The right kinds of questions

PROFile: Adam Scarfe, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, U of W

Supplied photo

For Adam Scarfe, an associate professor for the University of Winnipeg’s (U of W) philosophy department, his love for the subject he teaches is linked to curiosity and deep thinking. 

“I just found that philosophy asked the questions that I always wanted to ask,” he says. 

While Scarfe is well-versed in a number of different areas in philosophy, he currently teaches a bioethics course. 

When teaching morality, Scarfe emphasizes a “multi-perspectival” approach. According to Scarfe, there isn’t just one traditional theory that solves every moral issue or conundrum.  

“It’s not like any of the traditional ethical theories from the history of philosophy has a monopoly on what it means to do the right (or) best thing.” 

Scarfe believes in examining a variety of viewpoints when thinking about certain issues or concepts. According to Scarfe, in some way, each of the traditional ethical theories best represent important aspects of what it means to live well and have a morally fulfilling life. 

“There is this objective aspect when it comes to talking about moral issues,” Scarfe says. “We tend to think that it’s all just subjective, we should just agree to disagree, but no. Who are we not to say that we don’t know what it means to be well and how to treat others based on those ideas?” 

In essence, Scarfe loves what he does. For him, philosophy is a huge discipline that has a level of freedom and encourages contemplation on a number of different subjects. He takes advantage of that freedom and finds a great deal of joy seeing his students to do so too. 

“I’m passionate about students being passionate about philosophy.”

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

“How to be a better professor. Listening, not just dismissing ideas that seem to be off and out of left field somewhere.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“I like playing with my dog (and) also going for walks with my wife in places like FortWhyte.”

What’s an idea that a student’s brought up in class that’s stuck with you?

“The one that, at least right now, hits me, is that one student used the concept of eugenics in a very peculiar way in his master’s thesis ... I tried to talk him out of it ... I think he was talking mostly about the future of humanity and the possibility of transcending humanity.”

Published in Volume 75, Number 08 of The Uniter (November 5, 2020)

Related Reads