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Diego Lucci, Professor of History and Philosophy: What is Great about AUBG is the Community Spirit

Professor Diego Lucci studied philosophy at the prestigious University of Naples “Federico II” in Italy, taught at Boston University and the University of Missouri and gave lectures at Oxford and Cambridge. 13 years ago, he became a professor at the American University in Bulgaria and liked the place and the country so much that he decided to stay here.

Please tell us a bit about yourself: where are you from, where did you study, what has been your professional/academic experience prior to AUBG.

I was born and raised in Naples, Italy. I received my academic degrees in philosophy from the University of Naples “Federico II”, which is also the alma mater of the four most important Italian philosophers ever, namely Thomas Aquinas, Giordano Bruno, Giambattista Vico and Benedetto Croce, and of three out of twelve Presidents of the Italian Republic. In the past, I taught at Boston University and the University of Missouri St. Louis. During my career, I have been awarded several visiting professorships and research fellowships in the U.S. and Europe. I have also lectured on my research at over sixty institutions, including, among others, such prestigious universities as Cambridge, Oxford, St. Andrews, Pantheon-Sorbonne, the University of Queensland, Boston College, and the College of William & Mary. In recent years, I was a research fellow at various institutions, including, among others, the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London and the Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies at the University of Hamburg. I am also a permanent fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

How did you first become interested in philosophy?

I became interested in philosophy when I was in high school. At many Italian high schools, the history of philosophy from antiquity to the present is studied over three years and is one of the most important disciplines. I decided to pursue an academic career in philosophy when I was still in my penultimate year at high school and when, therefore, I studied modern philosophy from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. Now, almost 25 years later, modern philosophy is my area of specialization.

What are your favorite teaching topics and why?

I specialize in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophy, with a focus on English deism, Newtonianism, and empiricism. I consider this period of the history of western thought crucial to understand the origins of modernity. My research particularly concentrates on the relationship between the Enlightenment and religion. This topic is attracting increasing attention in the historiography on the Age of Enlightenment, given that, in that time, the rethinking and repositioning of religious concepts, sources, practices, and institutions in the “intellectual map” of western civilization significantly contributed to the making of modern secular societies.

Could you tell us more about the books and articles you’ve worked on?

I am the author of two book-length monographs and over forty journal articles and book chapters. My 2008 monograph “Scripture and Deism” is a widely cited classic on English deism, whereas my 2012 book on the Enlightenment debate on Jewish emancipation is an important contribution to the study of Jewish-Gentile relations in eighteenth-century Europe. I am also the co-editor of four volumes, among which are two collections of essays in English – “Atheism and Deism Revalued” (2014) and “Casanova, Enlightenment Philosopher” (2016). I am currently researching the impact of anti-Trinitarian ideas on the English Enlightenment, especially on Unitarian writers, Locke, Newton and his disciples, and the foremost deists and skeptics of eighteenth-century Britain. I am writing a monograph on this subject, about which I have already published several essays. Last but not least, I recently completed several articles and a 100,000-word monograph on John Locke’s religious thought. This book, which is provisionally entitled “John Locke’s Christianity”, is currently under evaluation for publication by Cambridge University Press.

What led you to AUBG? 

Back in 2006, when I was a postdoctoral fellow at Boston University, I saw on the internet that AUBG was searching for new faculty members in several fields. Having already traveled, worked and lived in Eastern Europe, I thought it would be interesting to make one more experience in this region. Thus, I submitted my CV and other materials, and AUBG eventually offered me a contract, which I accepted. Then, I liked this university and this country so much that I decided to stay here. This is my thirteenth academic year at AUBG.

What do you enjoy about teaching to AUBG students?

What I truly like about AUBG students is their politeness and their consideration and respect towards each other and towards professors. Despite significant differences in their cultural and social background, AUBGers are very respectful of others’ opinions and viewpoints. However, they are always eager to engage in constructive criticism and dialogue when they disagree with each other or with their professors. I also appreciate our students’ commitment, seriousness, and dedication to their personal and intellectual growth. Last but not least, what is great at this university is its community spirit. Although consisting of students from over 40 countries, the AUBG student body always demonstrates a high sense of duty towards the community. This is proven by our students’ involvement in a number of extra-curricular activities, including academic and charitable initiatives, and by their contributions to the shared governance of the university.

What advice would you give a recent graduate on building a fulfilling life and career?

I would simply tell them: assess your potential, understand what you are good at, and try to do what you enjoy the most, regardless of social, parental or peer pressure. In the end, it is your life, and only you can realize what will enable you to have a happy, good, and self-fulfilled life.

What are some of your hobbies? 

I don’t know if I can call it a “hobby”, but one of the very few things that give me real pleasure is my research. When working on my essays, I am completely immersed in what I read or write, and I completely forget the rest of the world.

I also enjoy traveling, particularly visiting cities with good public transportation, which allows me to see many interesting things in only a few days. My favorite places in the world are the Tate Britain gallery in London, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, the Riva degli Schiavoni waterfront in Venice, the Aussenalster Lake in Hamburg, and the Phlegraean Fields – a peninsula west of Naples where I spent the first thirteen years of my life.

What has been your experience living in Bulgaria?

So far, my life in Bulgaria has been great. Here, I have found many good friends, especially but not exclusively among my colleagues at AUBG, I have met the person who has become my wife, and, four years ago, my son was born. Bulgarians are generally very nice and friendly people, particularly here in Blagoevgrad, and I am impressed by the efficiency of public offices in this country. Moreover, I really enjoy some Bulgarian dishes (especially “chushki burek” and “kachamak”) and Bulgarian white wines, although I know that Bulgarian people prefer red wine. Finally, there are many beautiful places to visit in Bulgaria. I love the Rila Monastery and the Old Town of Plovdiv. I have traveled extensively in this country, but I still have to see many other interesting places here. More than anything else, I would love to see Nessebar, Sozopol, Balchik, and other historic towns on the Black Sea. Koprivshtitsa is another historic place I would like to visit.

Interview by Dimana Doneva

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