There are few better college learning experiences than studying a topic with the person considered to be a leading authority on the material.
Stonehill students in Professor Richard Capobianco’s philosophy course on the seminal 20th-century philosopher Martin Heidegger have such an experience. And they’ll soon have a new resource to guide them: Capobianco’s “Heidegger’s Way of Being”releases Oct. 6.
“One of the great pleasures of teaching at Stonehill is that I have the privilege of teaching courses that concern my research … I’ve been teaching a Heidegger course since I came to the College almost 30 years ago, and I love teaching today as much as I did when I started,” said Capobianco, who teaches philosophy courses at all levels. His 2010 book “Engaging Heidegger” received superb critical reviews and has become a widely read and influential book in the field.
“It’s terrific that students are able to read my books as part of the course,” says Capobianco, who has won three teaching awards, including being named one of “The Best 300 Professors” by the Princeton Review in 2012. “As the author, I can bring to students a sense of the excitement of the intellectual life and of the lively conversation that scholars have with each other beyond the borders of the campus. I can share with them the interesting questions and comments I receive when I give a lecture or attend a conference elsewhere. Students come to recognize that they are involved in this larger conversation, too, and this engages them all the more.”
Former student Andrew Bourret ’09 says he found Capobianco’s enthusiasm infectious. “It was obvious that Professor Capobianco was passionate about the topic,” he says. “He would speak with great enthusiasm — eyes wide with excitement, and arms and fingertips extended — whenever he was about to discuss some new idea.”
Passing the Torch of Knowledge
Capobianco first became interested in Heidegger as an undergrad philosophy student. He says he fell so in love with philosophy and with studying Heidegger’s thoughts that he changed his plans for law school to pursue a doctoral degree in philosophy instead. “In graduate school, I was fortunate to have studied with one of Heidegger’s foremost students and an important 20th-century philosopher in his own right, Hans-Georg Gadamer, as well as with William J. Richardson, the renowned Heidegger scholar, who was my mentor,” he said.
“Studying Heidegger with such masterful thinkers and scholars was extraordinarily exciting and inspiring,” he said. He recalled visiting Richardson to discuss Heidegger's philosophy for hours.
“He would also regale me with vivid stories of his time in Germany and of his visits with Heidegger,” he said. “In turn, I like to tell my students the stories about my experiences with these great scholars and of my visits to Heidegger’s home region in the vicinity of the Black Forest in Germany.”
The student is now the teacher, as the saying goes, and now that Capobianco is a leading Heidegger scholar himself, he hopes to pass the torch of knowledge and to inspire his own students as much as his professors inspired him.
“Philosophy affords the simple and pure delight of thinking,” he said. “If I can communicate some of that joy to my students, and if they can come away having experienced some of that joy for themselves, then all is well.”