Finding Fun in Philosophy

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Nicole Casal, Entertainment Editor

Dr. Eric Steinhart begins his Philosophy of Religion class by posing an outlandish question for group debate. “What is religion for?” he asks while pacing back and forth in front of the room as students write down their theories. He waits for a student that is brave enough to raise his or her hand and make an attempt at this abstract concept. Whether discussing if animals have religions or what is supernatural versus natural, this evening philosophy class is the most engaged 6 p.m. class at Raubinger Hall. 

Steinhart has been teaching philosophy at William Paterson University since 1997. He attributes his love of philosophy to his undergraduate professor at Penn State University, Alphonso Lingis. These unorthodox teaching techniques are what Steinhart strives for.

“I like to make the class interesting,” he said. “I hate the classes where the professor is just telling you stuff. I want you guys to be interacting with ideas.” 

Steinhart grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. Unbeknownst to him, this prepared him for his philosophy career.

“It’s scary when you’re six years old and you have to walk into a dark barn at 6:30 in the morning,” said Steinhart. “So you have to face the fear of the dark and philosophy is about facing your fears.” 

Steinhart is currently writing a book on the evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Darwins titled “Building on Dawkins”. “I think that Richard Dawkins does a lot to develop a secular spirituality,” claims Steinhart. “… a kind of spirituality without religion.” 

“I would encourage everybody at William Paterson to check out the broad range of stuff that’s available to you guys,” said Steinhart on how WPU students can take advantage of what the school offers. “One thing I also encourage people to do is see if you can sit in on other people’s classes and expand your horizons.”

Steinhart also has an interest in the Netflix series “Black Mirror”. His favorite episode is “Hated in the Nation.” “I encourage everybody to watch ‘Black Mirror’,” he said. “It’s a very philosophical show.” 

To “Black Mirror” and philosophy of technology fans, he recommends “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology” by Ray Kurzweil, a non-fiction book about artificial intelligence.  

This semester, Steinhart is teaching Introduction to Philosophy and Philosophy of Religion. For the spring semester, he will be teaching Philosophy of Technology and Metaphysics. His favorite philosophers are Plotinus and Nietzsche. 

For the students who want more philosophy outside of the classroom, you can visit the Philosophy Club’s Facebook page for future meeting dates, 

While Steinhart wanted me to say that, “All professor Steinhart does is scream crazy stuff at the students,” or that he is “a bunch of squirrels in a man suit.” He is actually a breath of fresh air that philosophy needs to continue to survive and evolve.