Like a lot of first-year college students, Bradley Wakefield wasn’t sure what he wanted to major in. He started out in business, but disliked how it constrained the curious nature his mother assured him he had been born with.
“I took a philosophy class and the instructor had one of the greatest minds that I had ever encountered,” says Wakefield. “Then I took another philosophy class and another. I just wanted more. And it’s the same hunger I see in some of my students.”
The hungriest are members of The Argument Clinic, the philosophy club that Wakefield organized after joining Macomb’s faculty in 2013. Last semester, he introduced a successful speakers’ series, which explores such thoughtful issues as conspiracy theories and gender inequality in philosophy, the latter of which has been a focus of Wakefield’s own studies
“Everybody knows John Stuart Mill,” offers Wakefield, who holds a master’s degree in philosophy from Wayne State University and has begun work on his Ph.D. “But the world didn’t know that (Harriet Taylor, his wife) improved upon everything he did.”
A longtime ambassador for the Michigan Opera Theatre, Wakefield offers his students discount tickets and extra credit to attend performances. He was also instrumental in bringing MOT artists to Macomb for a preview of Little Women and an opera primer, part of his effort to establish an opera club at Macomb.
“Students here want the academic life,” says Wakefield, who is often followed to his office after class by students who want to continue a discussion.
“I surprise my students when I tell them ‘I’m professional at being wrong,’” relates Wakefield, who likens philosophy to the search for a thorn-less path to truth. “My job is to tell students when they are in thorny territory.”
Both the thorns and their enthusiasm remind Wakefield of his younger self.
“Some of my students will be better philosophers than I ever will,” says Wakefield. “When they come back and tell me years from now that they have published, that they are the chair of their philosophy department, I will love that.”