The Department of Philosophy is now welcoming its newest tenure-track faculty member, Domenica Romagni, a specialist in early modern philosophy. Romagni just completed her doctorate at Princeton University and has research interests in the history of philosophy, philosophy of mind, and aesthetics, particularly music theory.

Search committee chair, Professor Beth Tropman, explains the significance of Romagni’s arrival: “Domenica’s research program is interdisciplinary and innovative. We are thrilled that she will be joining us this fall. After Jane Kneller and Michael Losonsky retired, we have been without a specialist in the history of modern philosophy, so this faculty line is extremely important to the department.”

Q & A with Dr. Romagni

Why did you choose philosophy as a career path?
When I began my academic journey, I had no intention of pursuing philosophy. In fact, I didn’t even realize that it was an option. I started out in a conservatory, on track to become a professional cellist. However, even at a conservatory, we were required to take academic classes in addition to music. One of the first of these kinds of classes I took was a philosophy class, and I was hooked. I found everything about it fascinating (the subject matter, the canonical questions), but the thing I found most exciting was the mode of inquiry — the way of proceeding. That is ultimately what I think is special about philosophy and what drew me to the field. I see philosophy as a mode of thinking or investigation that goes about carefully unpacking an issue, examining it from different sides, and looking at the implications of different viewpoints. One of the happy consequences of this is that one can do philosophy about virtually anything, which was extremely enticing for a person like me, who has a very diverse collection of interests.

What is your research focus? What do you find exciting about it?
I look at how music theory, which was considered a branch of mathematical science in the 17th century, influenced broader developments in metaphysics and philosophy of mind. The idea at the heart of this project is that certain long-standing assumptions about the nature of music, assumptions we no longer hold, had far-ranging consequences for the broader intellectual landscape in this period.

I enjoy studying historical texts because it involves asking why people held the views that they in fact did, even if those positions seem wrong — what assumptions were philosophers back then operating under? What can that tell us about our own assumptions when we are doing contemporary philosophy?

What courses will you be teaching at CSU? What do you want students to gain through these courses?
This first year, I’ll be teaching courses in 17th and 18th century European philosophy, philosophy of literature and the arts, aesthetics, and music, and the philosophy of mind.

In my aesthetics courses, I tend to focus on the value of art and the way its creation and consumption shapes us. We are surrounded by art almost constantly, even if we don’t notice it — we hear music everywhere we go, we watch TV and movies, and we are bombarded with advertisements (which, arguably, are just as carefully constructed as any canvas hanging in a museum). Understanding what we value about the different kinds of art we consume (high art, low art, literature, film, music, etc.) and the effect it has on us as people and as a culture is, thus, a huge part of understanding our experience of the world and the kind of people we are.

Studying 17th and 18th Century European philosophy is also important for a number of reasons. First, studying any kind of history of philosophy is great for gaining a deeper understanding of why people hold the beliefs that they do, which in turn is helpful for understanding why we might hold the beliefs that we do, which can help us to be more careful about what kinds of things we accept to be true. Secondly, 17th and 18th century European philosophy developed at a time in which many of our contemporary conceptions came into place, including many of the early developments in the empirical sciences, psychology, and philosophy of mind. Studying philosophy from this time period, then, can shed light on the general methods and aims of contemporary science, as well as our conception of the modern mind and its relationship with the body.

Why is studying philosophy valuable?
Studying philosophy in general is valuable because of the kinds of skills it develops. At its most general, it involves learning how to carefully investigate what it is that your interlocutor is claiming (which might turn out to be very different than you thought at first) and why it is that they claim this (or what reasons they give for their claim). It also involves assessing the quality of these reasons and the kinds of consequences the claim might have on our other beliefs. At its best, the study of philosophy cultivates a person who can think critically, challenge and question the beliefs they hold, and interact with others in a deep but charitable way in order to solve problems and reach a common understanding. These abilities are important for everyone, regardless of what profession they choose to pursue in life.

What excites you most about moving to Fort Collins and becoming a CSU faculty member?
This is a hard question to answer, mainly because there are so many things to be excited about! Fort Collins is a beautiful place to live, and I am eager to take advantage of all of the outdoor activities that are available in and around the city. (I really like rock climbing, as well as hiking and swimming with my dog, so moving to Colorado is kind of a big deal for me.) I am also especially excited about becoming a part of the community at CSU — from what I’ve seen, my colleagues in the philosophy department are exceptional scholars and wonderful people, and I feel fortunate to be joining them. Additionally, it seems that there are ample opportunities for interdisciplinary research and teaching at CSU, and that is something I am keen to explore. Finally, I have heard from many others about how driven and hardworking the CSU students are, and I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to serve as an educator and mentor to them.