Professor Maria Rosa Antognazza
Professor of Philosophy
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
My passion for philosophy goes back to my school days in Italy. I loved the opportunity to think about the big questions philosophy asks, and the rigorous way in which philosophy trains the mind to answer them. What is ultimately real? Why is there something rather than nothing? Is there a necessary being or are all beings contingent? What is knowledge and what can we know? Is there something which is objectively right or wrong, or is everything relative? Most people, at some point, will be confronted with some of these questions and will try to answer them in a more or less informal way. Philosophy has been tackling them over the centuries in a formal, rigorous way, engaging in a deep, fascinating, and exciting conversation which continues nowadays.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
My main research interests are in the history of philosophy (especially early modern and G.W. Leibniz) and the philosophy of religion (especially especially Religious Epistemology and Metaphysical Issues in Philosophical Theology). At the heart of my research is the relationship between reason and religion. I am by training an historian of philosophy and have approached these theoretical interests from an historical prospective, aiming at combining a commitment to historical sensitivity with rigorous analytic engagement. I regard my approach as genuinely interdisciplinary and as located at the interface between philosophy, theology, and history (including the history of science). My contribution within the history of philosophy has been to the reassessment of epistemological and metaphysical issues central to early modern thought in the light of the complex relationship between philosophy, theology and science which pertained in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
My publications include a full-scale intellectual biography of Leibniz covering the development of Leibniz’s thought over the entire span of his intellectual endeavours (Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography, Cambridge University Press 2009; winner of the 2010 Pfizer Prize as an outstanding contribution to the history of science) and a study of the relationship between philosophy and revealed theology in Leibniz tackling a broad range of issues in logic, epistemology, and metaphysics (Leibniz on the Trinity and the Incarnation: Reason and Revelation in the Seventeenth Century, Yale University Press 2007).
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
My professional role models are other women in the profession who have managed to achieve a good life-work balance, combining commitment to their family life with success in their work.
What if any support has most benefited you in your career?
Flexible working patterns have been essential. I am the mother of three wonderful children one of whom is a splendid little girl with Down Syndrome. Combining a demanding family life with the many challenges of a full-time profession has not always been easy but it worked thanks to family-friendly policies, and collegial and mutually supportive colleagues.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
It has always been important to me and my family to be able to see my children going to school, and to be home for dinner. Flexible working patterns have allowed me to achieve this while fully meeting all my professional obligations and progressing in my career. Another key factor has been the possibility of working from home for a couple of days per week.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
Great colleagues and great students, with a strong sense of intellectual community and a commitment to mutual support and robust intellectual exchange.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
As the Head of a large department I have to juggle many competing demands on my time. Good organizational skills are essential, but the real key is passion for your subject, commitment to the education of the new generations, and mutual support amongst colleagues.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
It is possible also for women to combine a rich family life with a rewarding career. Institutional support and concrete family-friendly policies are key factors in ensuring that women are not forced to choose between family and career. Role models are also very important for both colleagues and students.