Paul Showler is Assistant Professor of Philosophy.
What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?
When it comes to teaching and research, I am somewhat of a generalist, which is to say that I have wide-ranging interests and strive to incorporate a variety of philosophical methods and historical perspectives in both my writing and in the classroom. At SD Mines, I teach Introduction to Philosophy, Ethics, Logic, Philosophy and Literature, and I am excited to be teaching History and Philosophy of Science next fall.
Much of my past and current research focuses on problems in ethics or moral philosophy. Currently, I am especially interested in questions about the basis for our obligations to others. Most of us take it for granted that we have moral responsibilities towards other people, but what about non-human animals or machines displaying intelligence? I am also interested in questions about the nature of moral progress and the processes through which individuals and communities undergo moral transformations.
As an undergraduate student, I had the good fortune of attending a department with an active philosophy club. Among other things, the group organized a weekly “Bagel Tuesday” where students would get together to drink coffee, eat bagels, and talk philosophy. The sense of intellectual community that I discovered through my involvement in that club was something that drew me to philosophy. That and the free bagels.
What’s one of your favorite courses, topics, or specific texts to teach? Why?
Although I don’t have a favorite course, I especially enjoy teaching PHIL 100: Introduction to Philosophy. We get to cover a lot of ground in that class, which is both challenging and exciting. One of my favorite experiences as a teacher is when students make unexpected and illuminating connections between different philosophical topics, problems, or intellectual traditions. Because of its broad scope, I think that PHIL 100 lends itself well to this sort of syncretic thinking.
What’s something you’ve done that you’re really proud of?
In graduate school I was a three-time intramural floor hockey champion. And recently I have returned to the sport of ice hockey after a nearly fifteen-year hiatus.
What is your favorite book, movie, or other work of art or media? Why?
I am a big fan of the director Yorgos Lanthimos. For my part, I enjoy the dark humor in his films as well as their uncanny plots. The characters he depicts often exhibit bizarre behavior (such a brutal honesty or extreme pettiness) and inhabit worlds whose social norms differ in striking ways from our own. The result is something marvelously not-quite-human. If I had to choose, I would say The Lobster is my favorite film of his.
Tell us something about yourself outside of work. What do you enjoy doing? What’s a detail about you that your students might not already know?
Along with some of my colleagues in the Humanities and Social Sciences department, I have recently taken up the venerable sport of curling. For those who are unfamiliar, it is sort of like shuffleboard but played on a large sheet of ice.