Louis Pojman

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Lou Pojman has died. (His name is pronounced Poyman.) He's probably best known in philosophy for putting together many excellent philosophy anthologies for use in undergraduate teaching, especially at the introductory level. His work in applied ethics is markedly eclectic. To many who won't engage with the details of someone's positions, he might seem to be a lover of contradictions. He took such typically liberal views as Sierra Club environmentalism and defending a limited use of euthanasia, but he staunchly defended the justness of capital punishment and the immorality of abortion and affirmative action. He strongly opposed moral relativism of any sort, but he believed God would grant salvation to everyone. He argued that conservatives on the war on terror are correct that we need to seek military solutions to the problems of terrorism, but he argued at the same time that liberals are correct that 9-11 is a call for the U.S. to be more concerned about our own immorality, which Islamicists are right to criticize us for, and we ought to see this as an occasion to pay more heed to problems of poverty, starvation, and so on in the non-Western world, including the Muslim world, for that is surely the occasion of many terrorist cell members' opposition to the Western way of life.

I've heard a few interesting anecdotes about Pojman from someone who went to a school he used to teach at. After discovering that a philosophy black studies department interested in hiring him because of his work on civil rights issues were disappointed told him they couldn't hire him when he turned out to be white, he was so let down that he began to reconsider some of his assumptions on race issues, and I've been told that everything he wrote on that issue took a turn toward the conservative, though I haven't seen any of that work (except titles indicating that he was arguing for the immorality of affirmative action). I'm not sure if it was related to that experience or not, but Completely independently, he wrote a number of papers under the name Lois Hope Walker, including one of the better expositions of the pro-life position on abortion and an interesting pragmatic defense of religion based on the desirability of having a view that explains the meaning of life. I have a book he wrote on applied ethics that refers to Lois Hope walker as "she", which is pretty funny if you know he's talking about himself. Apparently what happened is that a textbook publisher told him one of his anthologies needed more pieces by women, and he wrote a paper defending some feminist position but attached the name Lois Hope Walker to it. He continued to use the name for other pieces. Lois Hope Walker was even invited to a conference of leading women philosophers, and the University of Mississippi Philosophy Department had to inform them that Lois Hope Walker was not a woman.

His final years were spent teaching at West Point, an elite institution (in terms of the academic quality of students) but one that I suppose most philosophers would never desire to teach at. I suspect he considered it more like a dream job.

Update: I've fixed some of the details of the anecdotes above, after consulting with my source.

2 Comments

Ran across this posting on a Google search, because I was looking for a picture of Louis Pojman to post with the obituary posting on my blog. We seem to have some common interests.
Best wishes.

I also found this page by way of a google search. I was trying to find out if anyone knew who Lois Hope walker was ... I'm highly amused to learn it was Pojman himself!

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