How I Learned Stuff

Undergraduate
BA in Humanities with a minor in Religious Studies

Dr. Bruce B. Janz (Canada)

It all started with Bruce Janz. Bruce was my first and remains my greatest philosophical influence. Starting out as a Western Canadian Mennonite with a BA in Religious Studies, Bruce went on to earn his PhD investigating the mysticism of Jacob Böhme. He’s since spent years in the liminal areas between “proper” philosophy and subaltern spaces. He does research on Critical Theory, Place Studies, and particularly philosophy in Africa. From the very beginning, I was hooked. He remains for me the most interesting philosophical talking partner I’ve ever had. To this day, I keep a little African elephant on my desk to keep me mindful of all that he so generously shared with me.

Dr. Mason Cash (New Zealand)

Mason was the first philosopher after Bruce who I got to know, and was the first ethicist to really get me thinking about science as a field of ethical concern. He is the primary reason I later ended up in Michael Ruse’s History & Philosophy of Science program at FSU. He is truly an all around awesome human being—as kind as he is insightful. Also, ever the down–to–earth Kiwi, he walks around campus barefoot, which I always thought was kind of awesome.

Dr. John Dominic Crossan (Ireland)

Crossan is the most amazing scholar with whom I’ve had the honor to work. To have been his student was a rare privilege indeed. An Emeritus professor of DePaul University, Crossan retired to Florida but was soon knocking on our door and was eventually dubbed our “Distinguished Visiting Scholar.” In 2006, I ended up completing my capstone BA project with him about the 'mysticism of the apostle Paul.’ Years later, I wrote him an email. I didn’t know if he’d remember me but to my amazement he said that hearing from me “made his day” (I wrote him on St. Patrick’s Day—completely forgetting he’s Irish!). I bought every book he’d published through 2006 and asked him to sign the whole stack. Those books remain treasured items in my library. John Dominic Crossan is an internationally renowned New Testament Scholar, and is the world’s leading biographer of the Historical Jesus.


Masters degrees
MA Humanities (Philosophy of Religion)
MA History & Philosophy of Science

Dr. François Dupuigrenet–Desroussilles (France)

By a mile, my favorite postgrad professor at FSU was François. He was my advisor for my MA in Humanities. From roughly 2007-2011, hardly a week went by that we weren’t discussing some esoteric bit of European thought. For the 20 years before his time as an academic, François was the curator of rare books at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. He still regularly teaches in Geneva, Lugano, and Lyon. But I know him better as the gentleman who rode with me to campus every morning (Parisians don’t own cars, apparently), discussing the matters of the day—often comparing our thoughts (marriage, illness, rugby) with those of Montaigne, Erasmus, Petrarch, or some Latin poet. Il sera toujours, mon ami.

Dr. Michael Ruse (England)

I also had the great honor of joining the HPS program at Florida State. FSU ranks 6th among philosophy programs in the south; even still, it was a real coup for them to hire Dr. Michael Ruse to run the HPS program as he is one of the world’s foremost philosophers of science. Richard Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, and Ron Numbers have debated with him on many occasions. While an avowed agnostic, Michael is a critic of the “New Atheist” movement and famously maintains that a Christian can also be a Darwinian (with certain key concessions, such as tossing out Biblical inerrancy). He champions Wilson’s notions of sociobiology, stating that "morality is a collective illusion put in place by our genes to make us social animals.” Michael also regularly debates against the teaching of Creationism in public schools.


Dr. Martin Kavka (US, Rice)

Dr. Kavka was my gateway to advanced Jewish history and philosophy. While I had taken several undergraduate courses in Judaism before coming to FSU, his grad student seminars were amazingincluding courses in American Judaism and Post–Holocaust Jewish philosophy (which was heavy on Nietzsche and Levinas). I also had the opportunity to assist him in teaching a course on Holocaust literature. An alum of Rice University, today Martin is the director of the Berman Center for Jewish Studies at Lehigh University.

Dr. Adam Gaiser (US, UVA)

In the grand tradition of Islamic provenance, my mentor Adam Gaiser was a PhD student at UVA of Abdulaziz Sachedina, who in turn was a student of Ali Shariati—the chief ideologue of the Iranian Revolution. Adam is now an expert on the Kharijites, Ibadi Islam, and Islamic sectarianism. Apart from my having spent time in the Middle East, Adam’s seminars on Muhammad and the History of Islam have been the key sources of my knowledge of the subject.


Doctorate
Current Project: Humanities PhD (Modern Jewish Philosophy)

Dr. Nils Römer (Germany)

Nils Römer is a German historian who earned his History PhD from Columbia University. He is the director of the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. I am currently completing coursework for a PhD in Modern Jewish Philosophy at UT Dallas, and Dr. Römer is instrumental in that effort. His research interests include the history of western thought, the history of urban spaces, and the history of the Jews in Germany.


The names listed above are the reasons I am teaching today.
Whatever good I may be to my students now, it is because of the efforts of my mentors.