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Khafiz Kerimov (’14): “I am most grateful for the mentors that I was lucky to meet at AUBG”

AUBG graduate Khafiz Kerimov (‘14) from Russia majored in Political Science with a minor in Philosophy and Religion. And while AUBG doesn’t offer a major in Philosophy, right after graduation Khafiz got accepted for a PhD in Philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago. Currently, he is teaching undergraduate classes and working on his dissertation there. Khafiz says that it was thanks to the support of his AUBG professors—who took time to help him in his studies even outside of class time—that he was able to pursue his dream to study philosophy.

What was your first destination after AUBG?

I went on to pursue a PhD in philosophy at DePaul University, Chicago in the Fall of 2014, right after graduation.

What have you been up to ever since-- where have you lived, studied and worked?

That’s what I have been doing since, working on a dissertation and teaching undergraduate classes in philosophy here at DePaul, with a relatively brief (three or four months) stay in Germany for my research in 2016.

What sparked your interest in philosophy?

That is never a simple question to answer for me. I suppose, at one point I just realized that philosophy is all I want to do. And once I realized that I had no choice, I just had to do it. It was a little bit like falling in love, perhaps, but I can’t really put my finger on the exact moment when it happened.

I can say what drew me to philosophy, however. It was the joy that I found in philosophical thinking. Nothing else really ever gave me that sense of adventure (in thinking) that philosophy did, however strange that may sound. 

What are your favorite topics in philosophy and why?

A lot of work in philosophy is being done “topically.” But it is also very common to concentrate on individual philosophers. My work is a combination of both approaches. My dissertation focuses on the German philosopher Kant, on his practical philosophy in particular. I focus on the relationship between the concepts of prudence (human) and providence (divine) in Kant. The relationship between these two concepts has a long and complicated history: They have been treated as opposites (for example, by Aristotle) but there have also been attempts to reconcile them (for example, by Thomas Aquinas). But the relationship between them becomes especially complicated, confusing even, in Kant, and that’s what I am focusing on (and trying to disentangle).

Besides Kant, I do work on Aristotle, Descartes, Heidegger, so my research interests are a little broader than usual. And that’s both a blessing and a curse, to be honest, especially in light of the contemporary tendency (which is also a pressure) to narrowly specialize, in academia and elsewhere.

What advice would you give to recent university graduates about building a fulfilling life and career?

My advice would be quite simple: Just do whatever brings you joy. That’s what I did, at least, and I am not regretting it so far. But I would also add a little warning to my advice; otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair. And my warning is this: Pursuing what brings you joy, regardless of anything else, might be a great risk, especially if what brings you joy is philosophy or something else that is not very practical. I think it’s important to understand the risk.

Tell us a bit about your time at AUBG. In what ways have your AUBG education, experience and friendships had an impact on your career and who you are today? Are you still in touch and collaborating with other AUBG graduates (could you provide some examples)?

I was lucky to meet some very helpful and generous mentors here at AUBG, in particular, professors Diego Lucci, Sean Homer, and Ivelin Sardamov (but others as well). AUBG never had a philosophy major (only a minor) so were it not for the help and instruction that these three, in particular, offered me, outside of class time, I would have not been able to gain admission to a doctoral program in philosophy. So that’s what I am most grateful for, the mentors that I was lucky to meet at AUBG.

And, of course, I have had some very impactful friendships at AUBG. I am still in regular contact with some of these friends, they have visited me in various places in the past, and I have visited them. I hope to keep these friendships.

What clubs/exchange programs/competitions/activities did you participate in while at AUBG? How did they affect your university experience and who you are today?

I was never really into the club scene at AUBG. Perhaps, I am just not that into clubs.  I found simply taking classes very fulfilling in itself, and most of my friendships at AUBG happened outside the context of any club. However, at one point a friend of mine and I set up an academic journal at AUBG, so that was quite fun and an instructive experience too.

Interview by Dimana Doneva

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