1/29/13 ASHLAND, Ohio – Dr. Jeffrey Tiel, associate professor of philosophy at Ashland University, has written his first philosophy book titled, “Philosophy of Human Nature.” The book is available in print or Kindle formats exclusively at Amazon.com.
Beginning with the Socratic premise that the unexamined life is not worth living, Tiel takes his readers historically through the philosophical quest for human value. “Why does true happiness so often elude us?” he asks. “Aristotle suggested that meaning in our lives is like a target, our choices and goals the arrows. If we don’t know what and where that target is, we’ll never hit it.”
Tiel is deeply interested in the problem of human happiness and agrees with the ancient and Christian philosophers that happiness cannot be anything people want it to be, since, if it were, they would already all be happy; the secret of happiness would simply be to set minimal goals.
“But that doesn’t work, does it?” Tiel asks. “Happiness is the best possible human state. That’s why we want it so badly. So, it can’t be just anything. Nor is it likely to be easy.”
Tiel explained that this book is the fulfillment of years of teaching philosophy at Ashland University, begun when his then-Philosophy Department Chairman Mark Hamilton assigned him to teach a section of Philosophy of Human Nature.
“That assignment forced me to delve deeply into the ancient texts in search of what exactly human beings are,” Tiel offered. “I discovered that in spite of their empirical scientific limitations, the ancient philosophers’ understandings of human action and meaning were profound.”
Tiel begins his book with a great Socratic challenge: why bother being good if you could get away with being bad? Socrates imagines possessing an invisibility ring that enables its wearer to act with impunity.
Tiel says, “It’s worth asking what you would do with such a ring. Do we really value goodness itself or just its usual beneficial effects? If those effects were transferrable to a wicked life, why bother with goodness at all?”
Tiel explains that Socrates accepts this challenge to morality and shows that just as health is the goodness of the body, so moral virtue is the goodness of the soul.
“The upshot?” asks Tiel. “We cannot possibly be happy without moral virtue. Wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice are absolutely necessary for satisfaction in life, whether anyone is watching you or not.”
Tiel doesn’t halt his inquiry with the ancients though. He presses the questions of moral value begun with the challenge of the invisibility ring through Christian philosophers like Saints Augustine and Thomas, on into modern thinkers such as Locke and Rousseau, as well as contemporary figures such as Marx and Sartre. But in the end he returns to Plato’s Republic where the whole quest for value began, “to give Socrates the last word,” he offers slyly.
Tiel, who joined Ashland University in 1998, previously taught at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., as well as Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. He is an award-winning teacher, known for bringing ancient ideas to life. In addition to “Philosophy of Human Nature,” Tiel has also published a supernatural thriller titled “The Search for Melchizedek,” also available exclusively at Amazon.com.
Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2013, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.