Some Reflections on a Recently Defended Dissertation

Yesterday was a day I had anticipated for many years.  I successfully defended my dissertation, Toward a Richer Account of Human Rights in Christian Moral Theory: From Wolterstorff and Hauerwas to Wojtyla.

This process has led to some reflection on the path to here.  Jim Stump told me as a freshman that I wrote like a philosopher and should consider a philosophy major.  (Granted, he tells that to about 90% of his students, but that’s beside the point.)  That day I started down a long path, and yesterday was an important milestone on that path.

That path has led through Mishawaka, Indiana (Bethel College), Athens, Ohio (Ohio University), and Waco, Texas (Baylor University).  While I don’t know where the next step will be, I don’t regret being on this path, through the ups and downs.

While many things are the same as they were at the beginning of the dissertation process, many have changed.  When I started the project, I was a clean shaven man with passable eyesight.  At the completion, I am a bearded man with glasses.  However, many philosophers I respect have facial hair and glasses, so I think I’m in good company.  When I started the project, my wife was employed at Baylor.  At the completion, she’s completed a master’s degree in speech language pathology and is within weeks of being licensed.

I feel like I’m in the midst of some kind of grieving with this project finally coming to its completion.  The past three years have been ordered around the dissertation (and all the various redirections that have taken place).  While I am rejoicing in the completion of the project, there is a sense of uncertainty, as I will be relearning what it is like to live without a dissertation.  It is something I’m looking forward to relearning.

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be presenting at a couple conferences and plan to return to the blog with some of the ideas in the dissertation, the ideas discussed in those conference papers, moments in teaching, and some initial thoughts I have on the application of some themes within my dissertation.

However, those posts will not start today.  Today is a day of celebration, of celebrating the completion of significant accomplishments and future possibilities!



  1. Kristi says:

    Wow…congratulations, Joel!

  2. Jim Stump says:

    For the record, I do tell a lot of students that they should consider a philosophy major; I don’t tell very many that they write like a philosopher. You’re in pretty elite company there!

    Congratulations again.

  3. D C Cramer says:

    Yeah, Stump told me I write like a girl. Not sure what that was supposed to mean.

  4. katie says:

    Congratulations! I defended my dissertation yesterday, so I am feeling the joy of which you speak! Feels good! I am not sure I will cry too long about not having a dissertation though…

  5. Nate says:

    “Today is a day of celebration, of celebrating the completion of significant accomplishments and future possibilities!” Indeed! Party-on Joel. Congrats!

  6. chris says:

    Congratulations! It’s been almost 10 years since I filed and I can still bring back the feelings like it was yesterday. I came across your site while searching for a different Joel Schwartz – he’s got a PhD in biochemistry. But I was happy for your accomplishment, and I’m a lover of philosophy (though I work in molecular biology and computational genomics). Welcome to the club Dr. Schwartz.

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