Professor of Philosophy Daniel Campos looks at life and the subject he teaches from a variety of angles.

Campos, who has been part of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences for 16 years and was recently named chair of the Philosophy Department, incorporates his passion for mathematics, literature, and sport into his writings and his lessons. Before Brooklyn College, Campos taught at Penn State University while pursuing his Ph.D. After completing a doctorate, he was a postdoctoral scholar at the Dibner Library of the Smithsonian Institution and then at the Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil. The diverse education Campos received prepared him well for Brooklyn College.

We asked Campos about his experience in and out of the classroom and the eclectic symposium, “Great Circles: Mathematics, Philosophy, and Poetry,” he hosted at the college in spring 2023.

What is your area of expertise?

In terms of philosophical traditions, I mostly research and write about philosophies from the Americas. That includes Anglo-, Latin-, and Native American philosophies as well as U.S. Latin philosophies. Currently, I am researching Lakota, Haudenosaunee, and other Native American philosophies regarding the sacredness of the land. As a teacher, I also emphasize African- and Asian-American philosophies.

In terms of topics, I have been focused recently on the ethics of immigration from American perspectives and on American conceptions of the good life—especially how love between people and communal respect for the land can sustain the ethical life of societies.

What do you plan to bring to your new role as chair of the Philosophy Department?

I have been chair for one year. I have two more years to serve. I am committed to making a personal presence on campus—for students, staff, and faculty—an enriching and worthwhile experience, for example, through conferences, lectures, debates, and gatherings that are both social and academic. We discuss philosophy and have good meals! I want to support student initiatives through Philosophy Society events.

I also want our department to offer culturally pluralistic courses more regularly. So far, we have been able to reactivate the course in Asian philosophy. In the fall, we are offering Jewish and African-American philosophy and another course that emphasizes Islamic philosophical traditions (Landmarks in History of Philosophy). Later, we will offer Latin American and Africana philosophy courses as well as courses on race, justice, and equality.

You recently organized a symposium, “Great Circles: Mathematics, Philosophy, and Poetry.” What was the inspiration for that, and what did you take away from the event?

Daniel Campos speaks at the symposium, “Great Circles: Mathematics, Philosophy, and Poetry,” which he organized and was held at Brooklyn College on June 9.

A “symposium” is literally a banquet—read Plato’s dialogue The Symposium if you are curious—and this event was a philosophical and professional celebration. A group of philosophers, humanists, professors, higher education consultants, and Brooklyn College students and alumni gathered to discuss the relationship between mathematics, philosophy, and poetry.

We approached them as intellectual and creative endeavors that enrich human experience and our understanding of our world and our place in it. The work of distinguished philosopher and poet Emily Grosholz was at the heart of the discussions, illuminating our conversations. There was rigorous, thoughtful scholarship, poetry readings, intellectual friendship, joy, and good food.

What would you tell students who might be interested in studying philosophy but don’t understand much about it or its application?

Philosophy means the love of wisdom. It provides a way to pursue intellectual wonder and curiosity and to discover one’s vocation, one’s calling. To me, philosophy is a way of life. The philosophy we read, discuss, and write in courses, conferences, symposia, and debates is important for the sake of living a good life. In short, the true value of studying philosophy lies in the way it helps one to discover the life one finds worthwhile. As an academic field, philosophy hones students’ analytic, logical, and communication skills; trains them to become ethical professionals; and is one of the best majors to prepare them for careers in law, journalism, medicine, teaching, social work, justice, and other fields. Recent graduates from our department are now teachers, physicians, lawyers, and project managers, or are studying organizational psychology or cognitive neuroscience, for example. philosophy graduates earn high median salaries, close to $80,000 per year. But the joy of philosophizing is to question, imagine, and think about worthy life paths.