By Steven Bonini
What is your role here at FSU and what does your job entail?
Well, I’m here to keep an eye on Paul Bruno, the other philosopher. So, I’m just here to keep his misbehavior under control. And I’m not doing a very good job. I teach philosophy in my spare time. My courses are – this semester – are Environmental Ethics, and Philosophy 101. I will be teaching Bioethics next semester. I have in the past taught Ethics, and Social Political Philosophy. I really like teaching the Philosophy of the 19th Century, and Contemporary Philosophy. And I’ve enjoyed Philosophy of Science – teaching that in the past as well. So, that’s what I do here now, and I love it.
What is your professional and educational background?
I have a Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University. I started teaching here in 1996, as an English as a Second Language teacher, in what was called the Intensive English Program back then, and now is called ELP: English Language Programs. And it’s still here – very vibrant. So, I was teaching English as a second language when I started here. And before I got here, I was teaching English as a second language for the town of Framingham, which has a very large, vibrant ESL program. And what happened was, the administrator for that program was hired by Framingham State, and she took me with her to come here. And then when I was here, I eventually started to teach philosophy as a visiting lecturer, and then I became full time. I graduated from Holy Cross in 1982. When I finished Holy Cross in 1982, I taught for a little over two years in a country called Lesotho in Africa, and I was in a village called Marakabei. ... It sits right in the middle of the country of Lesotho. And Lesotho is surrounded by the country of South Africa. Because of a complicated history, it is an independent nation. But it’s completely surrounded by another nation. And it is a developing nation. ... I was a teacher there. I went there as an English teacher, but when I got there, they were happy that I had a bachelor’s degree. And with a bachelor’s degree, they felt very comfortable assigning me courses in biology, geography, and math. This was a high school. So, those are the courses – those are the courses that I taught. Teaching biology was a challenge.
What would you say your goals are as a professor in the Psychology and Philosophy Department?
I really want my students to engage in critical thinking and to understand the power of critical thinking, and the limits of critical thinking. And in this way, be skeptical of their own truth claims, but to be very rigorous in trying to attain and commit themselves to their own truth claims. And I would say that these are the principles that undergird all of my courses, whether it be Bioethics or Environmental Ethics or Philosophy 101 – for any of them.
What would you say is the best part of your job?
Honestly, it is being with students who are excited about the subject matter. Excited about learning. Willing to take risks in defending truth claims. I just really am encouraged – and it happens every semester – by the people that I meet in my classes. And this really fills the gas tank every year, and really makes me love this job. It’s just being with the people. Being with the students.
What are some personal hobbies of yours?
I like to read. I love crazy movies, like horror movies from the ’50s. ... I like to travel anywhere that will have me. So, a couple years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Beijing and teach there for a summer as part of the opportunity here that was afforded me by Framingham State. Framingham State has a program that teaches in China every year. It was put on hold because of the pandemic. And so the year I went was 2019, and they have not had the opportunity to go back. I traveled around this country. This summer, I traveled around this country in my car. I called people, and people that were old friends that I had known in Africa, and people that I had known when I worked at Perkins School for the Blind, which was in the 1980s – these people, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law, friends from college – and I visited them [in] Madison, Wisconsin, Denver, Corpus Christi, Cocoa Beach, Florida. So, I have moved around. I like doing things like that.
Do you have any advice for campus students?
Take 32 courses here, and that’s 32 opportunities to explore the world in a different way. Just look at these as opportunities – these 32 courses – and really enjoy them and see what they have to offer you. They really can open things up in a beautiful way.