Robert Kyle Whitaker
My introduction to philosophy came about through arguing over God as an undergraduate, sometimes with professors. I often lost these arguments, or at least didn’t fair as well as I would have liked. This was unpleasant. So I set out to make myself a better arguer and along the way more or less accidentally fell in love with philosophy for its own sake. I applied to graduate school with the intention of continuing to think about God and faith, but arrived to find a vast array of philosophical styles and topics. I consequently dove into my coursework with the intention of learning as broad a range of methods and figures as possible. Where I found a topic that I couldn’t study myself, I formed friendships with colleagues who studied those things, in the hopes that I could absorb at least enough of their knowledge to avoid making the sort of flawed assumptions about other disciplines that I’ve witnessed others make.
As a result, my interests are unusually varied. I approach philosophy from a broadly “analytic” perspective, valuing clarity and argumentative precision, but I find much of value in more “continental” traditions as well. My favorite philosopher, since the first time I read him, was and remains Friedrich Nietzsche, though I have little in common with him, either in ideology or style. I find inspiration in figures such as C.S. Peirce, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, George Berkeley, Thomas Aquinas, Edmund Husserl, Søren Kierkegaard, Arthur Schopenhauer, Gilbert Ryle, Elizabeth Anscombe, Bertrand Russell, John Rawls, and of course Plato and Aristotle (in no particular order). I’ve been heavily influenced by feminist philosophy, especially feminist ethics and epistemology, and also feminist theology and philosophy of religion. I’ve studied and taught philosophy of race and racism. In the context of graduate coursework, I’ve studied and written about violence, practical intelligence, meta-ethics, virtue ethics, philosophy of language, logic, philosophy of science, philosophy of psychology, and, of course, God. I’ve developed and taught upper-division undergraduate courses in philosophy of mind and epistemology. I’ve sat in on courses on emotion, philosophy of religion, and theological hermeneutics. And I’ve learned much from colleagues who study medieval Latin and Arabic philosophy, ancient philosophy, existentialism, phenomenology, and systematic theology, traditions which I respect from afar.
This is all in addition to my primary research interests, which are the epistemology of disagreement and the epistemology of faith. Such wide interests and exposure gives me a unique perspective and a very pluralistic approach to the questions in which I am most interested: the possibility and variety of knowledge, primarily of God and of goodness. I carry this approach into my teaching, introducing students to a variety of figures, methods, and traditions. And I remain passionately curious and eager to learn from colleagues about approaches to knowledge different from my own.
First off, I go by “Kyle” most of the time, though I publish under “Robert K.” I married my wife Emily in the winter of 2017 in my home state of Kentucky, surrounded by family, friends, and great bourbon. We currently reside in Milwaukee, WI, where Emily is a menswear designer for a major department store. We enjoy traveling, long walks (really), thrift shopping, and the Milwaukee beer scene, which is second to none.