Professor Noonan holds an Honours BA from York University in Toronto (1991) (Philosophy and Social and Political Thought) and an MA (1993) (Philosophy) and Ph.D. (1996) (Philosophy) from McMaster University in Hamilton. He began his teaching career in 1996, as Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alberta. He joined the Department at the University of Windsor in 1998 as an Assistant Professor on a Limited Term Contract. He is now a Full Professor and former head of Department (2004-2013). Professor Noonan’s interests have always been broad and interdisciplinary. His areas of specialization are in Social and Political Philosophy, Critical Theory, and Contemporary European Philosophy.
Over the course of his nearly twenty years as a philosopher his research interests have evolved. His PhD and first book focussed on the problem of human subjectivity, specifically the way in which our capacity for self-and world-transformation distinguishes us as a species and implies an underlying set of shared interest and goals. This conception of subjectivity was deployed against the poststructuralist critique of essentialism then current in the discipline. From that defence of a shared human nature and self-determining subjecthood evolved his next major research focus: a reconstruction of the ethical foundations of socialism. This project applied the life-value of philosophy of John McMurtry to the interpretation of the ethical foundations of socialism. The basic argument was that socialism grows out of a deep counter-tendency in Western history: a series of struggles of working people and other oppressed groups to ensure that natural wealth and social resources are used to satisfy their fundamental human needs. The idea of a shared human nature developed in the first phase of his work was preserved, but re-interpreted as a set of shared fundamental needs whose satisfaction enables the sort of self-determining freedom he initially identified (in Critical Humanism and the Politics of Difference) as the essence of human subjectivity. The reconstruction of the ethical foundations of socialism generated a new research interest (developed in his most recent book) in the fundamental principles and social implications of what he calls materialist ethics. Noonan’s materialist ethics rejects the reductionism of ethical naturalism and earlier hedonistic doctrines. The conception of human needs first developed through historical analysis in Democratic Society and Human Needs was sharpened and developed into a comprehensive materialist interpretation of the good for human beings. The good life for human beings must be a life that is realizable on earth—it must be a good that accords with our finite, embodied nature. Thus the good for human beings, Noonan concluded, is the free-realization of our defining life-capacities, within the limits that nature and a finite lifespan impose. His current research continues to develop the implications of this materialist ethics. His current book project is examining the existential dimensions of human finitude, defending the life value of human limitations against a naive and potentially destructive technotopianism.
Dr. Noonan is active in the Windsor University Faculty Association (in which he serves as Vice-President, Internal) and in a wide variety of political struggles and cultural organizations and projects in the city of Windsor. In 2015 he was asked to serve a three year term as co-editor of the Interventions section of the interdisciplinary journal Alternative Routes. He also maintains an active blog at http://www.jeffnoonan.org