What were your favorite philosophy courses at UCLA?

History of philosophy

Do you have a good story or two about the department?

The professors were amazing and incredibly smart. I met a lot of smart professionals and other talented professors but nothing has ever been equal to the excellent quality of the faculty at UCLA (at least in my experience).

Are there any philosophical issues, readings, or topics that have stayed with you since graduation?

I remember there was a debate in the philosophy of mind, language, and logic. It was about whether the mind works through mathematical logic (symbolic reasoning) or more like neural networks.

The computational (math-logic) guys were winning the debate because they made progress through advances in computers. The neural net guys (not in philosophy) said they didn’t have the technology to demonstrate their theories. But A.I. came along and now the neural nets “won” I guess.

I am curious about how this affects the philosophy of mind, language, and logic now that we know the mind works through symbolic reasoning (math logic) but seems to resemble more (for now at least) neural networks (writing this as of 2017).

Have you read any philosophy recently that you would recommend?

Stuff on neural networks and taking classes on programming (e.g. Python) free online at Coursera.

It’s just boolean logic (philosophy classes) but for practical use and a path to a possibly very lucrative career.

What was your first job or endeavor after UCLA?

I worked in the mail room of an insurance company in San Francisco. I sorted mail. They gave me a promotion because I had perfect attendance and never called in sick or late. But I switched jobs (though sorting mail was not difficult or exhausting like mining for coal etc.). I’m a business lawyer now.

What lessons or skills from philosophy do you use in your career?

I am a lawyer now in the Financial District in NYC. The structure in analytic philosophy and big holistic theories in Kant is very, very helpful in clarifying very difficult thoughts to a judge in a legal brief. That is, saying something difficult in a simple and clear way is one tool.

Another is just being able to understand super difficult reasoning and theories in tax law and being able to pick up and understand new ideas from different disciplines – like computer programming.

Do you have advice for current students or recent graduates about how to take advantage of and continue their philosophical education?

The philosophy program at UCLA is very unique and isn’t just like another humanities major. The style they taught (when I was a student) was Analytic Philosophy. It’s a tool to really beef up your brain. It’s difficult to define intelligence but your employers, colleagues, and people will always be impressed that you are a really smart person. And you will know this too coming out of the program.