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Duquesne Philosophy Student Earns Fulbright to Study in Germany

Duquesne University philosophy major Louis Butler, a Cranberry Township resident who will graduate in May, has earned a Fulbright scholarship to study in Germany in the coming academic year.

Butler received the prestigious Fulbright to follow a program he individually designed with a professor at the University of Munich, focusing on the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, and 19th-century German philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Georg Hegel. The Fulbright program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is the largest and one of the most noted international exchanges for students and young professionals.

Germany, as one of the most popular destinations, is also one of the most competitive awards for students to receive, said Dr. James Swindal, philosophy department chair.

The award certainly merits kudos for Butler, who switched from a practical business major to philosophy after taking an introductory core course with Dr. Patrick Lee Miller, assistant professor of philosophy. “I really wouldn’t be studying philosophy if it weren’t for him,” acknowledged Butler, who wants to become a philosophy professor.

For a while, Butler kept philosophy and economics as a double major, then switched solely to philosophy.

“When I told my parents I was studying philosophy, they asked, ‘What are you going to do with that?’” said Butler, one of the dozen or so Duquesne philosophy graduates each year. “Economics was not where my heart was, and I decided to pursue what I wanted. It’s a shame more people don’t really do what they want to do. To be honest, the most alluring aspect of philosophy is that it’s so difficult. Philosophy certainly has the quality of really testing myself, of challenging me to take it to the next level.”

Coincidentally—or not—his decision and motivations fit with the basic view of Heraclitus: life is a state of flux, full of contradictions and changes.

Butler’s recognition also validates the instruction and rigor of the Duquesne philosophy program, as well as the benefits of a liberal arts education.

“We’re producing students who can succeed on the international scene,” said Swindal. “A European philosopher (Christof Rapp) who doesn’t know him saw his talents and welcomed him into his department.”

Liberal Arts Dean Christopher Duncan knows first-hand how a change in majors can happen. “Having entered college planning to major in hotel/restaurant management and then changing to philosophy after my second week, I understand Louis’ story very well,” Duncan said. “As an education designed to liberate the mind and open the spirit, the liberal arts at their best transform men and women and open them up to the possibilities of different lives, different worlds and different ideas in ways that are both deadly serious and immensely playful at the same time.

“Louis is a fine testament to the power of gifted mentors and to the desire for truth and knowledge that burns so hotly in the human heart,” Duncan said. “It is a true joy to watch him pursue what he loves and to know that others recognize his gifts as well.”

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.