Massachusetts Association of Scholars Spotlight

Dennis Outwater

  • Article
  • March 03, 2011

Dennis Outwater is the new president of the Massachusetts Association of Scholars. Here he tells about his professional career and his vision for the affiliate. He may be contacted at [email protected] or 978-546-7324.

I graduated from the University of Chicago in 1972, doing a Ph.D. dissertation on "The Problem of Evil" within the context of an Independent Study degree. I began teaching Philosophy at Suffolk University in 1969, and retired from same in 2008. I also opened an entrepreneurship in 1982, called "Perchance Company," focused on land development and advanced architectural home building, ending the company in 2006. I am currently finishing up my first scholarly book, entitled "Grand Canyon Panology: The Psyche of Water and Stone," and have started a second book on the environmental movement, entitled "The Condor's Meat." I am also writing a screenplay based on these two books. 

I joined NAS about four years ago under the solicitation of Stephen Balch.  I was asked to take over the Presidency of the Massachusetts Association of Scholars this year, and we have had our first meeting on February 13th.  Since the Boston area has the largest concentration of students of any city its size, and rivals New York City in this regard, I believe that our Association should overcome its quiescence of the last few years and begin to contribute strongly to the overall NAS effort.  We discussed, along with Peter Wood, the need to continue NAS efforts to be non-partisan politically and avoid the Leftist stereotype of NAS as a "right-wing reactionary organization."  My conviction is that NAS's future depends on a new generation of scholarship, despite the politicization of the universities and most colleges. 

In this regard we have discussed, so far, two ways of addressing non-partisanship: 

(1) Projecting a strong interest in independent scholarship, for, after all, our foremost concern is scholarship and not the nature and destiny of the American  academy.  If the latter is inimical to scholarship, our scholarly efforts must go on, regardless.  We also recognize that within academia there are occasional spaces wherein which independent scholarship can and does take place, and we hope for more of this as well. 

(2) Studying the issue of student voting, within the context of widespread election fraudcoming from both parties in the past, although generally concentrated in American cities.  I have suggested that our members look at Stealing Elections by John Fund, in this regard, and I feel that it is important that efforts are made for students to not be able to vote in Massachusetts if they are registered in out-of-state home towns or cities.  Obviously free and fair elections are a non-partisan issue; no political party should be able to effect elections by either encouraging or discouraging voter participation in illegal ways.  This becomes, in my view, a scholarly issue, for if the political parties cannot strongly recognize the necessity of the rule of law—and the need for non-partisan laws, in the first place—democracy will not work.  It is our presupposition that democracy is the best political polity within which scholarship can function and flourish. 

I have also brought up a third issue for future study and discussion: environmental ethics.  This issue also transcends, or ought to do so, that of politics and the academy generally, and is a long-term issue of the deepest scholarly importance. Contemporary universities and colleges most often teach that "nature" is socially constructed, and engage in an assault on the notion of a fixed or fundamental human nature. It seems to me at bottom all scholarship must take its stand in defense of the role of nature, understood "metaphorically or mythically" as well as scientifically, so that the full range of human reason can be applied to human concerns. 

To learn more about what affiliates do and how you can connect with the one in your state, visit the Get Involved page on the NAS website.

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