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Dr. Jeffrey Noonan, Undergraduate Coordinator

Professor Noonan holds an Honours BAJeffrey Noonan, male from York University in Toronto (1991) (Philosophy and Social and Political Thought) and an MA (1993) (Philosophy) and Ph.D. (1996) (Philosophy) from McMaster University in Hamilton.  He began his teaching career in 1996, as Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alberta.  He joined the Department at the University of Windsor in 1998 as an Assistant Professor on a Limited Term Contract.  He is now a Full Professor and former head of Department (2004-2013).  Professor Noonan’s interests have always been broad and interdisciplinary.  His areas of specialization are in Social and Political Philosophy, Critical Theory, and Contemporary European Philosophy. 

Over the course of his nearly twenty years as a philosopher his research interests have evolved.  His PhD and first book focussed on the problem of human subjectivity, specifically the way in which our capacity for self-and world-transformation distinguishes us as a species and implies an underlying set of shared interest and goals.  This conception of subjectivity was deployed against the poststructuralist critique of essentialism then current in the discipline.  From that defence of a shared human nature and self-determining subjecthood evolved his next major research focus:  a reconstruction of the ethical foundations of socialism.  This project applied the life-value of philosophy of John McMurtry to the interpretation of the ethical foundations of socialism.  The basic argument was that socialism grows out of a deep counter-tendency in Western history:  a series of struggles of working people and other oppressed groups to ensure that natural wealth and social resources are used to satisfy their fundamental human needs.  The idea of a shared human nature developed in the first phase of his work was preserved, but re-interpreted as a set of shared fundamental needs whose satisfaction enables the sort of self-determining freedom he initially identified (in Critical Humanism and the Politics of Difference) as the essence of human subjectivity.   The reconstruction of the ethical foundations of socialism generated a new research interest (developed in his most recent book) in the fundamental principles and social implications of what he calls materialist ethics.  Noonan’s materialist ethics rejects the reductionism of ethical naturalism and earlier hedonistic doctrines.  The conception of human needs first developed through historical analysis in Democratic Society and Human Needs was sharpened and developed into a comprehensive materialist interpretation of the good for human beings.  The good life for human beings must be a life that is realizable on earth—it must be a good that accords with our finite, embodied nature.   Thus the good for human beings, Noonan concluded, is the free-realization of our defining life-capacities, within the limits that nature and a finite lifespan impose.  His current research continues to develop the implications of this materialist ethics.  His current book project is examining the existential dimensions of human finitude, defending the life value of human limitations against a naive and potentially destructive technotopianism.  

Dr. Noonan is active in the Windsor University Faculty Association (in which he serves as Vice-President, Internal) and in a wide variety of political struggles and cultural organizations and projects in the city of Windsor.  In 2015 he was asked to serve a three year term as co-editor of the Interventions section of the interdisciplinary journal Alternative Routes. He also maintains an active blog at http://www.jeffnoonan.org

The first philosophical book that I read was Albert Camus’ The Rebel, when I was sixteen, riding the bus from Sudbury to visit my uncle in Toronto. At the time I had not thought about studying philosophy. All that I knew for certain was that I wanted to go to university and that the university had to be in Toronto. I am sure that I misunderstood most of what Camus was arguing, but his idea of revolt, of the refusal to leave things and oneself as they were, has influenced my thinking ever since. Maybe it was at that point, smoking cigarettes on a Greyhound that the idea of studying philosophy first grabbed me.

When I arrived at York two years later I enrolled in all sorts of different courses but the two that would set me on the path that I am still on were introductory courses in philosophy and political theory. I was much more interested in the content of the political science course. I have never been intellectually more moved than when we read Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts. All the propaganda that I had been fed for 18 years melted away. Here was the most powerful invocation of the ideal of human freedom I had ever encountered. My philosophical commitment to exploring and advancing that ideal was set. But my curiosity knew no bounds. I did not want to confine myself to just one domain of study. That is why the course in philosophy was important. Here was a discipline that allowed you to explore any and every dimension of human experience. I ended up majoring in Philosophy and Social and Political Thought, trying as best I could to discipline my thoughts and yet keep them open to a range of different approaches.

As I advanced towards my final year of study my professors encouraged me to consider graduate school. I was accepted at McMaster and started my MA in 1993. I dragged the MA out for two years and then moved on to the Ph.D program. A couple of months before I defended my thesis I was having a beer, complaining that I had wasted three years. I was nearly finished my doctorate and had no job lined up. When I returned home there was a message waiting for me. I had applied for a contract position at the University Of Alberta and the chair was offering me the job. In August I defended my dissertation and was off to Alberta for the next two years. I came to Windsor in 1998, and was hired on a tenure track position in 2001. In one way or another I have been in school for more than 30 years. If I had to choose my soul again, as Plato says we all must in Book Ten of The Republic, I could not but take the same path.

