Dwight K. Lewis Jr., PhD, is the newest faculty member to join the Department of Philosophy at UCF. Lewis previously was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Pennsylvania State University. He received his PhD in philosophy from the University of South Florida while holding a Mellon Fellowship at Emory University in the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference. His research interrogates philosophy through a historical lens, with focuses on the Early Modern Period, Africana Philosophy, the Philosophical Canon and the discipline of philosophy.
At UCF, Lewis will be teaching courses like Intro to Philosophy, Modern Western Philosophy, Philosophy of Race and Africana Philosophy.
“My goal at UCF is give a voice to the voiceless,” says Lewis. “Marginalized students that come from the edges of society. This goal, for me, means that I not only aid marginalized students, but I also teach privileged students what their privilege means. That because of their privilege they have been blinded to particular parts of the world.”
“I live my life by five core tenets — care, consistency, challenge, creativity and contentment — and I want to live my life as James Baldwin says: “larger, freer, and more loving” for myself and in relation to my community.”
No need to worry about his allegiances, though. “I’ve traded in my Bulls and Thunder attire for Knights gear,” he says.
“I am very pleased that Dr. Dwight Lewis will be joining our department and excited for him to share his expertise with our students,” says Department of Philosophy Chair Michael Strawser. “Dr. Lewis’s recent Mellon Fellowships have already led to a compelling research agenda, and I expect his work on Anton Wilhelm Amo, the first African to receive a doctoral degree in philosophy in Europe, to have a significant impact.”
Lewis wrote his dissertation – and is currently writing a book about – about the life, legacy and ideas of Anton Wilhelm Amo, the first African to attend a European university. Amo studied at the University of Halle, where he wrote a legal thesis, before moving to the University of Wittenberg. He defended a philosophy dissertation and received his doctorate from Wittenberg in 1734.
In June, Lewis was interviewed by Eidolon about his studies on Amo’s philosophy and life:
In the interview, Lewis says he was drawn to Amo because of his Blackness, but also “the fact that my narrative ran parallel to his narrative, that I existed in the world as a problem and he did also, that there was no way for me to see myself in history — especially in philosophical history — unless I found someone whom I could put into that history. Amo became that person [for me]. When I went to grad school I was the only black person there, including the faculty members. There was only one other black person getting a Ph.D. in Philosophy in all of Florida and fewer than thirty-five black people getting Ph.D.s in Philosophy in the entire United States. So even though I wasn’t one of one, when you’re one of thirty-five, it is stark, and it is lonely. I could feel the loneliness in Amo’s narrative, the isolation. It’s the same kind of isolation that I feel today.”