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Shawn Welnak

Shawn C. Welnak

Assistant Professor of Philosophy

B.A., M.A. (Philosophy), University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeM.A. (Greek), University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeePh.D., Tulane University


Shawn Welnak earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. He continued his studies there, working first on an M.A. in philosophy and then an M.A. in classical Greek. His philosophy master's thesis “Priority, Nature, and Political Animals in Aristotle's Politics,” published by Peter Lang, focuses on Aristotle's social and political philosophies, as well as their metaphysical grounds.

He received his doctorate of philosophy at Tulane University. His dissertation, “Philosophy and the Cave of Opinion: the Graeco-Arabic Tradition,” examines the medieval Arabic philosopher Alfarabi and his debt to Aristotle regarding the relation between philosophy and politics. The dissertation takes its bearings from Plato's allegory of the cave, which highlights the twofold character of philosophy as ascent out of and descent back into the cave of generally accepted opinion. This work will be the grounds for a new translation into English from the medieval Latin of Alfarabi's discussion of the allegory, as well as a future book.

Shawn is also working on Immanuel Kant's understanding of “belief” or “faith” as it relates to his social and political philosophy, with respect to both the epistemic form and content of belief. This work will underline the similarity Kant has to medieval Islamic theories of faith and religious hermeneutics and, in doing so, aim to correct major misunderstandings that have arisen owing to Kant's enigmatic claim that he “found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith [Glaube].”


Social and Political Philosophy, Greek Philosophy, Medieval Islamic Philosophy


  • “Priority, Nature, and Political Animals in Aristotle's Politics,” in Cygnifiliana: Essays in Classics, Comparative Literature, and Philosophy Presented to Professor Roy Arthur Swanson on the Occasion of his Seventy-Fifth Birthday (2005)


“Alfarabi’s Allegory of the Cave” (MPSA 2013)

“The Master of Those Who Know” (SPSA 2013)

“Homeric Rhetoric in Plato’s Charmides” (MPSA 2012)

“The Dialectical and Rhetorical Ways in Alfarabi’s Book of Religion” (MPSA 2012)

“The Epistemic Tenor of Glaube in Kant” (Pacific APA 2012)

“The First Great Democratization of Information: The Perils of the Written and Lectured Word” (Scholar-to-Scholar Symposium 2012)

Chair and commentator for panel, “Xenophon and Socrates” (MPSA, 2011)

“The Outlandish, Wonderful, Perplexing Nature of Philosophy,” paper accepted to “Wonder Manifested” (Duquesne University conference, declined, 2011)

Commentator to Prof. Yehuda Halper's “Nature and Political Religion in Alfarabi's “Book of Religion” (APA, 2010)

Organizer for conference, “Political Philosophy and Islamic Culture” (Tulane University, 2010)


  • Institute for Humane Studies Fellowship
  • Murphy Institute, Center for Ethics and Public Affairs Fellowship
  • Dean's Summer Merit Fellowship
  • Tulane University, Department of Philosophy Fellowship
  • Alfred Bader Scholarship to Study Abroad, Queens University International Study Centre, United Kingdom

Professional Affiliations

  • Member, American Philosophical Association
  • Member, Midwest Political Science Association
  • Member, Southern Political Science Association
  • Member, Society for the History of Political Philosophy
  • Member, Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy
  • Member, Society for Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy