Prof Quiz

At Seattle Pacific University, we have 195 full-time faculty who are experts in their respective fields. Each issue, we’ll introduce you to one and hopefully you’ll learn something new — we always do.

Patrick McDonald

Name and title?
Patrick McDonald, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Who is your favorite philosopher?
Currently, Plato and Thomas Aquinas are vying for favorite. I love how Plato insists upon revisiting every big question, which shows us that philosophy is participatory and open-ended. Similarly, the format of Aquinas' famous "Summa Theologiae" appears rigid and dogmatic at first. But as he presents a series of thousands of objections and replies, I see the spirit of the Platonic dialogue alive in his thought.

What do you do when you're not teaching?
I spend time with family, which includes my wife, my three daughters, my parents, and my seven siblings and their young ones. I'm also perfecting a few recipes, such as making lamb meatballs with a tahini sauce, and baking-powder biscuits.

How has your study of philosophy and science led you to a deeper understanding of the mystery and divinity of God?
It's profoundly affected my appreciation for the depth of God's being, and how far I am from fathoming it. Studying the history of ideas and science offers a lot of encouragement that humans can understand a few things. But, it also makes it very clear that it's difficult to do so, and with every set of successes, a whole new frontier of questions opens before us. This challenges us to think anew about how we describe God, and understand God's word.

Why do you think it's important to study philosophy?
The study of philosophy might be thought of as sitting down for a long lunch with a number of very experienced and trusted advisors. Philosophers have been working at addressing the big questions of human existence for thousands of years. They have explored questions such as: "What does it mean to know?" "What is the good life?" and "What ultimately exists?" Engaging such texts and authors helps us to refine and sharpen our thinking about such questions.

What do SPU students expect from you and your classes?
You never know what's going to happen in my class. Wild things may be said. I may stumble over a table. Papers may fall out of my notebook: Mad professor type of stuff. The students seem to think it's funny, and if it empowers them to think deeply, then it's worth all of the trouble.

Patrick McDonald spins vinyl on a regular basis, and this record is one of his favorites. "It's two great American geniuses who came together to make incredible music," he says. You might even hear it playing in his office.

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