The University has boosted its long-term roster of professors with the confirmation of tenure for Associate Professor of Letters and Philosophy Tushar Irani and Associate Professor of History Courtney Fullilove.
“In this case, it was a slam dunk…” said President Michael Roth ’78. “Professor Irani works on ancient philosophy and is a wonderful teacher, a lovely writer, an elegant writer… His teaching ranges widely, and he has deep specialized knowledge in Plato, but he teaches a course on philosophy as a way of life, which is really about translating philosophy into, ‘How am I going to live today? What am I going to eat? Who are my friends? Should I lie to that guy? That kind of stuff.’”
A church choirboy from the ages of nine to twelve, and now a scholar of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, Irani is pleased to be given recognition for his work in academia from his peers.
“Writing a book can be a solitary activity and the truth is you can’t be sure of the quality of your ideas until others let you know,” said Irani. “Getting tenure has meant the recognition of my work as a scholar and teacher. It’s meant that other people value the work I do, the work I love doing, so that’s been very fulfilling.”
When asked about how he would describe his experience with Wesleyan students in one word, Irani found himself inventing a new word.
“I wish we had a word for a cross between exhilarating and exhausting,” he said. “Exhilausting?”
Honing in on his expertise, Irani just published a book, “Plato on the Value of Philosophy: The Art of Argument in the Gorgias and Phaedrus” (Cambridge University Press, 2017).
“One of the key claims of the book is that a proper engagement in argument requires an attitude of friendship towards others,” he said. “I think Plato conceives of this attitude as a form of love. He describes Socrates at one place in the dialogues as having a ‘love of humanity.’ (Xenophon, one of Socrates’ other companions in antiquity, also describes him using the same term.) I know many readers come away with an impression of Socrates as combative and annoying and aggressive—and this is how people sometimes see philosophers generally. But on my reading, this isn’t true to Socrates’ character at all, and neither is it true of philosophers, at least when they’re acting as philosophers should! Plato thought that Socrates possessed a genuine love for others and much of my book tries to show how and why he believed that the practice of philosophy, done right, requires such an attitude towards others.”
Fullilove has been at the University since 2009, and her work focuses on United States’ social history during the 1800s. She recently published a book earlier this year titled, “The Profit of the Earth: The Global Seeds of American Agriculture” (University of Chicago Press, 2017).
“Professor Fullilove is remarkable in other ways,” Roth continued. “She actually, as a historian, says ‘I have to know the history of changes in agribusiness,’ so most historians would say, ‘Let me get a book on agribusiness and read it, and I’ll get a book on seeds and read it’—Professor Fullilove goes and becomes an expert on the biology and the genetics of seeds, and she actually gets a degree in this area.”