The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) is recognizing the contributions of Professor Emeritus Brayton Polka, one of York University’s longest serving professors with 55 years of dedicated service to the University.
Polka joined York University in 1966 with an initial appointment as an assistant professor of history and humanities. He served as a professor until his retirement in 2002, and now teaches part-time at York. His research and teachings have focused on European philosophy, religion, literature and the arts.
“I sincerely wish to congratulate Prof. Brayton Polka on his commendable 55 years of service to the Faculty of LA&PS,” said LA&PS Dean J.J. McMurtry. “It is indeed a moment of pride for the University to have such dedicated mentors giving students the opportunity to pursue their academic interests with excellence.”
Polka, who is now 84, has always been committed to the development of students. Drawing from Kant’s Enlightenment call: Sapere aude: “Dare to think,” Polka encourages his students to think critically, independently and truthfully.
“It has always been for me truly an honor, a privilege, and a blessing to be in the position of helping students learn to embody in their work and thinking, in their lives, the hermeneutical imperative: do unto others what you want others to do unto you,” says Polka.
Lexington Books recently published his latest book, titled Paradox and Contradiction in the Biblical Traditions. He sees the book as another step along the way of life through which we learn to distinguish between paradox in the biblical tradition and contradiction in the tradition of ancient Greeks. “As you measure life, so are you measured by life. As you interpret others, so are you interpreted by others,” observes Polka.
Polka’s research interests have centered on the fundamental questions of hermeneutics – on what it means to interpret the text. His work on the relationship of philosophy and theology, specifically the relationship of the secular and the religious in modernity, has led to the publication of numerous books and articles. An additional new book, On Poetry and Philosophy: Thinking Metaphorically with Wordsworth and Kant, is soon to be published by Wipf and Stock.
Currently serving as professor emeritus of humanities and senior scholar at York University, his everyday motivation is, to recall Nietzsche, “to become the person I am and to be the person I become.”
At present, Polka teaches in two graduate programs: Social and Political Thought (of which he was the founding director in the early 1970s) and Humanities (he also chaired the committee that set up the HUMA graduate program) by teaching courses and directing the master’s research papers and the PhD dissertations of students.
Among 11 published books, eight grants to date and countless other achievements, his colleagues and LA&PS honour Professor Polka’s commendable contributions and association with the University and congratulates him on his recent publication.