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Socrates

So I have a master's degree in philosophy. Does that mean I've mastered philosophy? No, I have not. But I enjoyed all the reading and some of the writing that went into my graduate work and if I live long enough, I may try to get my doctorate. I don't know what I'll do with it, but I think it would be a nice thing to have. Also, I have a beard and I'm gaining weight, so I hoping people will mistake me for Socrates (unlike Socrates, I'm not bald, but I'm planning to start wearing a baseball cap and a toga and will see what happens).

My area of interest is comparative philosophy, by which I mean comparing philosophical systems, particularly Western and non-Western. My earliest readings in philosophy were from Indian and Asian traditions. When I was 15, I discovered Zen Buddhism. Immanuel Kant wrote that reading David Hume awakened him from his dogmatic slumber and Zen did much the same thing for me.



Bodhidharma 

I was lucky enough to study with Huston Smith at Syracuse University for a couple of years. It happened that he knew the Dalai Lama and one day in 1979 Huston suggested we do some work on Tibetan Buddhism because his friend was about to pay his first visit to the United States -- and was coming to Huston's house! So we ended up getting a lesson in Tibetan Buddhism from one of its most important practitioners and who would later be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. That was pretty much worth the cost of my entire tuition at Syracuse.  


His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama


We have quite an active Tibetan community here in the Washington, DC area, so if you're happen to be around, you may want to visit my friends at Sakya Phuntsok Ling. Lama Kalsang Gyaltsen is a great teacher and a wonderful person.

Here are a few works I've found particularly helpful as I try to figure out "the big picture". Some of them might be of interest:

A Guide to the Boddhisattva Way of Life by Santideva

A favorite text of the Dalai Lama and a good introduction to the essentials of Tibetan Buddhism

The Zen Koan: Its History and Use in Rinzai Zen by Isshu Miura and Ruth Fuller Sasaki
Koans are used to test the degree of enlightenment achieved by some Zen practitioners. I myself am more or less at the "igneous rock" level, alas.  

The World's Religions by Huston Smith
A classic.



Friedrich Nietzsche

Human, All Too Human by Friedrich Nietzsche
Nietzsche may be an acquired taste, but one well worth acquiring, I think.




David Hume

Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion by David Hume
Hume is the philosopher I'd most like to talk to over a good, long dinner (and I bet he'd pay!)