably, have nothing to do with philosophy.
What other interests and hobbies do you have outside of work?
I lift weights which gives me a chance to practice my Sisyphean contempt for the absurdity of the universe. “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart,” as Camus writes. (See my answer to the previous question.) Unrelatedly, I have a dog that I am trying to train. That task, also, often seems futile.
Photos from the top: Dr. Cox in the Philosophy Department, Dr. Cox and his precious pup, Piglet.