The College of William and Mary in Virginia last year hired Dr. Laura Guerrero, a philosopher specializing in Buddhist and comparative philosophies. The college made the announcement this week as it celebrates its Asian Centennial, highlighting 100 years of Asian students attending the college, beginning with the admission of Chen Pu-Kao (陈步高) of China, who graduated in 1923.
While acknowledging that change takes time, Dr. Guerrero is working to enhance the status of Buddhist philosophy and other perspectives not traditionally seen in academic philosophy.
“I’m just really excited to be here and to be involved in the project of diversifying philosophy at William & Mary, and working toward making our field and our department and the university in general more inclusive in the perspectives and voices that we think about and include,” Dr. Guerrero said. (William & Mary)
Last fall, Dr. Guerrero taught a new course called “Philosophy Across Cultures,” which looked specifically at methods and issues in studying cross-cultural philosophy. In addition to Buddhist philosophies, Dr. Guerrero has interest in teaching more indigenous philosophy as well as African philosophy.
“In addition to the cross-cultural philosophy course, I also taught a course on Buddhist metaphysics,” Dr. Guerrero said. “But even the courses that I’m teaching that are courses that were already in the books, I’m teaching them in ways that incorporate diverse philosophical traditions.
“The course that I’m teaching on the human self, I draw on Buddhist and Daoist and Confucian and various other traditions when we’re talking about selfhood. So the diversity of the offerings isn’t just in terms of courses, but also in the way that I teach more traditional topic courses. I’m able to bring my expertise to those topics and draw on other traditions when I’m talking about them.” (William & Mary)
As part of the “Philosophy Across Cultures” course, Dr. Guerrero hosted two guest speakers: Dr. Anand Vaidya, professor of philosophy at San Jose State University, and Dr. Jin Park, professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy & Religion at American University. According to Dr. Guerrero:
It was promoted through the Asian Centennial, so that was really nice. We had a lot of people come not just from my class, but from the university generally . . . And both of the speakers I invited are philosophers of Asian descent, and they contributed essays to a special issue of The American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Asian and Asian American Philosophers and Philosophies.
I invited them not only to give proper or traditional philosophy talks, but I also invited them to share their experiences with my students to get my students to think about diversity in our field, representation in our field and what the experiences are of people who are underrepresented.(William & Mary)
Dr. Guerrero has published numerous papers on Buddhist philosophy and comparative thought, including: “Don’t Stop Believing: An Argument Against Buddhist Skepticism” (2019) in the journal Comparative Philosophy and “Free To Be You and Me: Cosmopolitanism, Pluralism, and Buddhist Modernism” (2021) in the American Philosophical Association (APA) Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies.
Getting to the heart of Buddhist philosophy, Dr. Guerrero said: “Buddhists have this really interesting division that they make between things that are ultimately real and things that are conventionally real. And there isn’t really in Western philosophical traditions quite the same emphasis on this kind of division.” (William & Mary)
Through her work, she hopes to share this centuries-old line of thought with Western thinkers and “to bring the Buddhist point of view into those conversations to see if some new ideas might emerge about how we can think about what’s real and why that matters.” (William & Mary)
Concluding, Dr. Guerrero said: “So for me it’s interesting to try to see this as a shared human project to see how different traditions approach that. And how their visions of the world shape how we live in it.” (William & Mary)
Faculty member brings new specialties to W&M philosophy department (William & Mary)
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