Following positions at other universities, Schilbrack came to App State, where he served as chair of the department of Philosophy and Religion from 2014 until 2022 before returning to teaching.
About App, Schilbrack said, "I am one of those people who loves the mountains and so I am thrilled that I get to live and work in Boone. Also, I have taught at four universities and the students at Appalachian have been the strongest I have ever worked with."
Schilbrack earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago Divinity School, a graduate program famous for its focus on the comparative study of religions. His first book, Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto, argues for a transformation of the discipline of philosophy of religion from its traditional, narrow focus on theism to a fully global form of critical reflection on religions in all their variety and dimensions. That book has been taught at universities all over the US and Europe. Currently, Schilbrack is working on the question of how people learn and think not only with their brains but also with the rest of their bodies, an idea that may be revolutionary for both philosophy and religious studies.
When asked how he became interested in the philosophical study of religions, Schilbrack replied, "I have always been one of those nerdy kids who loves to read and ask big questions about the meaning of life. I was so happy to find philosophy and religious studies as academic fields that welcome these questions. For example, today I think that knowledge about Buddhism and Yoruba religion and Judaism and all the different religions in human history can help us understand our neighbors and help us do a better job as global citizens. Ultimately, all of my classes and my scholarship aim at that overarching goal."
Schilbrack’s research has led to invitations to speak all over the United States and Europe. This year, in addition to speaking in Colorado, South Carolina and Texas, he is presenting his work in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany and Japan.
Schilbrack teaches a variety of comparative religion courses in the App State Department of Philosophy and Religion including, this semester, "Religion and Imaginary Worlds" and "Theories of Religion." He will offer “Religion, Gender and the Body” next spring, and he is now engaged in developing a new course in religious and philosophical teachings about what makes life worth living.
"I think that many students (and many of their parents) think that the point of going to university is to get a piece of paper that will help them get a job later. For this reason, they might avoid taking classes that they would love, classes about history and literature and philosophy and religion, because they think that they should focus on classes that are job-related," said Schilbrack. "But when you go to a jobs fair, you see that most employers want applicants to have a bachelor’s degree, but they don't care what major a student had. I therefore think it is a shame if students avoided taking classes that would have helped them ask and answer the questions that they cared about most," he added.
About the Department of Philosophy and Religion
The Department of Philosophy and Religion invites students to explore the world, examine beliefs, understand a diversity of worldviews, and challenge the ideas and values that instruct our lives. The department offers a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies, as well as a minor in both of these areas. Learn more at https://philrel.appstate.edu.