What were your favorite philosophy courses at UCLA?

  • Barbara Herman’s Ethics
  • Kaplan and Lawrence’s combined Kripke series

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

I have many great memories. I took a 2 unit course with Calvin Normore that was intended to be a sort of introduction to philosophy for freshmen. The subject was philosophy of education. I was a senior and needed the units and was fascinated by the topic. So one day, with a particularly small cohort (I think there were only two students including myself), Professor Normore took us to the faculty lunch room and we discussed our opinions on the current state of the university system in the United States while dining on duck and creamy mashed potatoes.

Another great memory, which to me was the essence of Gavin Lawrence, occurred in Professor Lawrence’s class on political philosophy. We had been studying Hume and Locke and others and were asked to write a paper comparing the opinions of two or three of the philosophers on the matter of governing a burgeoning society. I recall outlining in great detail each of the various arguments but when it came to answering Gavin’s question as to which position was the stronger, I could not make up my mind. So I didn’t. I responded by picking out the weaknesses of each theory along with a point from each that I found particularly insightful and stated that I just was not sure either perfectly represented the nature of human beings or how to govern them. So I proposed my own theory in their place. Gavin gave me a perfect score on the paper, not because my theory was any better but because I had at demonstrated a willingness and ability to think for myself rather than trying to placate the professor by writing something I did not agree with.

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

Philosophy of language and education have continued to be some of my favorite topics to think about. But more recently, I have been very interested in the philosophy and psychology of emotion and concepts. While the subject of emotions and the practice of understanding and managing emotion tends to fall more into the purview of psychology, the concept of emotion and our ideas about our relationship to our emotions really beg a fundamental worldview about fate, good and bad, human nature, etc. This has been really fascinating to me.

Have you read any philosophy recently that you would recommend?

Universals by J.P. Moreland was a very interesting read. I also really enjoy C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and Abolition of Man.

What was your first job or endeavor after UCLA?

I worked for the non-profit campus ministry Cru: http://cru.org/

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

My background in logic and mathematics has helped me as I learn coding. I also believe that philosophy set me up well to read, analyze, and interpret insurance policy forms, legal documents and contracts, and to communicate complex ideas to laymen.

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

I think that most students of philosophy have an inherent quality of curiosity. This quality should be fostered and nurtured. Curiosity drives innovation and change. Philosophers ought not be stuck in the theoretical. Philosophy is such a practical study. Students should not be discouraged by thinking that there is not a market out there for their skills. Pursue learning – learn everything and anything – think critically, communicate diplomatically and persuasively. You will find success.