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Philosophy Prof Wins Teaching Award

“When a lecture on moral responsibility runs seamlessly into a thought-provoking discussion between Joel and the entire class, it’s impossible not to be excited and interested in philosophy,” says Sarah Raskoff CAS ’10, a student in Joel Martinez’ Ethical Theory course. Martinez, assistant professor of philosophy, recently received the Arnold L. Graves and Lois S. Graves Award in recognition of his outstanding teaching in the humanities.

Martinez’ scholarly interests include virtue ethics, 19thcentury philosophy, and the philosophy of education. He will use the $10,000 award to support a project titled “Reforming Morality: Virtue as Inner Strength in Aristotle and the Ancient Stoics.”

“My teaching approach is to build courses, lectures, and assignments around a foundational problem or a foundational puzzle,” says Martinez. “For example, how can we have free will if every event that occurs is the result of a chain of causes? If I can state a puzzle in a clear enough way, my students do the rest.”

Martinez believes the goal of philosophy is not necessarily to put questions to rest; rather, it’s to clearly articulate questions and to consider the many different answers that are possible.

“It’s amazing how often a student offers a perspective on a problem or a theory that I have not considered,” says Martinez. “The most fun thing about teaching is to hear how people with different backgrounds and different life experiences respond to the ideas and problems we discuss in class. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to spend my days working with students to develop new ideas and new approaches to age-old problems.”

Martinez’ accomplishment continues a string of Graves Award successes by the Lewis & Clark faculty. Karen Gross, assistant professor of English, won the award in 2008—as did David Campion, associate professor of history, in 2006; Rebecca Copenhaver, associate professor of philosophy, in 2004; Nora Beck, James W. Rogers Professor of Music, in 2000; and Alan Cole, professor of religious studies, in 1998.

Graves Awards are funded by a bequest from Mr. and Mrs. Graves and administered by Pomona College. They are awarded biennally to faculty at private, independent liberal arts colleges in California, Oregon, and Washington.

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