Dr. Blander Awarded Fellowship from Biola University's Center for Christian Thought

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Dr. Josh Blander, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, will spend the Fall 2016 semester exploring moral, religious, and intellectual humility as a Visiting Research Fellow at Biola University’s Center for Christian Thought (CCT). This week, the CCT announced Blander to be one of 8 Visiting Research Fellows for the 2016-2017 year, themed, “Humility: Moral, Religious, and Intellectual.”

Dr. Dru Johnson, assistant professor of biblical and theological studies, compared Blander’s achievement to a football team’s advance to the Super Bowl. Collaborators in this project include academics in the fields such as biblical studies, history, philosophy, and psychology.

Blander’s specific project aims to develop a curriculum that reflects King’s commitment to producing virtuous men and women, and an assessment strategy for the resulting character growth. In speaking to the Empire State Tribune, Blander’s prefaced his conversation by claiming that, although the formation of the mind is extremely important and obviously at the fore of what students at King’s students work for, character formation should take precedent. Thus, the research question focuses on how to draw students into character formation and how to assess that formation.

One colleague in particular, Jason Baehr, founder of the Intellectual Virtues Academy, a public charter middle school in Long Beach, Calif., has experience with empirical assessment models for virtue education. Contributing psychologists will heavily inform this aspect of the project. 

When he applied for the fellowship in November, Blander did not foresee receiving the fellowship. Even after chance meetings and conversations with CCT members during trips to Boston and California, he continued to doubt.

He submitted his research proposal, regardless, based on the consequence of intellectual virtue, and humility in particular, a conviction reinforced by his experience teaching at King’s. Many students remember his breakout session last Fall Retreat, when he spoke on meekness. This talk, in conjunction with teaching Foundations of Philosophy last semester, brought him a deeper acquaintance with that consequence.

Blander wrote in his proposal, heartily supported by President Gregory Alan Thornbury and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Mark Hijleh, “If we have any hope of preparing principled leaders, especially in fields that seem to demand self-promotion, such as politics and journalism, we need to encourage reflection and action amongst our students about how to develop the humility required for servant leadership.”

Blander's Foundations of Philosophy students read Psalm 45:4:"In your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds." He observes that humility as a virtue is commonly viewed as "as synonymous with weakness, obsequiousness or servility," and that students  increasingly wonder at the seeming paradox in listing humility among those great character qualities.

Finally, Blander also discusses to the history of philosophy and the role of humility in its various stages. He points out its presence in the work and lives of Socrates, Augustine, and Anselm, but again, it is understood today as a weakness, even a vice.

The King’s mission to prepare principled leaders requires introductory philosophy not only to prepare the PPE (Politics, Philosophy & Economics) student for upper level philosophy courses, but to provide each student, PPE or not, a structure for character formation.  Through his foundations course, Blander's goal is to promote virtue in his students whether their course map holds another four philosophy slots or no more at all.

Brian Ballard, a Brooklyn dweller and philosophy PhD candidate at the University of Pittsburgh, will teach Foundations of Philosophy while Blander is in California. Ballard specializes in ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of the mind, addressing the nature and value of emotions, and plays indie-rock with his band Babylon Tom.

CampusDarien Evans