UVU Philosophy Professor Publishes Prolifically

Going from being a food writer at The Los Angeles Times to a philosophy professor at a university doesn’t seem like a typical career path. But for C. Thi Nguyen, that’s exactly what he did. Even now, Nguyen isn’t your typical philosopher.

“I was trained as a very traditional philosopher,” Nguyen said. “[Asking] questions like ‘What is good, and how do we know it?’ Since then, I’ve shifted directions completely to a wild bunch of topics at the periphery of what is normally considered philosophy — but which I care deeply about.”

Nguyen’s philosophical passion centers around understanding human agency, rationality, and knowledge in a social context — in other words, how technology and community shape who we are, how we think, and what we care about. In particular, Nguyen is passionate about the philosophy and importance of games — and it shows in his work.

His book Games: Agency as Art, available for pre-order from the Oxford University Press, investigates the idea that games have a unique value in human life and are an integral part of how we become mature, free people. Nguyen posits that the body of games helps us form a “library of agency” which we can use to help develop our freedom and autonomy. “I think my book contains a whole new theory about why games are important, why they matter, and how essential they are to the development of our minds and souls,” said Nguyen.

In addition to his upcoming book, Nguyen has also had his work about the importance of games published in The Philosophical Review, the philosophy journal published by Duke University Press, and Game Studies, the International Journal of Computer Game Research.

But games aren’t Nguyen’s only area of interest. He also investigates how we develop relationships with images and other media, as he does in his op-ed “Why We Call Things ‘Porn’” for The New York Times, and in his paper “Autonomy and Aesthetic Engagement” which was published in MIND, the leading philosophy journal published by the Oxford University Press. 

Nguyen recently investigated trust, agency, and gullibility in a paper he submitted for the Marc Sanders Prize in Epistemology. This prize, awarded once every two years, is awarded by the Marc Sanders Foundation, an organization committed to using philosophy to help the world approach larger personal and societal issues with the thoughtfulness, care, and rigor needed to drive understanding and change. Nguyen’s paper, titled “Trust as an Unquestioning Attitude,” was the 2019 Honorable Mention.