In the past 9 years, the number of philosophy majors at UL has quadrupled, and the Philosophy Club has attracted large numbers of people for its meetings. Department Head Dr. Keith Korcz visits with ultoday.com.

Tell us about yourself.

I'm the head of the philosophy program at UL. I got my PhD at Ohio State, my bachelor's in philosophy at Arizona State. I've been teaching here for about 9 years, and I really enjoy it.

How so?

I like interacting with the students a lot, I like preparing lectures a lot. It's a process of not only teaching the concepts, but learning by understanding them better, and organizing them.

I also like the research aspect of it, researching and writing papers. And we also do some out-of-class activities that are fun. We have a Philosophy Club meeting every other week, we have a guest, or a debate, or the students do a presentation, and we sit around and chat about it. At our largest Philosophy Club meeting over 140 people showed up.

We've started up a smaller group primarily of philosophy majors who get together at cafes & coffee houses, and discuss philosophy.

Also our philosophy program has grown quite a bit. When I got here, we had 7 or 8 majors, and we just got our numbers in. This semester we have 28.

That's been a lot of fun, building the program, revising the curriculum, doing all kinds of things to grow the program.

How have you accomplished that growth?

We put together email lists to keep in touch, published a philosophy majors' handbook about the program, reworked the website so that it would be more user friendly. We created pamphlets to give to prospective students, both majors and minors. We have one pamphlet about the famous philosophers of history.

28 seems like a lot of majors.

I know that before UNO closed their program they had about 60.

Tell us about your research.

I do research in a few different areas. One is epistemology, the area that asks, can we have knowledge? what is knowledge? A lot of that is based on paradoxes that seem to show that we can't know much of anything. For example, take the movie the Matrix. Suppose you're in the matrix; how could know you're not in it?

Sort of like when you're dreaming?

Yes. And that scenario is based around the argument of the famous 17th century philosopher Descartes, who asked how do we know we're not being constantly deceived by an evil genius? The problem that suggests is that there's no way of justifying our reliance on our sensory systems.

And the obvious problem with that is, we can rely on our sensory systems.

So that's one area, the theory of knowledge. Another area I publish in is applied ethics. I've looked at abortion, animal rights, the death penalty, homosexuality.

Currently I'm working on a paper on the philosophy of religion and the problem of evil. The basic idea is that if there are evils that seem pointless, how could a God exist and allow those evils?

How do you like Lafayette?

I like it quite a bit. It has wonderful food, and a wonderful culture. I even like the humidity, coming from the desert. It's more culturally interesting and enjoyable than Columbus and Tempe.

What are your goals for the program?

I'd like to have 50 majors, we'd like to be able to place them in good graduate schools, philosophy or otherwise. We want to just keep expanding and developing the program, possibly in the distant future offering a graduate program.

What about the doctoral program in Cog Sci?

Yes, they have a philosophy emphasis, there are several different emphases within that. But it's not a Philosophy PhD.

Anything new in the Philosophy Department?

We just got a tenure track appointment for Dr. Jonathan Trigg, he works in the philosophy of perception. He has really contributed a lot of the program, he's a great teacher, and he's doing some promising research.

If people want to know more they can visit our website.

There are no jobs for philosophers.

A lot of our majors go into graduate school in philosophy, some going into law school. Philosophy is a very good background for heading into graduate schools. Philosophy majors tend to do better than pre-law majors on the LSAT. It's also a good liberal arts education. It emphasizes reasoning and critical thinking skills.

Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

If I hadn't gone into philosophy, I'd have been a used bookstore owner, or a librarian. I love books.