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Not Your Ordinary Philosopher
Photo by
John Davis
There's a certain gravity to Christopher Dreisbach's ethics classes. As chair of the Department of Applied Ethics and Humanities in the School of Education's Division of Public Safety and Leadership, Dreisbach, A&S '81 (MA), '88 (PhD), spends his days sparring intellectually with cops, fire fighters, Secret Service agents, and spies. "It's a really neat group of people to hang around," he says with a grin. "Ours is the only group of students allowed to come to class with guns."

Dreisbach, a philosopher by training, says he's committed to the idea of public philosophy, and his classes examine morally complicated law enforcement scenarios. His aim is not to make them ethical people — "If you're not already ethical," he tells them, "this class isn't going to help you" — but to teach the process of ethics in a way that will help them with the "tough choices," he says.

That's a high calling, but Dreisbach has an even higher one. The son of a retired Baptist minister, Dreisbach is currently going through the priestly discernment process in the Episcopal Church. If all progresses as planned, he should be a priest sometime next year. He imagines he'll continue teaching, and doing priestly things as called upon — funerals, weddings, filling in for other pastors. Considering his day job, it's not surprising that one day, he'd like to be a police chaplain.

Already his students are turning to him for pastoral guidance, which he likes. "I'm honored, and I really do love these people," he says. "I'm grateful to be part of their lives. I don't draw a very clear line between the professorship and what I think being a priest will be, but I do draw a sufficient line. To me, it feels like it's all of a piece." — Catherine Pierre

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