Antonella Mallozzi is a Ph.D. student at The Graduate Center, CUNY. She is writing her dissertation on modal epistemology under the supervision of David Papineau. Besides modality, she is interested in the issue of the a priori and in ancient philosophy. She also teaches at City College of New York, and is a fellow at Lehman College in the Bronx for the Writing Across the Curriculum program.
What excites you about philosophy?
The process of understanding, analyzing, and getting clearer about fundamental problems. I love the feeling of complete mental absorption that working on a philosophical issue gives me. Of course this constant striving for clarity can be exhausting, sometimes overwhelming. But philosophical thinking is what most rewards my reflexive and curious side. I can get quite agitated without that kind of mental engagement for more than a day or two!
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Being precisely where I am right now! Coming to the US five years ago was a leap in the dark and, like many of my choices, an instinctive, gut decision I took basically overnight. I decided to turn down a PhD offer in Roma, and go back to NY where I wrote my MA thesis as a visiting student the year before. But I was alone, didn’t have any money, and I worked as a waitress at night while preparing my applications for PhD programs during the day. That was tough but necessary. Although I could already read and write in English at an academic level, it was only during those months that I became fluent and confident communicating with the people in the street as well as at school. And it worked out. I love living in such a diverse, multicultural city like New York. I’ve been learning so much. Not just in terms of philosophical ideas, but also in terms of living and working in a foreign country. I’m now writing my dissertation on a topic I’ve always been obsessed with, surrounded by some incredibly brilliant and caring people. I feel very lucky and I would make the same choice again.
What are you most proud of in your professional life?
Teaching my own course, without a doubt. Designing my own syllabus, lectures, and assignments has been challenging but very rewarding. Teaching philosophy allows me to share with my students what I’ve been reading and thinking about for a long time (in the luckiest cases, even what I’m working on!) I can test my own understanding and my capacity to communicate complex philosophical concepts. I love when I see that surprised look in their eyes as they hear a philosophical idea or thought-experiment for the first time. I love how they smile and get excited when they “get” a difficult point. I recognize myself in them. And I’m proud of the positive, intense atmosphere that my students and I create in my classes. I walk home afterwards and I feel exhausted and happy.
What do you like to do outside work?
Run! I just ran the NYC marathon—my first marathon—this past November. I felt really high, like people say; and not tired, if you can believe it. I danced, sang, shook hands and waved at people during the whole race. A friend of mine brought a bottle of champagne at the finish line and that night I went out celebrating. It was magic! I also love cooking, eating, and drinking good wine (I guess here my Italian roots really show!) Cooking in particular, like running, helps me to unplug from philosophical thinking and to unwind. Whether I’m in New York or travelling, my weekly routine always includes working, running, cooking, and drinks. I love sharing a meal and chatting with my friends at night. Finally, music is also a constant presence in my life. My dearest memories are often tied to a particular song or musical piece.
What advice do you wish someone had given you?
To be bold! Both in classroom contexts and in writing. During the first couple of years of the Ph.D. I’ve often felt insecure speaking up and presenting my ideas, especially with senior established philosophers. I think that part of it has to do with being a non-native English speaker and a woman in philosophy. Surely I had to build my experience and grow—both literally and intellectually, but I wish that back then someone insisted that I relax and stop worrying so much! Philosophy is about being bold and having the courage to present one’s ideas, no matter how odd they might be, as long as they are carefully thought out.
Find out more about Antonella here.
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