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Faculty Spotlight: Scott Merrill

By Mariah Davis; For The Clock
On November 10, 2015

Faculty Spotlight: Scott Merrill

Mariah Davis

For The Clock                                                                                                                 COURTESY PHOTO/ SCOTT MERRILL

Scott Merrill is a professor in the history and philosophy department, as well as the social science department at PSU. Students can be sure to have a variety of options if they want to take a class with him.

“I’ve taught a lot of different classes in different subject areas. Some are general education courses like Perspectives on Religion, Ultimate Questions, Doing Right and Being Good or Building a Civil Society, while some are upper level, such as Existentialism, Death and Dying, History of Philosophy, Anthropology of Religion, Ritual and Myth,” said Merrill. “I’ve also taught a couple of First Year Seminar courses as well: Are We Evil? and Is Life Worth Living”

Outside of the classroom, Merrill has some unique hobbies: “I don’t knit but I hear that’s something guys are starting to do more often.”

Merril said, “I have a friend who lays bricks by day and comes home at night sometimes and breaks out his knitting tools. It was a little strange to see him sitting there the first time, this big guy with a big beard, looking sort of like my grandmother. But I suppose it can be a nice way to focus your attention away from the heavy stuff of life for anyone.”

Although he isn’t a knitter, Merrill likes painting, reading, running, and making paddles. “I sometimes get into giving myself a manicure while I’m watching TV shows.”

Existentialism, held last spring, was Merrill’s favorite class to teach. He said he liked the small class size and the students’ genuine interest.

“This class allowed us to acknowledge that life is deeply and utterly personal and perhaps absurd too. And also that we are ‘cursed’ to be free, in the sense that each of us bears the responsibility of his or her actions,” said Merrill.

“You can take this in a religious sense or not, it doesn’t matter really. The importance of teaching this stuff is that it’s what many people think about but have no foundation for helping them speak of it.”

“When this foundation is lacking I think people sometimes assume their ideas are a waste of time, that they have no value,” said Merrill “make your opinions about these things yours.”

“Existentialism allowed us to give voice to our deepest concerns and ‘secret’ feelings and thoughts. You can be a pragmatist and a poet.” said Merrill. “But who has time for real conversation or truth when they’re more concerned with whether people like them?”

Merrill had some advice for first-year students. “Don’t get into the habit of thinking you’re wasting your time if you don’t know what you want to do in terms of a major or a career. College is about learning skills but it’s also about shaping character and learning to take your own ideas seriously,” said Merrill.

“So, take yourself seriously and if you don’t think you can, or if you need help, which we all do, find a professor or a good friend who encourages you to do so. Be persistent... Oh, and take meandering road trips with friends too. And tell people to turn their phones off when you’re having a conversation.” 



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