Assistant Professor of Philosophy Allison Wolf is combating a common misconception about her field: the belief that philosophy has no application in today’s world.
“People think philosophy is so out in the clouds … I always want to look for something really concrete to explore abstract theories,” she said.
Wolf uses her knowledge of philosophy to study two seemingly different topics: childbirth practices in the United States and the globalization of Central America, particularly its effect on Costa Rica.
Though the topics may appear unrelated, Wolf said the underlying questions she is trying to answer are the same: What are the most ethical practices? Do current practices reflect the things we value as individuals and as a society? How can the practices better reflect those values?
“I am looking for justice,” she said. “I want a just world.”
For her research on globalization, Wolf travels to Costa Rica annually, taking Simpson students with her every other year for May Term. The class tackles many of the same areas Wolf does in her research, such as the ethics of tourism.
On campus, Wolf also works to help students see the relevance of philosophy in their lives.
She and John Pauley, professor of philosophy, created an ethics minor and an applied philosophy major for their department. Wolf said the applied philosophy major, which encourages students to analyze the issues of today’s world from the lens of philosophy, is a popular second major for students looking to enter the fields of law, medicine or criminal justice.
“Good philosophers study the world,” she said. “Thinking is going to get you nowhere if you don’t understand the world.”