Dig In Philosophy Prof Brings Big Questions to the Table

Before you take his introduction to philosophy class, Professor Matt Halteman will send you an email to tell you some important things. Like how he loves mustache jokes, was raised on ’80s and ’90s post-punk music and listens to Taylor Swift on the elliptical machine. Oh, and you can call him Matt, if you want.

But don't think for a moment that Halteman's class will be easy. Nope. In fact, it might challenge you to internally debate things you've never even considered.

At Calvin, you'll find that professors in all subjects don't mind when things get a little messy; they'll push you to ask the big questions, fearlessly explore and make bold—and often uncomfortable—decisions to advance the kingdom of God.

And that requires some courage. "In philosophy, you think through the issues that haven't come on the radar before as questionable—the things that everyone takes for granted as true. What do you find when you submit these sacred cows to serious scrutiny? Often, it turns out that seemingly simple things are actually wonderfully complex," Halteman says.

Oh, those kind of cows

Take, for example, Halteman's own area of philosophical expertise: the ethics of eating. "The vast majority of us don't have any specific rationale for the way we eat ... other than that it's the way we've always eaten. We don't think of our diet as something we need to reflect upon or justify," he says.

As a Christian, environmentalist and philosopher, Halteman thinks a lot about what goes on his plate and how it got there.

About eleven years ago, he first taught a course called "Peaceable Kingdom," which is all about how animals fit into the kingdom of God. As an experiment during that class, he chose to adopt a vegan diet. He hasn't gone back.

"I learned that eating animals supports a system that exploits workers, wreaks serious environmental damage, warms the planet, does unnecessary violence to billions of other creatures and exacerbates world hunger," he says, munching peanuts in his office between classes.

"Meanwhile, I discovered compelling evidence that eating a plant-based diet could be a transformative way, both symbolically and practically, to pursue justice on many of these fronts, even as I enjoyed the most delicious, nutritious and diverse diet I had ever consumed. It felt like a win-win!"

Getting to the root of it all

Halteman's own family background is in agriculture: one grandfather was an egg farmer, the other a pesticide chemist. He takes a lot of care in life (and in class) not to blame farmers, but to look at the way the system works as a whole and think about our own daily decisions.

"It takes a lot of courage to look at the things we love with a critical eye toward coming into a more redeemed relationship with them. Our first impulse is to protect the things we love."

At Calvin, you'll find that professors will mentor and encourage you as you make those big courageous choices to pursue justice—whether it's changing your everyday eating habits or something else entirely.

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