We recently caught up with Scott C. Lowe, professor and chair in the Philosophy Department at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, and editor of Christmas – Philosophy for Everyone: Better Than a Lump of Coal. He is also the author of “Ebenezer Scrooge – Man of Principle” which appeared in Think magazine in 2009. His philosophical interests are in political and legal philosophy. He hopes his students think of him as the reformed Scrooge at the end of the story, not the hard hearted Scrooge who meets the ghost of Jacob Marley.
PE: Why did you decide to edit a book on Christmas and philosophy?
SCL: It started with an article I published on Ebenezer Scrooge. He’s a great example of the role of character in morality which is a hot debate in ethics these days. From there it struck me that there are a lot of interesting questions about Christmas that philosophers might have something to say about.
SCL: Christmas is the most widely celebrated holiday in the Western world, you can’t avoid it. So questions about what Christmas means to Christians and non-Christians alike seem pretty interesting and important to me. Questions like ‘should we lie to our kids about Santa?’ or ‘should we really worry about keeping Christ in Christmas’ are ones that lots of folks have thought about.
PE: And what is it that draws you (personally) to this topic?
SCL: The commercialization of Christmas is a really interesting, and disturbing, trend to me, even though I’m not a religious person. That Christmas has turned into an orgy of stuff really makes me think about what’s valuable in life
PE: What sort of reaction do you hope it will get?
SCL: There are a lot of different views about Christmas represented in the book. I hope people, of whatever stripe, will be challenged by what they read there. I’d like folks to read and think about Christmas more reflectively and not, say, just throw the book into the fireplace.
PE: Did anything in particular strike you through the process with working with the contributors to the book and with the material they produced (things you learned, surprises, etc.)?
SCL: The conflict between religious and secular Christmas is really old! I learned a lot about the history of Christmas celebrations from working on the book; the making merry part of Christmas has been around a long, long time.
PE: What’s your current project? What’s next?
SCL: Right now I’m working on some more popular philosophy ideas. We’re working on getting a popular philosophy lecture series going on our campus, and I have an idea for another book in the Philosophy for Everyone series, but I’ll just keep that to myself for right now.
PE: If you weren’t a philosopher, what would you be?
SCL: I’d be a lawyer. I started my undergraduate education with a career in law in mind, but quickly discovered that it is the theory of law and politics that interests me. I probably would have made a lot more money practicing law, but I really love teaching philosophy.