by Hud Hudson
I can think of many excellent reasons to encourage women to teach and to contribute to the fields of theology, biblical studies, and philosophical theology including reasons centered on the richness and value of attending to diverse voices in these disciplines – voices that have long been underrepresented to the disadvantage of us all. I must acknowledge, however, that others have spoken far more eloquently than I can about systematic exclusion and the need for institutional change, and I am grateful that they have given those reasons the compelling articulation they deserve and that they have helped me to appreciate their force.
I would like to use my invitation to say a few words on this topic to add to the reasons that focus on benefits to the disciplines and their practitioners why I think studying and working in these fields can contribute to a life that is good for its subject. Some aspects constitutive of our flourishing surely have to do with the fact that we are embodied – strength, fitness, health, beauty. Some are social – admiration, respect, friendship, caregiving, mutual love. Some emphasize will, proper judgment, or agency – achievement, skill, power, exercise of freedom and autonomy, creativity, contemplation. Some are more passive but nonetheless excellences – joy, experiences of pleasure, aesthetic appreciation. Some an admixture – knowledge and virtue.
In choosing a career, one makes a decision about how a great portion of one’s life – one’s time, energy, passions, and attention – will be spent day to day, week to week, year in and year out. Working as an academic (in philosophy of religion and analytic theology in particular), I have been fortunate enough to spend the last quarter-century devoting the hours I trade in order to make a living to learning and to thinking (and to sharing with others what I’ve learned and thought by teaching and writing) about topics that seem to me and to others who share my religious orientation to be the most significant issues to which we can address ourselves.
And doing so strikes me as having contributed to my own flourishing (or to whatever degree of flourishing I’ve managed to approximate) more than any other career I can think of – certainly more than any other career that was ever for me a genuine alternative. Although I can’t say that it has done much to make me more beautiful (it can’t do everything), my professional experiences studying and teaching and contributing to philosophy of religion and analytic theology have helped me to make improvements in nearly every category catalogued above.
Among the unsung or at least inadequately acknowledged compensations for a career in these fields are the tremendous opportunities to develop meaningful interpersonal relationships, to exercise freedom, autonomy, and creativity in one’s own scholarship and pedagogical choices, to experience a remarkable variety of intellectual and aesthetic pleasures, and (if not to become virtuous) to acquire and sustain a set of skills and capacities for self-reflection that make it much less likely that ignorance of one’s own failings is the obstacle to growing in virtue.
In short – the joys and goods to be had in pursuing this sort of vocation and the ways in which doing so can contribute to making one’s life valuable for its subject are deeply attractive. And these are not goods or a strategy for acquiring them somehow especially suited to men. They are goods which I would wish for my mother, my sisters, my daughters, and my female students, colleagues, and friends.
I very much hope the variety of traditional and contemporary burdens and barriers to participating in and enjoying these goods for women who are so inclined to pursue them continue to diminish. Whereas I suppose only a very few individuals (regardless of gender) might have anything like an obligation to study and teach and contribute to these fields, it is perfectly clear that there are many women who would genuinely excel in such an occupation, who would enrich the discourse for all of us similarly engaged, and who would substantially contribute to their own happiness in the process.
On a personal note, I would like to acknowledge the impact (on me) of a woman who has persevered against difficulties both great and small to make contributions in all of these fields. Eleonore Stump’s Wandering in Darkness and her Atonement are spectacular examples of what one can achieve in the course of such a career, a career devoted to inquiries of the highest importance (once again, a judgment that arises from my own religious orientation). And I can’t help but think that her kindness and wisdom and quality as a friend have been nurtured and enhanced by the questions and duties and projects she has explored and pursued in the course of her professional life. Eleonore is a personal hero of mine. And a woman who today is on the verge of choosing to carve out a professional life in one of these disciplines may well become (and deserve to become) a hero and inspiration to future individuals tomorrow by focusing her talents and energies on pursing topics that genuinely matter while simultaneously contributing to her own flourishing in one of the best ways available to her. That’s a fine thing to aspire to.
Hud Hudson is Professor of Philosophy at Western Washington University,
where he has taught for twenty-six years. He is a recipient of the Peter J Elich
Excellence in Teaching Award and of the Paul J Olscamp Research Award.
Hud works primarily in contemporary metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and
analytic theology. He is the author of The Fall and Hypertime (Oxford 2014),
The Metaphysics of Hyperspace (Oxford 2006), A Materialist Metaphysics of
the Human Person (Cornell 2001), and Kant’s Compatibilism (Cornell 1994),
and of a philosophical novel, A Grotesque in the Garden (Xerxes Press 2017).