Visiting Instructor of Philosophy Eric Ratzel received his Bachelors of Arts from Knox
College in 2009 and went on to receive his M.A from the University of Chicago in 2010. Now, he is back on campus and teaching Intro to Philosophy and Business Ethics. He also teaches yoga every Wednesday and Thursday night.
The Knox Student: Where were you before you came to Knox to teach?
Eric Ratzel: Chicago. I was actually working at a finance corporation. I’d been working there for about a year and decided I didn’t want to do it anymore, and at that time, I was basically starting to try to phase into just teaching yoga. I had already been contemplating quitting the job and then the position [at Knox] opened up and it just sort of worked out.
TKS: How is teaching here different from your experience as a Knox student?
ER: My knees hurt more. (laughs) I feel like it’s similar, just from a different angle, because all the qualities of the Knox academic atmosphere seem equally visible from a teacher’s standpoint as they were from a student’s. Very lively.
TKS: When did you become passionate about philosophy?
ER: I originally came here [to Knox] with the intention of studying poetry. And then, I took an intensive study on William Carlos Williams and I had taken a few courses in the philosophy department as well. It seemed like in order to write poetry, you needed to read philosophy and when I was taking poetry classes, it seemed like the reverse. Philosophers should read more poetry.
TKS: At what point did you know you wanted to teach?
ER: I think I was never into teaching. I sort of like the discipline in its own right, the reading and writing of it. But then when I got this position and started to talk to people about it who didn’t have a predisposition towards it, it was really fun. It’s kind of a really exciting moment to see if you can flip that switch in someone’s mind.
TKS: Tell us about your yoga classes.
ER: I think the philosophy, if it’s just the study or history of philosophy, it’s kind of useless. It has to treat contemporary culture. It has to help people. Most good philosophers in the history of philosophy are kind of contemporaneous — for better or worse. So one of the big missing components in philosophy is getting out of the academy and using the philosophy to help people — which it seems like its original purpose was. So the yoga seems like that component of the philosophical discipline that went missing in the last several hundred years. I also just really like the breathing. Meditation was part of metaphysics when it was born in Greece.
TKS: What else are you getting involved in on campus?
ER: I’ve been utilizing the drum room a lot because I’m in a band in Chicago. We play a lot of gigs. We have a marching band that we take to Wicker Park. I played in the jazz bands [when I was at Knox]. I played in the big band a lot of the time and the Cherry Street Combo.
TKS: What are your plans for the future?
ER: I’ve been through periods in my life where I was fixated on making a five-year plan, and I’ve gone through periods where if you just stop projecting, things just keep happening for you. So I’m somewhat in between. Maybe like a one-year plan. I think for sure I’d like to move back to Chicago and pour myself into the integration between philosophy and the physical practice. I’m less interested in the traditional research and philosophy. I’m more interested in seeing if you can take it out of the classroom, so to speak. I think there’s somewhere that I could establish that. Maybe I’ll just go back and forth and teach philosophy to the yogis and teach yoga to the philosophers.
TKS: What’s your favorite part of being at Knox right now?
ER: I’ve been teaching yoga classes in the fitness center, and I think that’s what I’ve enjoyed the most, because I’ve always wondered what the good of philosophy is if it’s just lectured about. So it’s been interesting to be able to do that [philosophy] and yoga all at once.