“(When) I started graduate school in philosophy, my … first class was the body-soul problem in Immanuel Kant. … I didn’t know what the body-soul problem was, and I didn’t know who Immanuel Kant was. My mind was swimming at the end. I did not know what was up and what was down. All that I knew was that I loved it!” said James Harold, who holds a doctorate in philosophy.
Harold’s love for philosophy first took root when he was introduced to the value philosophy of Dietrich von Hildebrand during his time at Loyola Marymount University. At that point, Harold was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
“I just didn’t see any way to use (philosophy) professionally. I thought I could do some good by being a school counselor,” Harold said.
However, when Harold worked in a public school as a psychology intern, he felt as if there was a “black hole right in the middle of (his) professional training.”
“By that time, I had a … vision from value philosophy together with my Catholic faith … that superseded what I could do as a psychologist,” Harold said. “I think God gave me an insight that I ought to be … working in (the) realm of (philosophy).”
After completing his bachelor’s degree at Loyola Marymount and his master’s degree in psychology at Pepperdine University, Harold and his wife moved to Texas, where he completed his master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Dallas before earning his doctorate from the International Academy of Philosophy.
“I had the finest philosophy education you can get,” Harold said. “I really got a treasure that was worth passing on.”
For the past 34 years of his life, Harold has been passing on his philosophical treasure at Franciscan University of Steubenville as professor of philosophy. While it may have been challenging at times, Harold says it has certainly been a worthwhile endeavor.
“Part of it is the terror of having to have a lecture the next day,” Harold said. “I remember the sheer exhaustion … of semesters where you had one or two new preps, … (but) what really makes it for me is when I get a chance to get past the lecture notes to focus on the students.”
“That’s the fun in teaching, … together with the realization that … if what you say is true and good and beautiful, then you can really grow up as a person,” Harold said. “I wanted students to have that.”
Besides appreciating Franciscan for the opportunity to teach a subject he holds dear, Harold also said that “Franciscan University is the best university in the United States.”
“It’s not because the students are geniuses … or the professors are geniuses. But the spirit of the campus is healthy, oriented to Christ … and that really helps philosophy (and) liberal arts,” Harold said.
“I have this huge debt of gratitude to Father Michael Scanlan and to Michael Healy for hiring me. … it was marvelous … to be here,” Harold said. “I’m not comparing this with beatitude, with seeing God face-to-face … but in the context of this world, it’s pretty doggone good!”
While the beatific vision may not be granted to anyone in this life, Harold believes that philosophical thinking is a way of bringing others closer to Christ.
“Philosophy doesn’t talk about Christ, per se … but if you teach what is good and beautiful and true, you’re leading people to Christ … so that they can make that further assent (to him) in faith,” Harold said. “That’s the game we play: lead people to Christ without ever mentioning his name.”
After reflecting on his own life’s journey highlighted by his love of philosophy, Harold had advice for students who are beginning to find their own path of life.
“Look for the good, the beautiful and the true … in your life and … be faithful to that. … Everything works for the good for those who love God.”