How is philosophy different from other disciplines?

I believe that Plato’s definition of philosophy is now even more relevant than ever. While other sciences are centered around well-established subjects, as well as basic axioms and definitions that are only redefined in times of crisis, philosophy tends to question everything and even sometimes resort to provocations, thus getting to the heart of this or that subject. The thing is, philosophers examine basic concepts. In this sense, all these sciences study the world in different directions: but while the more specific sciences rely on their tenets when turning to practical work, philosophy looks towards the very grounds that form our understandings and practices, both in academia and life, and reconsider them. It’s necessary to make sure that our beliefs are our own.

Why did you choose ITMO?

As I see it, philosophy is the most classical yet unconventional discipline of all because it aims to delve into our beliefs and redefine them. The world is changing quicker than our understanding of it, meaning that the established traditional patterns that navigate us through life cannot be relied on forever. And here, rethinking plays a major role. 

“I graduated from St. Petersburg State University in 2007. After I got my diploma, I decided to become a teacher, but at the time I mostly did research and administrative work.”

Photo by Dmitry Grigoryev, ITMO.NEWS

Photo by Dmitry Grigoryev, ITMO.NEWS

What are your classes like?

There are many ways to teach philosophy. Yet I’m strongly against simply learning all the various paradigms and dates. There’s nothing better than when students get familiar with the views of different thinkers or their fellow students and thus start to understand themselves better. In other words, philosophy is a great way to make sense of your own thoughts. However, it still takes a lot of effort since you must read a lot and be able to truly understand others. As a result, though, you get to reveal your inner self.

During practical classes, we read and discuss texts. I try to start by bringing up the question of what the authors wanted to say. If we manage to get to the core problem of the book and understand its relevance, we can also understand the solution offered. And then already ponder over its pros and cons, scientific meaning, and prospects. This is ideal for me. 

Many students don’t understand why they need to study philosophy and its history. What can you say to them?

As conscious beings, we always try to make sense of the world around us. Our perceptions are built from various factors: our families and friends, the books that we read, and the videos that we watch. All these shape a specific point of view, a so-called information bubble. We are surrounded by views similar to our own and are irritated by those that are different. We can live like that, but I stand by the idea that it’s not right to divide everything into “I like” and “I don’t like” since it makes us compromise and hold ourselves back. 

“In 2018, ITMO began to reconsider its approach to teaching subjects like philosophy and put together a new expert team. I decided to join them and fulfill my dream of being a teacher.”

Photo by Dmitry Grigoryev, ITMO.NEWS

Photo by Dmitry Grigoryev, ITMO.NEWS

One of the possible ways to avoid that is to thoroughly study where those opinions came from, how to choose and validate them, and what to do with them next. It’s an issue with various social surveys. When people don’t know what to say on the matter, they often try to go for the answer that they think most people would choose. Hence, we get results that have nothing to do with reality. 

The way I see it, the history of philosophy shows us why people believe in certain things. We shouldn’t also forget that philosophers are ordinary people just like us and they have similar concerns. However, they always strive to go beyond common truths and follow through, as in the true traditions of intellectual integrity. Following their example, we can not only pick our sides but also figure out what we can accept as truth and why. 

How does philosophy factor into your daily life?

It's a difficult question to answer since I don’t really know what my life would be like if I didn’t have philosophy. But one thing I do know is that I don’t regret my decision and it makes my life more exciting. 

In 2021, you participated in a round-table discussion held as part of the Staying With the Trouble exhibition and spoke about the pandemic and viruses in people’s lives from a philosophical standpoint. How else has the pandemic affected your work? 

In fact, I started to choose other works to read for my students. For instance, in late 2019, I asked my students to read Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer. This book elaborates on the concepts of sovereignty and power. At that time, students had a hard time understanding the text and I thought that, perhaps, we would have to give it up. Then, the pandemic happened. And I decided to give it another go because it seemed relevant. Biopolitics, lockdowns (of various nature), and having to protect people’s health against their own will – all the contradictions of the pandemic were touched upon in this book. And students loved it the most. Our seminar was a success. Students were well-versed in the issues because they actually lived through them. 

“It’s often hard to tell whether students were satisfied with the course and understood the importance of a certain topic, so I was extremely happy when I learned that I won the competition. After all, it means that students appreciate my work and it wasn’t for nothing.”

Photo by Dmitry Grigoryev, ITMO.NEWS

Photo by Dmitry Grigoryev, ITMO.NEWS

What else do you like doing?

I’m a huge fan of movies and not just high-brow ones, either. I enjoy the Marvel films and I read comics, too. This is my way to keep up with the times. 

But I have some unusual hobbies, too. Not so long ago, I got into the art of fragrances. Let me try to explain: the 20th century brought us such a groundbreaking movement as the avant-garde and then art aspired to turn into something it hadn’t been before. Such provocations don’t seem to do anything for visual art today because they are seen as great cliches and it takes a lot to impress the audience. Yet it somehow works for fragrances. Recently, various odd smells like the smell of something burnt or repulsive became extremely popular. No, people don’t want to buy such perfumes. But it turned out that smells are deeply connected to our memory and especially associations. It’s something that we can work and play with.