David Naugle is professor of philosophy at Dallas Baptist University and the author, most recently, of Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness. I had a chance to meet David at Jubilee 2010 and ask him a few questions about the nature of happiness, his life as a faculty member, and advice for students considering academic vocations. Originally posted on the ESN website.
Mike Hickerson: I don’t want to give too much away from the book, but what would be your capsule definition of happiness?
David Naugle: I think it’s the genuine fulfillment of human nature rooted in a relationship with God, whose mercy and grace demonstrated in the person and work of Jesus Christ enables us to love God and the creation well, in a rightly-ordered manner. That’s the definition in short. It has to do with the love of God and the love of one’s neighbor, rightly-ordered.
MH: This morning, I was thinking about how that would apply with my work with emerging scholars and Christian faculty. Academics often complain about the stress, the low pay and long hours and the high entry requirements of their profession. Yet at the same time, they sacrifice quite a bit of time, energy, and money in order to become an academic. Academic professions are typically ranked near the top as one of the most fulfilling jobs. Maybe this is too big of a question, but what do you see as the state of happiness in the academy, among faculty?
DN: Well I think that is maybe an impossible question to answer, actually. Obviously it would depend on each individual faculty member and where they’re coming from. My guess is that the happiness quotient among university faculty, broadly speaking, is probably roughly about the same as the happiness quotient of American society generally, if we’re thinking in terms of North American society, the U.S. and Canada. I don’t know if there’s anything that’s uniquely happiness-giving to being a university professor.
As a matter of fact, depending on the discipline, there are some cases in which professors would probably be tempted toward cynicism, skepticism, and despair unless there is a foundation of faith underneath all that. It’s pretty easy to get lost in the labyrinth of knowledge and to see no way out. An,d more or less, you pursue your job as anyone would pursue their job, as a source of livelihood, perhaps as a way to make a name for oneself, to scale the career heights in the academy, that kind of thing. Faculty are looking for something that fulfills and brings meaning, but perhaps struggling to find it, just like anybody else would. So I don’t necessarily put faculty members in any kind of particular special happiness category, by any stretch of the imagination.
As far as the profession itself is concerned, I think it’s the best job on the planet. I think that for a number of reasons. [Number] one, especially as a Christian professor, that if you’ve learned through the grace of God to love God and to love your neighbor as you love yourself, and to love all things in creation and culture, in a rightly or re-ordered way, in light of your love for God and love for neighbor, and that’s the framework or context within which you’re pursuing your academic discipline, then that is happiness giving.
Number two, it makes the academic enterprise seem to me profoundly meaningful. There’s a way of contributing to the academy, to the discipline, to the guild of your discipline, in a unique way, from a Christian perspective. And you get to have a ministry, which I think is really what the classroom actually is: a place of ministry in the lives of young, impressionable students. Itâ€™s a ministry that has a lasting impact. In that sense, if you put all of that together, I think that’s why it’s the greatest job on the planet. [Read more…] about Interview: David Naugle on Love, Happiness, and Paideia