West Windsor, NJ: MCCC Assistant Professor Ken Howarth delivered a paper entitled "She-Lunking Plato's Cave" in the Perennial Conversations and Questions within the Western Tradition portion of the 16th Annual Association for Core Texts and Courses international conference held in New Brunswick, NJ on April 15. The theme of the conference was: "Engaging Worlds: Core Texts and Cultural Contexts."
Howarth's paper examined how the poem “Living in the Cave,” by Adrienne Rich, offers both a critique of Plato's ideas as presented through the Parable of the Cave in his classic dialogue, The Republic, and an effective way to engage today's diverse students' interests by juxtaposing key classical themes with contemporary ideas, putting into relief the strengths and weaknesses of both thinkers' views.
With graduate degrees in the Western Classics, the Asian Classics, and contemporary philosophy, plus a background in business and political science, Howarth is well-accustomed to bringing together a wide range of traditions, perspectives and issues. He also recently attended New York University's Meta-Ethics and Experimental Philosophy Workshop where philosophers and scientists explored data on objectivity and subjectivity in moral decision-making. He also serves as MCCC’s Philosophy program coordinator and adjunct liaison, on the College Governance Council and the Academic Integrity Committee. He is a faculty advisor to the College's Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Philosophy Club.
MCCC Expands Philosophy Offerings
Even in these tough economic times, the number of students taking philosophy courses at Mercer has risen over 30% this year. Among the reasons for this increase may be recognition that those who study philosophy tend to outperform others on graduate school entrance exams, according to MCCC Assistant Professor Ken Howarth.
The college has responded by adding philosophy sections, including the new Eastern Philosophy (PHI-210) offered this summer and fall, where students study the philosophies of India, China, and other non-western traditions.
According to Howarth, the college is also reintroducing several courses that have not been offered in recent years, such as Business Ethics, Introduction to Religious Studies, and Living World Religions. And in addition to the popular online version of PHI-205, Moral Choices, a new online version of the PHI-102, Introduction to Philosophy, is also being unveiled through a pilot program with a cohort of college bound Lawrence High School students this coming fall, with plans to add it to Mercer's other philosophy offerings next spring.
Howarth says the support of the Liberal Arts Division, the Social Sciences Department, and a new group of experienced adjunct faculty members have made vital contributions in developing relevant, well-grounded, transferable and diverse philosophy options. “With an array of courses that emphasize analytical thinking, careful reading and ethics, given the challenges faced by Mercer's students and alumni in our world today, the surge in philosophy enrollments is perhaps, not surprising,” Howarth says.
The Educational Testing Service (ETS) reports that on GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores covering the three-year period ending June 30, 2006, Philosophy ranks first (of 50 fields) in both Verbal and Analytical Writing sections, and fourteenth in the Quantitative Reasoning section. If the 50 fields are ordered according to the average of their three rankings, Philosophy is first overall. The GRE is a common standardized test taken by many students applying to graduate schools. (See the Educational Testing Service publication, 2007-2008 Guide to the Use of Scores, here (pp. 17-19).