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Dr. John F. Whitmire, Jr.

Associate Professor and Department Head

Department of Philosophy and Religion

As a 6th-generation native of Western North Carolina, I was very excited to join the department of Philosophy and Religion at Western Carolina University in the fall semester of 2005.  I grew up in Henderson County, North Carolina, graduating from East Henderson High School in 1993.  I received a B.A. in philosophy (with a minor in classical studies) from Wake Forest University in 1997, and then moved to suburban Philadelphia to pursue advanced studies at Villanova University.  After receiving my M.A. in Villanova's graduate program in philosophy ('99), I taught courses in VU's philosophy department and Core Humanities program while continuing work on my Ph.D.( '05).  I specialized in European "Continental" philosophy of the 19th and 20th centuries, philosophy in (and of) literature; and philosophical anthropology. These interests have converged, for me, in a number of essays on the autobiographical works of several important philosophers.

My teaching was interrupted by a year I spent in New Zealand (a.k.a. "Middle Earth") on a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship in 2003.  During that period I did research for my dissertation at the University of Auckland, studying philosophy and comparative literature.  In my time away from academics and addressing Rotary clubs, I was able to explore the incredible beauty of Aotearoa and participate in a wide variety of outdoor and adventure sports, including skydiving, paragliding, “zorbing,” abseiling and blackwater rafting, bungee jumping,  hiking through rain forests, and climbing over glaciers and a couple of active volcanoes.  I was also able to visit Australia twice in 2003.  On my first trip, I joined a group driving and camping through the Outback for a little over a week.  On the second, I went scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef.  Both were amazing experiences.  [See this link for some fun pictures of my time in "Middle Earth"; this page has some of my other NZed adventures.]

On my return from New Zealand, I was fortunate enough to teach at Villanova again for a couple of semesters while I finished my doctoral work, as well as at Haverford College (after I had defended my dissertation).  At WCU, I have taught courses chiefly in 19th and 20th century European "Continental" philosophy (including a seminar on Kierkegaard, another on Nietzsche, and a third on Freud); philosophy, religion, and literature; and ancient philosophy. In most of my classes, I pursue issues in the philosophy of religion, philosophical anthropology, ethics, and political philosophy -- repeating (in part) both my own route to philosophy (through literature), as well as the kinds of existential questions about what it means to be human, and about the nature of our relationships with each other and with the divine, that most excited me (and still do!).  I also serve as the Faculty Secretary for the College of Arts & Sciences and the advisor for the Symposium Society (our departmental club).

One side of my own scholarly work has been an exploration of the notion of selfhood in the works of Jean-Paul Sartre (in Sartre Studies International); Soren Kierkegaard (forthcoming in the International Kierkegaard Commentary: The Point of View) and Jacques Derrida (in Philosophy Today); and Friedrich Nietzsche (in The Pluralist). I am particularly interested in the degree to which their autobiographical texts add to our understanding of the self, subjectivity, and agency as we see these in their more "philosophical" works. Currently, I'm working on a couple essays on Friedrich Nietzsche.

In the summer of 2010, I was awarded a stipend by the National Endowment for the Humanities to participate in a seminar in Tunis, Tunisia (directed by Professor Thomas J. Heffernan of the University of Tennessee and funded by the NEH), as part of a team of 16 scholars of history, religion, philosophy, literature, art, etc., researching the works of Augustine and Perpetua. Augustine (354-430 AD) is the most important early philosopher and theologian of the Christian church, and the author of the first autobiography in the western world, his Confessions. Perpetua (181-203) is the author of the oldest surviving text written by a Christian woman. Both of them lived in the city of Carthage, which is just a few minutes from modern Tunis. There are also a number of other important Roman sites within a few hours of Tunis, such as the magnificent amphitheatre of El Djem, which is just smaller than the Coliseum in Rome (but better preserved!).

In addition, I am involved in a collaborative project with Dr. Farhang Erfani (of American University in Washington, D.C.) exploring the responses of various philosophers to the situation of exile, the conditions imposed on individuals by globalization unchecked by democratically effected and enforced regulations, and possible corrective actions that might be taken to remedy the injustices of what some philosophers and political theorists have called "savage capitalism." We argue that the post-modern situation demands a reconfiguration of the meaning (and practice) of citizenship to include not only local, but cross-national institutional membership in institutions that function transparently and democratically, as a way to enfranchise those whose capacity to participate in their own local self-governance has been abrogated. The first essay in this project was published as chapter 8 of Creativity in Exile (available directly from the publisher, Rodopi, or from Amazon); the second appeared in Continental Philosophy Review.

On the personal side, I met my wife Heather while in New Zealand in 2003, and our daughter Cassandra Noelle was born on December 27, 2011. I was a member of the Rotary Club of Asheville (Downtown) from March 2009 through December 2012, when I transferred to the Asheville-Biltmore club; when I have the time, I enjoy swimming recreationally, and have swum competitively with the Asheville Masters Swim Team in the past. (I also coached the summer recreation league swim team in Henderson County, NC [HCAT] for several years [1995-2000, 2002].)

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