Philosophy professor finds comfort of doubt in study

Jorge Valadez, Ph.D., is a philosophy professor. Although he was raised as a devout Catholic, he had many doubts and questions about his religion. He said that he was ultimately saved by philosophers like Aristotle.  Photo by Astrid Villegas
Jorge Valadez, Ph.D., is a philosophy professor. Although he was raised as a devout Catholic, he had many doubts and questions about his religion. He said that he was ultimately saved by philosophers like Aristotle. Photo by Astrid Villegas

By Astrid Villegas

The walls in Dr. Jorge Valadez’s office are empty, but his mind is not. With a simple question regarding philosophy, one can uncover a glimpse of his very accomplished life.

Valadez, a professor of philosophy, lives his life with simplicity and curiosity. His Yale doctorate lays on his desk along with a couple of ordinary papers.

“My wife keeps on asking me why I don’t put it up, and I intend to” Valadez said as he picked up his doctorate from the stack of papers. “It is just that I keep forgetting.”

Perhaps his forgetfulness comes from his primary occupation and “effort to understand the world and to understand reality at the most general level.”

Valadez was raised as a devout Catholic, but at a certain point he started to feel like the questions he had were not adequately answered by religion.

“I had too many questions, and I started to think and to question a lot of things,” Valadez said. “I was severely depressed for many years.”

Valadez went from being president of the science club and a straight A’s student to being an outcast that almost flunked out of high school.

“I just did not see any meaning or purpose in life.”

Valadez started to skip school to go to the public library and read the works of philosophers like Bertrand Russell and Aristotle. He discovered the area of study of philosophy, through which people had been thinking about and asking the same questions as he for centuries.

“I thought, ‘Hey I’m not crazy,’” Valadez said. “That is what saved me: that little shelf in the Laredo Public Library on philosophy, religion, and theology.”

Valadez developed an interest in philosophy and realized he had to go back to high school. He studied harder than before to increase his grade point average and ended up barely graduating, ranking 405 from a class of 410.

Nonetheless, Valadez went on to receive his bachelor’s from UT Austin, his master’s and doctorate from Yale, and after teaching at four different universities, he stayed at Our Lady of the Lake University, which he said has been the most supportive of his scholarly pursuits.

In his philosophy classes, Valadez not only teaches well-known philosophy, but also his own. As students walked into his class one day, their apprehensive faces showed how enjoyable yet challenging his course can be.

Once the class began Valadez included students in the lecture, especially the females of the class. As an advocate of women’s rights, Valadez makes sure to give women the opportunity to speak their minds, even if it may be challenging for some of his female students.

“I don’t think the way most religions reinforce morality is a healthy way,” Valadez said. “Religion is one of the greatest sources in the world that influences the oppression of women and their rights.”

Valadez has published a critically-acclaimed book and many articles in books and academic journals, but his latest book, Planetary Ethics and the Future of Humanity, concentrates on the connection between the universe, animals, human beings, and unexplained events in life.

“We need to realize that the connection between us and animals is closer than what we think,” Valadez said. “I think we are connected to each other as human beings and to nature in ways we don’t fully understand, There is evidence that shows we are connected in non-physical ways.”

The book is still a work in progress, but through it, Valadez aspires to “break new boundaries of thought.”

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