What happened to Rick Roderick?

The Bill Hicks of Philosophy

Rick Roderick

Rick Roderick was born in Abilene, Texas in 1949 and received his B.A. at the University of Texas at Austin. He did post-graduate work at Baylor University and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin. Since 1977, Professor Roderick taught at Baylor University, the University of Texas, Duke University and National University in Los Angeles.

His best topics were Marx and Marxism, Social and Political Philosophy, Critical Theory, 19th-Century Philosophy, and Contemporary Continental Philosophy. He also taught Ethics, Logic, History of Modern Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Existentialism.

He was the recipient of the Oldright Fellowship at the University of Texas and served as associate editor to The Pawn Review and Current Perspectives in Social Theory. Dr. Roderick was the editor of the Baylor Philosophy Journal and a member of the Phi Sigma Tau National Honor Society of Philosophy. He presented more than 25 papers, and published 13 reviews and literary criticisms. He was the author of the book Habermas and the Foundation of Critical Theory (1986) as well as numerous articles in professional journals.

Rick Roderick died in 2002.

Audio Lectures

Here are the three audio lectures of his I have. All from The Teaching Company, but they are out of print now. If you for some reason think these shouldn't be available for download, please contact me. Unfortunatly, the two last lectures in "Philosophy and Human Values" are suffering from quite a bit of "tape noise". I guess it was recorded from a worn tape. If you have these in better quality, sharing them will be rewarded in heaven.

Rick Roderick - Philosophy and Human Values
  1. Socrates and the Life of Inquiry
  2. Epicureans, Stoics, Skeptics
  3. Kant and the Path to Enlightenment
  4. Mill on Liberty
  5. Hegel and Modern Life
  6. Nietzsche - Knowledge and Belief
  7. Kierkegaard and the Contemporary Spirit
  8. Philosophy and Post-Modern Culture

Rick Roderick - Self Under Siege - Philosophy in the 20th Century
  1. The Masters Of Suspicion
  2. Heidegger And The Rejection Of Humanism
  3. Sartre And The Roads To Freedom
  4. Marcuse And One-Dimensional Man
  5. Habermas And The Fragile Dignity Of Humanity
  6. Foucault And The Disappearance Of The Human
  7. Derrida And The Ends Of Man
  8. Fatal Strategies

Rick Roderick - Nietzsche and the Post-Modern Condition
  1. Nietzsche as Myth and Mythmaker
  2. Nietzsche on Truth and Lie
  3. Nietzsche as Master of Suspicion and Immoralist
  4. The Death of God
  5. The Eternal Recurrence
  6. The Will to Power
  7. Nietzsche as Artist
  8. Nietzsche's Progeny

The files are .RAR, a file format for data compression. Like ZIP, just not. A free program for decompressing the files can be found here. Or you might want to try this if you have a Mac.

Lecture Notes

Albemuth has been gracious enough to send me his notes from Roderick's lecture on "Theses on the Philosophy of History" by Walter Benjamin. Many thanks!

Rick Roderick notes - Theses on the Philosophy of History

Albemuth's comment:

During the late 1980s, I knew Roderick and a number of his students. One afternoon in March, I walked in with one of his graduate classes. It was typical of Roderick that people could attend his classes without being signed up for the class or even attending Duke University.
These notes are the result of my two hours (with a break in the middle) with Rick and about 10 students in a classroom on Duke's East Campus. I have reworded or added to my notes here and there, but I have tried not to change them much. Of course, there may be an error or two where I have misinterpreted one of my jottings. Reflecting on these notes now, I think that Roderick did a great job in introducing Benjamin's difficult piece and also in relating these ideas to issues of thencurrent interest.
I will venture that Roderick's remarks say something about the situation of the left in the late 1980s. In the face of a political climate that had moved to the right and the failure of actuallyexisting socialism, the left seemed (to me) to turn to more anarchistic and romantic ideas. I am sure that Rick would have something to say to this statement were he still around.

What do I know?

Not much more than Wikipedia. However, there are two old letters and one article about him published at Duke Chronicle, the paper of Duke University where he was a professor for about 8 years. Here it would seem that he was fired from Duke in '92 or '93. The article mentions his plan of moving to "Compton in Los Angeles where he will teach adults who have lost their jobs". In his lecture "Self Under Siege", he also talks about moving to Los Angeles.

To the editor:

Does anyone know why one of Duke's only nationally recognized professors has been fired? From our own conversation with Professor Roderick, we know that he has no idea--because he has never been given any specific reasons. This four-time nominee for the Alumni Undergraduate Distinguished Professor Teaching Award has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institute as the best teacher in his field. His "The Philosophy of Human Values" lecture series has been the bestselling videotape in the history of academia. He has been published in five countries. His "Habermas and the Foundations of Critical Theory" is an internationally recognized standard in the field. His work has been studied and reviewed worldwide--India, China, Denmark, Germany, etc., etc.

No one at this university has been willing to debate with Professor Roderick, in public or private, the issue of tenure and research at Duke--either in his own case or the other controversial cases here.

