Faculty Friday: Beth Tropman

In a special weekly series, the College of Liberal Arts is featuring a faculty member from one of our 13 departments. We asked questions about why they are passionate about the subjects they study and teach, and how they found their path to CSU. See all “Faculty Friday” features here.  

Beth TropmanBeth Tropman

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy

1.  What inspired your interest in philosophy?

What I like most about philosophy is that it challenges us to reexamine assumptions that we take for granted. For example, much of my own research concerns the nature of moral thought and practice. I work in a subfield of philosophy called “meta-ethics.” It is common to say that killing is usually morally wrong and that helping others is morally praiseworthy, but when we examine these moral ideas more carefully they call for clarification.

What does it mean to say that something is morally wrong? How would we know that something is morally wrong, if it is? Is morality something that humans create or are moral truths somehow independent of our moral practices? I am a moral realist and a moral intuitionist, which means that I think that there are real, independent moral truths, and also, that we can know some of these moral truths directly and not on the basis of argumentation.

2.  Which class is your favorite to teach and why?

If I had to choose, I would have to say that my favorite class to teach is PHIL 205: Introduction to Ethics. This class introduces students to a range of philosophical theories about ethics. We ask and try to answer big ethical questions such as: Is lying morally wrong, and if so, what makes it wrong?; Do moral standards require God?; Is it possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason, or can your intention change the morality of what you did?

Most of the students in the class are new to philosophy, and this is often the first time they have thought about ethical questions in an academic setting. Studying philosophy can be so transformative, and I love seeing my students’ thinking about ethics and philosophy develop throughout this class.

3.  What did you want to be when you were little? When did you know you wanted to go into higher education/research?

I was very involved in art and music growing up, so I always thought that I would do something in the arts. In college I took an introduction to philosophy course, and I was hooked. The rest is history.

4.  How did you get to CSU?

As I was finishing my Ph.D., CSU had an opening for a philosopher who works in my areas of specialization: ethical theory and meta-ethics. It was a great fit for me. The philosophy department at CSU is well known for being a leader in the field of applied ethics, and I was thrilled to join a program with such strengths in ethics.

5.  What is one thing students would be surprised to learn about you?

Ethics was actually my least favorite area of philosophy as an undergraduate student. I tried to avoid taking ethics classes until a seminar in graduate school sparked my life-long love of the subject. Hence, I can empathize with students who may be hesitant to study ethical theory. Perhaps because of this, I work even harder to make ethics relevant and exciting in my classes.