SLA Spotlight: Philosopher Andrei Buckareff
Born in Seattle, Washington, and raised primarily in Anchorage, Alaska, Dr. Andrei
Buckareff earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Biola University, an M.A. in Theology
from Fuller Theological Seminary, an M.A. in Philosophy from Texas A&M
University, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester. His most
recent publications include "How Does Agent-Causal Power Work?" in The Modern
Schoolman: Special Issue on Free Will and Moral Responsibility 88 (2011) and
"Omniscience, the Incarnation, and Knowledge De Se" in European Journal for
Philosophy of Religion 4 (2012). Currently an Assistant Professor in the
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Marist, Dr. Buckareff will
become Associate Professor in September 2013.
Please see here for video interviews of Dr. Buckareff discussing central
philosophical and theological questions for the recent PBS television series
"Closer to Truth."
Q. How did you become interested in philosophy?
A. Growing up, I thought a lot about philosophical questions that related directly
and indirectly to Christian theology. When I was a sophomore in college, I took a
course on 17th and 18th Century Philosophy. It was another student in that course,
Dale Tuggy, who encouraged me to major in Philosophy. Incidentally, Dale is now Associate Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Fredonia.
Q. What are your primary scholarly preoccupations these days?
A. Most of my research and publications focus on the metaphysics of human agency, including the scope and structure of our intentional activity, free will, and how we cause our intentional actions. My research in this area naturally led me to work on the mind-body problem and the nature of psychological states such as intention and belief. I am presently writing a survey book with Jesús Aguilar on the philosophy of action and agency for MIT Press.
I also work in the philosophy of religion. I have recently been examining alternative conceptions of God that either identify God with the universe or take God to be somehow embodied by the universe, but not identical with the universe. Some regard alternatives such as these as philosophically less problematic alternatives to traditional theism. Yujin Nagasawa (University of Birmingham) and I were awarded a grant from the John Templeton Foundation in 2011 to do research on this topic. We organized a workshop at the University of Birmingham in the summer of 2012, and we are co-editing a book for Oxford University Press featuring original articles by workshop participants.
Q. How has your teaching evolved during your time at Marist?
A. A few years ago, I found that many students in my upper-division Philosophical Topics courses were failing to understand the “big picture” and this was affecting their understanding of why certain problems we would focus on in more depth were worthy of sustained consideration. I decided to schedule my courses so that I would spend the first five weeks of the semester doing a survey of the main topics in the course. This would be followed by eight weeks of digging deeper, discussing and picking apart readings on the topics we had surveyed in the first five weeks. The course would end with two weeks of prepared debates on some of the topics covered.
I found that this way of structuring my Philosophical Topics courses worked quite well. The students developed a shared vocabulary and understanding of different concepts by the end of the fifth week. This provided them with the ability to engage more fruitfully with the readings and each other in discussion and debate.
Q. Have you worked with any outstanding students lately?
I have had some really incredible students at Marist. But there are four recent students in particular with whom I have enjoyed working a great deal: Shawn Jordan (’11), Christopher Kozak (’09), Dennis Mulqueen (’12), and Andrew Vincent (’11). They all majored in philosophy and I had the opportunity on various occasions to work closely with them by participating in reading groups with them and/or directing their research projects. They are all now presently doing graduate work. Chris is pursuing a Masters in Public Administration at Rutgers-Newark. Andrew is working on a M.A. in Psychology at Springfield College. Shawn and Dennis are both in M.A. programs in philosophy (at the University of Manitoba and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, respectively).
Q. Do you have any hobbies or random talents we should know about? Also, what are you reading these days?
A. When I’m not doing philosophy, I enjoy skateboarding (mostly pools/bowls and ramps), hiking, brewing beer, and vegan cooking.
Perhaps the best thing I read recently was Graham Roumieu’s Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir (Plume, 2005). Otherwise, some books I enjoyed recently include Helen Steward’s A Metaphysics for Freedom (Oxford University Press, 2012), Mark Johnston’s Saving God: Religion After Idolatry (Princeton University Press, 2009), and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick: or, the Whale (Harper and Brothers, 1851).