SUNY Korea

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[Interview] Dr. Kazem Mahdavi, president of SUNY Korea Philosophy Club

SUNY Koreaㅣ2019-11-18 09:29

Philosophy Club founded and led by Dr. Kazem Mahdavi, a professor in SUNY Korea’s AMS department, offers an important venue where faculty, students, staff, and local residents can gather together to explore various aspects of philosophy. We recently spoke with Dr. Mahdavi about the club.


Q: Could you please briefly introduce Philosophy Club? 

Philosophy Club is an official club at SUNY Korea where anybody including faculty, students, staff, and local residents can join to expand their knowledge. We hold seminars four or five times per semester. This is an open seminar on many different topics, and anybody is welcome to join and volunteer to speak. The sessions start with a speaker followed by a Q&A and discussion. We talk about things that may not be familiar to all people but are important in philosophy, religion, ethics, and culture. 


Q: What motivated you to create Philosophy Club? 

When I first came to SUNY Korea, I realized we needed some kind of activity besides taking courses and teaching courses. So, my decision was to create a philosophy club that anybody could join. In the initial sessions I invited SUNY Korea faculty to speak about something interesting that the rest of us may be unfamiliar with. And now we invite everybody. The intention was to create a more relaxed learning environment outside the more formal classroom in universities, and to offer something different than a usual class using the talent that is here. 


Q: What has the club done so far? What have been some of the club’s topics?

We have had many talks. In the first sessions we talked about Rainer Maria Rilke, Mt Athos, Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Plato, and Sayyidah Zaynab. Then in the next semester, we talked on Religion and Spirituality, King David to Jesus, Buddhist and Meditation, etc. Then we moved on to saints such as Saint Dnyaneshwar and Saint Kabir who have many followers and fame. For the seminar, I invite different people to give a talk each time. We had an Indian Professor last semester who gave a talk about Tagore. She is not a faculty member in SUNY Korea, but she wanted to speak at the seminar out of personal interest. Everybody is welcome and the club is a very joyful learning community.


Q: You have done many talks. What are your views on the subject of philosophy? 

Philosophy is an important topic. For example, when Newton wrote his law of gravity, when Einstein wrote his theory of relativity, when quantum mechanics came, when Jesus preached, etc. they all had their own philosophy. Religions such as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, etc. preached with their own philosophy. Philosophy sets the subject on a firm foundation. When SUNY Korea was built in Incheon Global Campus, there was a philosophy behind it. That’s basically what we are doing. Philosophy helps us explore subjects that are important and that impact our soul, our heart, our understanding, our society. 


Q: What was the Philosophy Club seminar about last week? 

The seminar was about philosophical perspectives of science fiction. What philosophy does fiction use? Through the seminars, we want to look at the philosophical viewpoint. Things that drive us. Things that happen all the time. Also, about the books that were written 2,000, 3,000, 5,000 years ago. We want to explore their philosophy and their contributions. 


Q: How is this club distinguished from others? 

We are here for knowledge. To introduce knowledge, to obtain knowledge, and to expand knowledge. We welcome not only professors but also students to give talks. Anybody with an interesting story can give a talk. It should be about something that is unique; something we don’t know. 


Q: What does the future hold for this club? 

I like what is happening and thank many people who, gracefully, present talks. I want to continue it. I want to keep finding unique things to present talks on, discussing, and expanding knowledge. Next semester, I’m trying to concentrate on Africa. We have concentrated on India, Middle East, and Europe as well as having several talks on literature, post-modernism, Christianity, etc. I think some talks on Africa would be great. Africa is a very interesting space. I also want to explore philosophy in fashion. I wish that we had more people participating.  My hope is that when this club is known outside of our campus, local residents can also participate. This is good for SUNY Korea and Songdo community


As well as mathematics, Dr. Kazem Mahdavi is interested in many different fields such as philosophy, literature, religion, poetry, and culture. We support the activities of Philosophy Club and hope that the club develops into a community of inquiry with more students and local residents joining in on the interesting explorations of the club.




Written by Sungwon Hyun

Edited by Leanne Patterson-Shin