To sustain and enhance Jewish Life at Home and Around the World.


Martin Shuster, Ph.D., 36

Relatively new to the community, Martin is a leading academic mind, and spends his days (and many nights) as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Avila University in Kansas City teaching post-Holocaust thought and philosophy. Significantly, Dr. Shuster happens to be a Jew who is the Chair of the Catholic University's Religion and Philosophy Department.  His research is concerned with conceptions of agency, especially as they relate to issues in ethics, social/political philosophy, aesthetics, and philosophy of religion.

Professor Shuster’s first book, Autonomy after Auschwitz: Adorno, German Idealism, and Modernity (University of Chicago Press, 2014), explores the relationship between the modern commitment to autonomy and the extreme evils witnessed in modernity. His second book, New Television: Aesthetics and the Promise of Politics (forthcoming with University of Chicago Press, 2017), explores the aesthetics and political significance of what he terms ‘new television’ (shows like The Wire, Sopranos, Weeds, etc). He has also written articles on topics as varied as epistemology, philosophy of humor, and philosophy of language.

Profession: Chair of Religious Studies & Philosophy Department at Avila University

What I do: In teaching, I try to get students to think critically about who they are, about what sort of world they live in, and what sort of world they want to live in. Above all, I try to get them to realize that the present moment is contingent, and things could have been and can still be different. With my research, I try to mine the philosophical insights of the past in order to make contributions to the present. In this vein, with the philosopher Anne O’Byrne, I am currently working on a book called Logics of Genocide: The Structures of Violence and the Contemporary World (under contract with Indiana University Press) that argues that certain contemporary institutions (like, for example, American mass incarceration) ought to be seen as genocidal.

My cause: Is thinking critically. I am committed to getting people to reflect about themselves and what’s around them...but as they say, there’s more than one way to cook an egg (or as the Kotzker Rebbe puts it, a person is “first created in his [or her] own image, and only then in the image of God”). And so I’ve taken an interest in the different ways by which people begin to reflect, whether that’s humor or horror, politics or art, or, as the philosopher Immanuel Kant put it, “the starry sky above me” or "the moral law within.”

Back to Honorees