Owed to Murphy


John Parrish graduated from the Department of Religious Studies in 2004. He went on to pursue graduate study in Christian Origins at the University of Alberta, the University of Toronto, and Brown University, while maintaining his interests in 19th & 20th C religious thought. In the following, John reflects on the role played in his own undergraduate education by the late Dr. Tim Murphy, pictured above as he looked when he arrived in the Department in the Fall of 2002.

What to say? What can I say? Many people speak about their mentors in this way: he taught me everything I know about such-and-such-a subject. In Tim’s case that would be a lie. He did not teach me everything I know about the subjects he taught. Not even close. Tim did something better: he taught me how to read those subjects that interest me, and that, in my view, is a far better gift. He showed me, first, that to read is a verb—an active process by which you make the text your own. That is interpretation, and he always said that interpretation is the main way that we, as human beings, deal with the world around us. Of course, Tim also taught me the basics: the main authors in the subject of 19th and 20th century Religious Thought. He taught me who they were. He contextualized them—even encouraged me to read some of them. But I never had his skill at grasping and elucidating the philosophical points behind them. For that, his lectures were indispensable. Continue reading