Kahlil Habib

Position: Faculty Fellow, Graduate School of Government

I discovered my love of political theory during my freshman year at the University of Maine, Orono. I was blessed with great teachers who had a knack for making the Great Books come alive in the classroom where lifelong friendships quickly formed around the love of learning and ideas. By studying the works of the great thinkers, who shaped and continue to shape our civilization, laws, and institutions, a genuine learning community is able to emerge and raise and attempt to answer questions such as these: How should one live? What is the good life? What is justice and how ought it to inform our political communities? What is a citizen? I was hooked on liberal education and decided to pursue my love of learning in graduate school. I completed my master’s degree in political science at the University of Toronto and my Ph.D. in philosophy, with a concentration in political philosophy, at Boston University. I followed this by joining the philosophy department and heading the Pell Honors Program at Salve Regina University in Newport, RI.

My two areas of interest are the history of political philosophy (broadly construed) and philosophical literature. I am interested in ancient and modern theories of republicanism and government, and how philosophical writers such as Shakespeare present politics and statesmanship. Shakespeare is able to converse with the likes of Plato, Aristotle, and Machiavelli, and the Biblical tradition, in ways that help us to see the impact of ideas on the lives of a range of characters in a variety of circumstances. He adds flesh and bones, so to speak, to political thought by making characters come alive in ways designed to teach us to think critically about political life without relying on abstractions to understand the human condition.

My approach to teaching political theory stems from the Socratic tradition of liberal education, where wonder is the beginning of the quest for wisdom and self-knowledge. Civil debate and conversation is essential to generating a desire for understanding. Accordingly, I use the Socratic method in the classroom in order to provoke students to defend their views and get them to take seriously perspectives that they might not otherwise consider. My goal is to elevate their mind above conformity and dogmatism and inspire a sense of wonder and love of learning. I was attracted to Hillsdale College because of its mission and core curriculum. The students at Hillsdale College are serious about ideas and learning. They come to Hillsdale College very well prepared and with an insatiable hunger to learn. Hillsdale’s core provides students with the opportunity to engage in conversation and debate through a systematic set of courses that cover a range of ideas drawn from the Western Canon, across a wide variety of disciplines. The Politics department in particular is rooted in the study of political philosophy and the intersection between theory and practice, and provides students with a wide range of courses focusing on the great political thinkers and statesman that have shaped our civilization. Informed citizenship and the exercise of responsible liberty is what Hillsdale aims to foster in students, and is one of the main reasons why I love being a part of the Hillsdale College community.