To further their hypocrisy, the University has time and again sent visitors to Professor Roderick's classes as an example of teaching excellence. If he is not fit to teach at Duke, why for eight years did the University continue to use him to entertain prospective freshmen? Either the University was wrong then or they are wrong now.

Professor Roderick has obviously spent way too much time visiting with students, working with the Black Faculty Initiative, organizing protests (such as the one which aided the removal of the union-busting ServiceMaster from campus), working with students for gay and lesbian rights, and being involved in countless other "extracurriculur" activities. Professor Roderick treated Duke students and employees as essential to the University rather than as excess baggage.

Sadly, this letter cannot change anything in this specific case. However, I think we can learn something from this pathetic situation. We always found Professor Roderick's approach to be neither dogmatic nor crude, but radically Socratic. We have written this letter in the hopes that Duke will not sin twice against philosophy.

Katherine Johnson
Trinity '93
Scott Heftler
Trinity '91

To the editor:

In the Spring issue of Duke Blue, Vice President of Student Affairs Janet Dickerson said, "We're in the midst of the great push to be a more inclusive community. . .In our society, we are struggling with the tension between the kind of fragmentation that [Greek organizations] can cause and our aspiration to be one society, one university community, kind of the one world concept."

This utopian commentary on Duke's social vision is quite noteworthy. The ideal is beautiful, and I--as a fraternity president-- do not deny that legitimate contentions exist supporting the reform of Greek life at Duke which could foster more oneness. No doubt, this campus is plagued by a dearth of peace, love and understanding. However, if the Administration favors Greek reforms with the ultimate end of creating "one society [and] one university community," then, under the banner of consistency, the Administration must do its share to engender this ambition. Otherwise, the social critique stagnates as rhetoric.

Strikingly, we must question whether the Administration seriously seeks an "inclusive community." This semester I have been enlightened by two of the best professors I have had in my four years. Assistant professors Colette Carter of the Political Science Department and Rick Roderick of the Philosophy Department have both been denied the opportunity to teach next year despite their overwhelming talents to encourage independent thinking and sustain student enthusiasm. Perhaps this travesty occurred because they offer a more liberal--or as Roderick would admit, radical--perspective on American affairs than is customary in Duke's conservative climate. We students must insist on being exposed to the vast array of perspectives which we shall inevitably confront in the so-called real world--from fascist to anarchist. Otherwise, instead of maturing and developing intellectually, we will continue to wither away and be enslaved in Duke's mental prison.

Steve Hess

Trinity `93


Being kicked out is becoming a habit for Rick Roderick, assistant professor of philosophy.

Besides losing the tenure battle, Roderick also lost his ex-officio status in the Bunch of Guys living group when the group became extinct last fall.

In a casual discussion on the upper level of the Bryan Center, Roderick answered students' questions Tuesday night with sarcasm, cynicism and several one-liners.

The University Union tried to find a member of the administration to publicly debate Roderick over the tenure process and other issues, but the Union was unable to find anyone. Roderick, however, still had something to say.

In his typical outspoken manner, Roderick commented on everything from the tenure process to race relations at the University to Durham social life.

On the tenure issue, Roderick said tenure at the University is not given on the stated qualifications of published research, good teaching and community service.

Some administrators argued that Roderick had not completed enough research in his field to receive tenure. Roderick claimed that, while research works nicely for the Medical Center, no one can research philosophy.

Roderick said that research is plagiarism and simply means "writing books with lots of footnotes."

Roderick said that if students want to protest his departure, and they can try force the administration to reverse their decision. Otherwise, he said he will teach next year at a school in Compton in Los Angeles where he will teach adults who have lost their jobs. He did not speculate as to his future plans after that.

Besides tenure, Roderick also criticized the University for failing to hire more black faculty.

While the University searches across the country to find great black athletes, they do not search the country and find great black faculty, he said.

Remaining in the academic sphere, Roderick addressed his well-known liberal grading policy.

"Grades are one of our ways of disciplining you," Roderick said. "In my view, you're too . . . old for this. I'm not supposed to give all As this summer so I think I'll have a lottery and give a B+."

Roderick also offered his perspectives on drugs and alcohol. He said that alcohol is a "vicious drug" and that anyone who drinks cannot condemn people who use drugs. He also said that he is not pro-crack.

"Only in America would someone take cocaine and say, `We need something stronger than that.' "

In discussing other social aspects of the University, Roderick said that there is very little to do. He encouraged students to find more imaginative ways of having fun and to take advantage of the possibilities that a campus like Duke's has to offer.

"My time at Duke has been like being around an old folks home for young people," Roderick said. "[The University] is one of the most clean-cut, de-eroticized places you could ever find yourself."

To improve the University's social life, Roderick said that different living groups including fraternities should be scattered around campus to create a more diverse atmosphere. He said that shutting down BOG was a mistake because "every University needs `walking disasters.' "

What is the point of this page?

Just like the people who wrote those letters, I too think Rick Roderick had something valuable to say. I won't try to explain what, I'm neither smart nor informed enough to do him justice. But I would like to know what happened in the last 10 years of his life. To know more about his work, where to get the books, lectures or articles. If you have any information, it would be great to hear. Or if you just have something you want to say about the man - please do.