Photo by Sara Serkownek
Photo by Sara Serkownek

Ashley Garcia, Chattanooga, Tenn. – Robert Austin Kippes is a senior from Mt. Juliet Tenn., studying philosophy. He actively participates in activities on and off campus, and plans to “re-vamp” the Philosophy club as president next semester.

At first Kippes wanted to study history because his father majored in geography.

Before coming to UTC Kippes earned his Associates degree at Volunteer State Community College, which is where he took his first philosophy class.

“When I came here I had to choose my minor and I picked philosophy,” said Kippes. “A few weeks in after deciding to take more philosophy classes, I chose to double major.”

Kippes said he believes that philosophy is important because it is the foundation for all critical thinking.

Kippes has been to two different philosophical conferences during his time at UTC. He presented his own paper at the two-day North Georgia Philosophical Association Conference at Kennesaw State University last spring.

His paper was called “A Relationship Between Capitalism in the State: a Critique of Marxism.”

“I wanted to analyze the history between the economic system of capitalism and the state to see where it came from and how Karl Marx critiques capitalism,” said Kippes.

He also attended Tennessee Philosophical Association Conference in October, where he made comments and critiques about another philosopher’s paper.

“Dr. Chris King, who teaches at Miami University in Ohio, wrote a paper titled Exploring Political Authority,” said Kippes. “I got the paper and wrote a critique of it and then after he read his paper I read my critique after he read his paper.”

Kippes said he got the opportunity to go and speak at these two conferences by speaking to faculty members and the philosophy department at UTC paid for his expenses to go to them.

There is another conference in the spring for the National Center for Undergraduate Research that he has applied to.

He said that philosophy now has taken over the history degree.

He said that he uses history as a way to back up his arguments in the two areas of philosophy he is most interested in: social and political philosophy.

“I like to integrate the two into each other,” said Kippes. “These are the things I’m interested in and I like to use history as a way to analyze and use it as evidence for my arguments.”

He said he likes these two areas because they deal with topics that are interesting. Kippes said that political philosophy deals with questioning government and trying to answer issues such as if there is a best form of government or if government is needed at all.

Social philosophy deals with how people interact. Kippes said he likes to dwell in-between the two and look at the tension in power and authority in the citizens and the government.

Kippes is the Vice President of the Philosophy Club on campus. They meet on Friday’s to discuss the topic of the week. He said they will usually watch a video and then talk about it.

“We usually go out for drinks afterwards to continue to discuss the topic or philosopher in more depth,” said Kippes.

Ethan Mills, one of Kippes’ professors, praises his work ethic and what he brings to the classroom.

“His work is always top notch, and he’s a valuable participant in class discussions, often bringing in his historical knowledge,” said Mills.

“As Vice President of the UTC Philosophy Club, Austin has demonstrated leadership, especially in terms of conceiving and planning events.”

Kippes is currently applying to fourteen graduate programs for fall of 2016 to study political and social philosophy. He is looking at universities in the U.S., as well as Ireland and Canada.

“Hopefully I can become a professor and write articles and books,” said Kippes.