My path to philosophy has been a bit circuitous. After a brief thirteen-year stint practicing criminal defense law and civil litigation, I went back to school at the University of Pennsylvania, where I completed a multidisciplinary program that afforded me the opportunity to study creative writing, philosophy, and religion. Although I began with an emphasis on creative writing – primarily fiction and humor – my long-standing interest in the theoretical underpinnings of the law (and philosophy in general) soon took over. I received an MA in philosophy at Brandeis University, and am now in the University of Arizona's PhD program. I still keep a foot in the arts camp, however, and continue to serve as a TA for ModPo, Penn’s MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on modern American poetry, which began in 2012. (Here's an article I wrote about the course back in 2014.)
I am primarily interested in the applied aspects of philosophy and the ways it can actively engage with the world -- through informing and impacting people's lives, shaping social and political policy, and to a lesser extent, helping me understand what my dog is thinking. This has drawn me to areas such as ethics, philosophy of law (particularly criminal law), and political philosophy. I have also been fascinated with epistemology and philosophy of religion – from the epistemology of faith-based belief systems to the ethical and philosophical issues surrounding religious toleration. This includes the pragmatic implications of religion and its intersection with law and society, especially in how it drives contemporary debates on subjects like intelligent design and public education. Other areas I enjoy learning about include normative epistemology, metaethics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of humor, although there is little apart from golf and reality TV that doesn’t interest me.
Jean-Luc Dogard. (footage)
What interests me most about analyzing poetry is what I enjoyed most about the law – engaging in the process of finding meaning through the synthesis of different ideas. To be sure, the process in law is more goal-driven and involves critical thinking geared towards supporting a specific position, whereas the process of interpreting poetry involves more open-ended creative thinking. However, I have found that creative thinking and analytical thinking are complementary, if not largely the same thing. This is precisely why I have always enjoyed philosophy, for the way the practice requires both the creative exploration of ideas and rigorous critical analysis – and most importantly, for how it is promotes the open exchange and consideration of ideas that are not marshaled to serve a predetermined position but aimed at uncovering universal truths that best explain reality.
Winter is coming.
That's okay, things are going to be okay.
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