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Deep in Thought

For Young Philosopher, Knowledge is a Way of Life

Whether or not you realize it, you rely on metaphysical concepts every day.

Not convinced? Take it from Ian Cruise, a recent Honors College graduate with a flair for the intangible.

“People take for granted how the mind works,” he said. “When you see a billiard ball hit another ball, you say the first one caused the second one to move and you’re making a metaphysical assumption ... All you can say is that the event wouldn’t have happened without the cause. You can never see causation.”

It’s not hard to believe that Cruise planned to pursue a degree in science before an Honors class convinced him to major in philosophy. As a research assistant in the philosophy department, he gets paid to think.

“I like that when I write something, it’s not just manipulating facts,” he said. “In science, you run experiments and you say what the data shows. Philosophy is structured, reasoned opinion about things science can’t touch yet. Everything starts out as philosophy … today we have Newtonian physics, but it started with Aristotle.”

The New Hampshire native is a recipient of the prestigious National Merit Scholarship, President of the Honors College Student Council, and spent the summer of 2008 studying philosophy at Harvard.

His paper, "Fairness and Political Obligation: A Critique of Klosko's Theory," was published in Purlieu: A Philosophical Journal.

“The paper, very broadly, is on political obligation, the obligation that citizens have to obey the law and support the institutions of their state,” said Cruise.

In his paper, Cruise challenges theories proposed by George Klosko, arguing that using the principle of fairness to establish a basis for political obligations violates free will. He questions Klosko’s concept of presumptive public goods, which is the idea that the state provides benefits so valuable that citizens cannot refuse them.

Cruise, who was recently named Honors College Outstanding Senior upon graduating, defended an Honors Thesis on "Human Rights, Development, and Global Justice."

“It’s about the morality of harm and what’s a permissible harm versus an impermissible harm,” he said. “If I open up a bakery next to another bakery and mine does so well that the other one goes out of business …presumably I’ve harmed the bakery next to me, but it doesn’t look like I’ve done anything wrong. So there are questions about harm, and intentionality doesn’t really make a difference.”

In addition to completing his thesis and having had his work published, Cruise also spoke at philosophy conferences across the state, including the 2010 Louisiana Collegiate Honors Conference and Reflections on Practical Philosophy: An Undergraduate Conference Hosted by Loyola University New Orleans and Tulane.

And teaching others about philosophy is what Cruise enjoys the most.

“I like being in front of a class,” he said. “I like seeing students learn, and I enjoy teaching philosophy specifically because I get to engage with what I do every day.”

Cruise, who will soon be attending the London School of Economics, said the widening achievement gap in schools and his parents have influenced his desire to teach.

“My dad’s an English professor and my mom is a social work professor. So I know grammar really well and I’m passionate about social justice,” he said.

As a result of his stance on educational injustice, Cruise volunteered to teach philosophy to students from under-resourced high schools as part of Focusing On College and Unlimited Success (FOCUS), an Honors College service program.

For the past four years, Cruise has served as an Honors Welcome leader and participated in the annual Community Bound service program.

“FOCUS was probably my favorite Honors College thing I’ve done,” he said. “It was a great experience and I don’t think I would have been anything close to as involved as I am if it weren’t for the Honors College.”

Cruise said the Honors College was the reason he made the decision to come to LSU.

“It was a great deal for a good education,” he said. “I feel like the class options are more interesting and interdisciplinary than I would get with just the basic humanities or social science requirements.”

The key to a great university is its faculty members, said Cruise.

“I’ve worked for Doctor Edward Song, and he’s great… very motivating, very helpful, very encouraging. He taught the class that got me hooked on philosophy,” he said. “Great faculty will draw great students, (and) that’s why I think there’s a problem with all these cuts to the staff.”

For Cruise, majoring in philosophy has allowed him to assess logical arguments and develop strong reasoning abilities, skills he said many students lack.

“I hate the push to professionalism of higher education to just train you for a job. There’s a reason that humanities majors get hired … they can engage with texts, deals, and contracts,” he said. “If you can walk away with a nuanced perspective on life, that’s what education is about.”


Story by Elizabeth Clausen, LSU Honors College

For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831