Profile of a Professor: Dr. Chris Zarpentine, philosophy

How do people make moral decisions? Why is it that certain moral questions do not translate well into action? These are only a few questions pondered by  Chris Zarpentine, assistant professor of  philosophy. Zarpentine has worked at Wilkes since 2013, and specializes in moral psychology, a discipline which integrates philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience.

Zarpentine has been in the field of moral psychology for almost ten years. “What is unique about the ways I approach these questions is that for many thousands of years philosophers have been asking these sorts of questions, but only recently have scientists and psychologists been able to study them in a more systematic way,” he said. “I try to ask philosophical questions in a way that is informed by the interesting research being done in psychology and neuroscience.”

Even though he specializes in this area of philosophy, the courses he teaches as well as his interests are not restricted. “We’re a small program, so I teach broadly. It’s great because I am interested in almost every aspect of philosophy,” he explained. Zarpentine has taught courses like logic and ancient philosophy, and will be teaching philosophy of the mind and environmental ethics. “I’m allowed to be interested in many things, and I found that to be a great part of being a philosopher.”

Zarpentine didn’t discover his interest in philosophy until he began his undergraduate studies as a music major at Ithaca College. He realized that jobs in music would not work for him, and decided to take up philosophy instead. “I think that’s the way a lot of people discover philosophy, because most people don’t take philosophy in high school,” he said.

He is also on the Institutional Review Board, responsible for protecting the human subjects involved in research. As an ethicist, the protection of human subjects is important to him. He is also working with pyshology professor Ellen Newell to form and advise a student organization which will focus on the intersection of philosophy and psychology.

Whenever he has free time, Zarpentine likes to do things like hike and read. “I have a two year old now, so many weekends are spent at the playground.”