For the last ten years I have been working at Windsor, delighting in the vital intellectual life of our department and trying to stay engaged as a philosopher in the wider life of my adopted home city. For me philosophy is what happens inside, rather than outside, Plato’s cave. In the midst of severe life-crises on all planes of being alive, it is clear that neither politics as it is ordinarily practiced nor science and technology alone can provide comprehensive solutions. Our world needs more than ever the systematic criticism and comprehensive normative vision that only philosophy can provide. This general commitment I share with all my colleagues at Windsor, and I invite any prospective students who are interested in pursuing a life of philosophical engagement to contact the department for further information.

Books

  • Jeff Noonan, Materialist Ethics and Life Value, Montreal:  McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2012.
  • Jeff Noonan, Human Needs and Democratic Society, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2006.
  • Jeff Noonan, Critical Humanism and the Politics of Difference, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2003.

Recent Papers and Chapters

  • Jeff Noonan, “The Humanities, Education, and the Cultivation of Inner Depth: Against the Cult of Quantifiable Outcomes,” International Journal of Humanities Education, 13(3), 2015, pp. 31-41.
  • Jeff Noonan, and Mireille Coral,  “The Tyranny of Work: Employability and the Neoliberal Assault on Education,” Alternate Routes, 26 p. 51-73, 2015.
  • Jeff Noonan, “Self-constraint, Human Freedom, and the Conditions of Socialist Democracy,” Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 25(4), 2014, pp. 85-101.
  • Jeff Noonan, “MacIntyre, Virtue, and the Critique of Capitalist Modernity,” Journal of Critical Realism, 13(2), 2014, pp. 189-203,
  • Jeff Noonan, “Radical Philosophy and Social Criticism,” International Critical Thought, 4(1), 2014, pp. 10-21.
  • Jeff Noonan, and Mireille Coral, “Education, Social Interaction, and Material Co-Presence: Against Virtual Pedagogical Reality,” Interchange, 44(1-2), 2013, p. 31-43.
  • Jeff Noonan, “The Historical and Contemporary Life-Value of the Canadian Labour Movement,” Labour/Le Travail, Vol. 71, (Spring), 2013 pp. 9-29
  • Jeff Noonan, “The Life-Value of Death,”  Journal of the Philosophy of Life, 3(1), 2013, pp. 1-23.
  • Jeff Noonan, “Duties to the Dead and the Conditions of Social Peace,” The European Legacy, 17(5), 2012, pp. 593-605.
  • Jeff Noonan, “Use-Value, Life Value, and the Future of Socialism,” Rethinking Marxism, 23(1), 2011, pp. 117-135
  • Jeff Noonan, “Fundamentalist Foundations of Terrorist Practice,” Discourses and Practices of Terror: Interrogating Terror, , Editor(s) – Bob Brecher, Mark Devenney, Aaron Winter, eds., 2010, pp. 97-112.
  • Jeff Noonan, “Response to Devenney,” Discourses and Practices of Terror:  Interrogating Terror, pp. 115-117.
  • Jeff Noonan, “Ecological Economics and the Life-Value of Labour,”  Studies in Political Economy, No. 86, Autumn 2010, pp. 109-130.
  • Jeff Noonan, “Can Only Religion Save Us?” The European Legacy: Towards New Paradigms, 15(1), 2010, pp. 1-15.
  • Jeff Noonan, “Philosophy at the Service of History: Marx and the Need for a Critical Philosophy of History Today," Socialist Studies, 5(2), 2009, pp. 17-35.
  • Philip Rose and Jeff Noonan, “Environmental Philosophy and its Onto-Ethical Problems: Ancient, Medieval, andContemporary Worldviews,”  Philosophy and World Problems, in Encyclopaedia of Life-Support Systems, EOLSS Publishers and UNESCO, 2009. (www.eolss.net)
  • Jeff Noonan, “The Embodied Good Life: From Aristotle to Life-Value Ethics,” Western Philosophy and the Life-Ground, in Encyclopaedia of Life-Support Systems, EOLSS Publishers and UNESCO, 2009.

Please review Dr. Noonans' CV.

General Philosophy Links

General Research Links

Philosophy and Research Links at the University of Windsor

E-mail: jnoonan@uwindsor.ca
Office: Chrysler Hall North 2167
Office hours: By Appointment
Telephone: 253-3000 x2396
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