Interview with Dr. J. Michael Hoffpauir

Interview with Dr. J. Michael Hoffpauir

We are pleased to welcome Dr. J. Michael Hoffpauir to the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. Mr. Hoffpauir is the Associate Director of the Lyceum Scholars Program and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Political Science. We sat down with Dr. Hoffpauir, and asked him about his background and what he is working on here at the Institute.

CISC: Where are you from?

MH: Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

CISC: What did you study and where?

MH: I received a BA in political science from Louisiana State University, an MA in political science from Boston College, and a PhD in political science from Claremont Graduate University. Throughout the entirety of my education, I have concentrated on political philosophy and American politics.

CISC: What did you write your dissertation on?

MH: Plato’s Crito.

CISC: What did you find fascinating about the topic?

MH: My general interest in studying the work of Plato stems from my desire to understand virtue, politics, and happiness. Furthermore, I study Plato because his understanding of the most fundamental matters is not divorced from, but is connected to, his understanding of political things.

My dissertation begins from my general interest in the thought of Plato and results in my specific attempt to understand one of the smaller Platonic dialogues, the Crito. Unlike most who study the Crito out of a foremost concern for Socrates, I study this dialogue with a foremost concern for its namesake. Doing so reveals the remarkable extent to which you, me, and most human beings share Crito’s fears, loves, and views of justice. For Crito, justice is impossible; the love of his own limits his own good; and his concern for the body and hatred of suffering obfuscates what it is to be virtuous. Further, Crito reveals the depth of the tension between the citizen’s natural understanding of justice and the city’s necessary understanding of justice, how this tension stems from what most of us fear and love, and how one might go about easing it. Inasmuch as many of us hold Crito’s opinions, the philosophic and political problems presented by Crito persist to this day, and although the turn to Plato helps us understand the origin and depths of these problems, it also leaves us wondering if they are truly soluble.

CISC: What are you working on now?

MH: I recently edited my dissertation into a book manuscript and submitted it for peer review. Aside from that, I continue to worry about my work on the place of gratitude in political life, and I recently decided to combat that worry by researching into Plato’s understanding of the economics of virtue.

CISC: What are you teaching this semester?

MH: I am teaching two sections of Introduction to Political Theory, one larger class for the political science department and one smaller seminar for first-year Lyceum Scholars.

CISC: What has your experience thus far been teaching Clemson students?

MH: The students at Clemson have been great. Our Lyceum Scholars are topnotch, and teaching them is a real privilege. What is more, teaching the larger class for the political science department is fantastic because it was precisely a class like this one that got me interested in the study of political philosophy. I have already met several young people who have some sense of the importance of the study of serious books, and I think this speaks to the quality of the students here at Clemson. I look forward to continuing to work with these students and doing my part to grow the Lyceum program.