Updated: Aug 25, 2020
Dr. Shane Epting is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, specializing in philosophy of the city, urban sustainability, transportation, and environmental justice. He is the co-founder and a current co-director of Philosophy of the City Research Group, an international organization that makes the city an object of study. They analyze its metaphysical, political, social, ethical, and environmental dimensions.
Dr. Epting first got involved with the IEA back in 2009, when he was browsing the internet, hoping to find an environmental conference to attend. His paper was accepted, and he presented in Daytona Beach, Florida. Epting looks fondly back on this memory as it was his first academic event. He remembers the IEA welcoming him into their community, feeling that the group accepted his research and professional visions. Since then, Epting has attended eleven IICEs. Like other IEA members, Epting found an academic home in the IEA that provided opportunities to foster professional relationships and collaborate with practitioners outside of his disciplinary background. He values their insightful feedback and excitedly follows the core members’ research and advances in their respective fields.
When asked about an instance where he felt a significant turn in his career, Epting referred to what he would dub an insignificant story with unexpected and profound meaning. In a chain coffee shop in Texas, Epting found himself in a “philosophical moment.” He had just finished reading Professor Pete Gunter’s "The Perils of Conservationist Politics: Life in the Trenches," in After Earth Day: Continuing the Conservation Effort, edited by Max Oelschlaeger. He recalls finishing the book, raising his head in contemplation of what he had just read when he spots Professor Gunter, who is walking towards him. Without much thought, Professor Gunter picked up the anthology and began thumbing through it, murmuring to himself a list of titles. He then placed the book back down, looking Epting dead in the eye, saying, “Philosophers, they just want to complain.” He turned swiftly and walked away without as much as a goodbye. This encounter completely changed Dr. Epting’s approach to philosophy. He recalls: "At that moment, I realized how much time I had spent arguing about philosophical views that I, for lack of a better term, detested. I could spend my time tearing down what others had built, or I could start making designs of my own." He decided to go with the latter with every chance that he got.
Another instance of philosophical meaning in Dr. Epting’s life happened during his years as a graduate student. He lived thirty miles from the university and fell into a pinch when his truck failed an emissions test and needed a replacement part that would cost north of a thousand dollars. Limited on options and strapped for cash, he became dependent on public transportation. His daily route consisted of riding a bike, catching the rail, and taking a bus–just to get to his university. The obstacle of having to plan his life around arrival and departure times, in addition to grappling with the environmental and societal facets in public transport, inspired his ongoing fascination and philosophical research in urban planning and sustainable transportation. He later was contracted to write a manuscript with Rowan and Littlefield International, Towards Transportation Justice: The Morality of Urban Mobility.
Although many people have influenced Dr. Epting professionally, he explains that it was his parents, both who have passed, that he still aims to please. He will always admire their disciplined work ethic and humility. As a first-generation college student, it inspired him not to give up during his studies, often balancing school and work.
In his early twenties, he was a student at Temple Dog School, a “farm-study” in New Mexico owned by a retired humanities professor from Reed College. The two spent their days reading and discussing great works and ideas, while also watching cacti grow and raising chihuahuas. During this time, which he now looks back as transformative, Epting learned several significant lessons. This one lives with him: Mientras descansas, haz adobes (While you’re resting, make some adobes).
At the Missouri University of Science and Technology, he is developing a course entitled, Creating Future Cities. The goal of this class is to train engineers and programmers to examine urban issues philosophically, focusing on topics such as smart cities, sustainability, urban resilience, social and environmental justice, and historic preservation. Epting is currently engaged in several research projects and learning from his two chihuahuas. Look for him at a future International Interdisciplinary Conference on the Environment. To read his work, visit shaneepting.com.