Professor of the Week: Philosophy professor Ashley Puzzo


A new professor in the Philosophy department, Ashley Puzzo, couldn’t be any more excited to start teaching at DePauw. He went to University of San Francisco where he studied philosophy. He then attended Purdue for his PhD, where he was offered a job at DePauw last spring. From Seattle, Washington, he is an avid Seahawks fan, but also likes going on walks, watching bad horror movies and contemplating timeless mathematical questions. The DePauw sat down with Puzzo to find out a little more about him. Here’s what he had to say:


The DePauw (TDP): You said you like long walks and football. When an individual with a PhD in Philosophy goes for a walk, is that different than a football coach going on a walk?

Ashley Puzzo (AP): I think that’s a great question. I imagine in a lot of cases that it's similar because you're looking to relax and take your mind off of things and take a macro view on things opposed to a hyper analytical look at things. So if I'm thinking of a particular problem or paradox, it can be very analytical, but then when you go on a walk, you can get a deeper understanding by looking at it zoomed out and seeing how the different parts fit together.


TDP: Can you remember your first deep philosophical thought? When you first decided philosophy was for you?

AP: Yeah actually, it was a piece of moral philosophy—a famous problem called the trolley problem. I was studying in San Francisco at the time, and there's trolleys all over San Francisco. The question is this: there's a fat man in front of you, and he's big enough to stop the trolley. You can either push him and save five people at the bottom of the hill, or you can not push him and let those five people die. Philosophically, it's great because it really pushes questions about our moral sensibilities and our kinds of reasons and what kinds rationals we can get from these things. It's a real simple thought experiment. Philosophy is a thinking man's sport—or woman's for that matter. That kind of got under me. I always really like French, so I studied that as well, but I seemed to be spending a lot of my time thinking about these sorts of issues and thought experiments so it kind of fell into place from there.


TDP: Switching topics, what do you think of DePauw so far?

AP: The student body is awesome. I've got about 50 of them so it might be an insufficient sample, but they're working hard and seem to really get it and be interested in it...I think a lot these students are ready to be pushed.


TDP: What classes do you teach right now? What kind of classes would you like to teach in the future?

AP: I teach two sections of logic right now. With few exceptions, I'd pretty much teach anything I could. I love to teach, especially if its math or philosophy.


TDP: It’s well known that philosophy is a difficult major to employ. What advice would you offer to other philosophy majors, scared of the thin career field ahead of them?

AP: My advice has always been to couple it with another major. I think it makes for a great double-major: philosophy and math, philosophy and biochemistry, philosophy and economics. It's always a good idea to diversify and not put all of your eggs in one basket.

Obviously having a PhD, you're in a different position than having an undergraduate degree. I think if you have an undergrad degree in Philosophy, what businesses want to know the most is 'can you do the work?' You want to convince an employer that you're smart, you're eager and you're ready to go. You're excited for the challenges and you're competent to do it. I think if you do that, you'll get an opportunity somewhere. You only need one.


TDP: If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?

AP: Yes.