November 08, 2016 | News & Stories Staff


Kevin Timpe's scholarly work is at the intersection of issues regarding free will and philosophy of religion.

Professor of philosophy Kevin Timpe joined the Calvin faculty this fall as the first full-time holder of The William Harry Jellema Chair in Christian Philosophy. The chair is endowed by Bruce B. Dice, Alvin and Kathleen Plantinga, and other friends of the college, to honor Calvin’s first philosophy professor W.H. Jellema.

What does it mean to you to be the inaugural chair holder of this position?

It means, first and foremost, that I’m extremely grateful and humbled to be here at Calvin in this role. I’m thankful that my colleagues in the philosophy department, and members of the Calvin community more broadly, trust me in this position. It also means that there’s not really a set trajectory for the chair. I have a lot of freedom to establish a vision for the chair, which I appreciate. But as a result I’m also trying to be very thoughtful of how best to use the Jellema Chair long-term.

The Calvin philosophy department has a storied history, with many great philosophers having taught and/or studied at the college. What’s your thought on joining this tradition of excellence?

I’m thrilled to be a part of this lineage. In fact, the history and well-deserved reputation of the philosophy department is a major reason I wanted to come here. I’ve been reading philosophy written by Calvin faculty since I was an undergraduate. I’ve taught some of my colleagues’ texts for years, and worked with a number of them on scholarly projects. I consider myself lucky to be a part of this department and to be able to interact with them on a daily basis.

What are you hoping to accomplish during your time as chair?

That’s a tough question to answer with specifics, since as I already mentioned I’m still trying to get a feel for how best to utilize the position. In general, I’m hoping to find ways to broaden the scope of how Christian philosophy is often perceived. I love traditional metaphysics and epistemology. But Christian philosophy should also address applied issues, should foster a sense of activism. I also want to find ways to make some of my research accessible to a more general audience. A number of my colleagues in the department have a history of doing this, and I’m hoping to learn from them how to make that transition successfully.

What is your specific area of research, and how do you see having this chair position contributing to your scholarship?

Most of my scholarly work has been on issues regarding free will and philosophy of religion, with a particular eye toward how those two areas intersect. My interest in free will got me thinking about moral character and virtue ethics, which I’ve written a little on. More recently, I’ve also begun writing on issues related to disability. The Jellema Chair will give me extra opportunities to continue my research and hopefully complete a monograph on Disabled Agency in the next few years.

How do you see your work intersecting with the mission of Calvin College?

If my writing and teaching doesn’t help others think deeply about issues that matter for the Christian faith, then I’m definitely doing something wrong. I was initially attracted to philosophy because it afforded the opportunity for such thinking. In particular, my work on disability specifically aims to foster justice towards individuals that are often, unfortunately, still marginalized in our society. If I can help extend the rich legacy that the Calvin philosophy department has established, I’ll consider my time here a success.

Thursday's event

On Thursday, November 10, 2016, Kevin Timpe will give an inaugural address entitled “Christian Philosophy and Advocacy.”

The evening promises to be a reflection of a goal dear to the heart of W.H. Jellema: the advancement of Christian philosophy. The event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Prince Conference Center’s Willow Room. A dessert reception will follow the lecture.

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