Philosophy professor humbled, inspired by his field
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Philosophy professor humbled, inspired by his field

Philosophy is all about admitting that one knows nothing.

That’s what Joseph Tinguely, assistant professor of philosophy, said about his chosen field.

Tinguely grew up in North Dakota and received his bachelor’s in philosophy from St. Johns University. He then attended the New School of Social Research in Manhattan, where he got his master’s in philosophy.

At first, Tinguely had no interest in the subject.

“When I was in college, the class I wanted was full so I had to take a philosophy course, and I hated it,” Tinguely said. “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I did not want to take another philosophy class.”

Eventually, Tinguely said he took a liking to the subject.

“The next year I took philosophy as a gen ed, and I liked the second class much more,” he said.

Tinguely has been a professor of philosophy at USD for five years. Before teaching at USD, Tinguely held part time positions at SDSU, Augustana and the University Center.

Elena Freeman is a sophomore majoring in philosophy, French and international studies. Freeman said she enjoys philosophy because it’s humbling.

“I want to be a good debater and I want to know what I’m debating,” she said. “I know what my beliefs are, and I have questioned them, so I think I will be effective because of that.”

Freeman has taken multiple classes from Tinguely, including honors ideas in history and ethics, law and literature. She said Tinguely’s classes are engaging and interesting.

“He picks good books and he likes to focus on discussion,” she said. “Our class is a lot of fun because we get to lead the discussions. He encourages us to think deeper and go beyond the surface meaning.”

Although Tinguely was unsure of what he wanted to do in life, he said he always had an interest in teaching.

“I liked the idea of teaching, I liked being a college student and I enjoyed the professors I had,” Tinguely said. “I wanted to speak with them, it didn’t matter as much what I taught I just knew I wanted to be a part of that conversation.”

Tinguely said he enjoys teaching because he learns something new every day.

“Any given day I walk into the classroom I learn more then when I came in, to me that’s exciting,” he said. ” I like being with students as they start to learn and understand things for the first time.”

Tinguely said many jobs are available to philosophy majors.

“Philosophy sets you up with a certain set of intellectual skills,” he said. “Whatever you go into, these skills will augment what you’re doing. Most majors at USD tend to be thinking about jobs in law, public policy or working for a nonprofit.”

Tinguely lives by many personal philosophies, which he said he tries to teach his students.

“It is important to acknowledge that ignorance is okay and it is important. It is important to admit when you don’t have an answer,” Tinguely said. “Philosophy is different because it is about the careful process of ignorance. Trying to figure out what you don’t know, so you can know where to begin.”

There are 30 students pursuing philosophy majors at USD, and six students with philosophy minors, Tinguely said.

Tinguely said he enjoys the variety in his field.

“Philosophy is less about a body of knowledge and more a set of psychological skills that you can apply to any career, anywhere in your life,” Tinguely said.