Major Alexander G. Fogassy

Alexander Fogassy

Dr. Andrew Pinsent and Professor Mark Wynn


Oriel College

Thesis title:

Is Second-Person Relatedness a Factor in the Faculty of Understanding? A Philosophical, Scientific, and Theological Study

Primary Research Area:

Science and Religion, Philosophy of Religion

Research Overview:

My thesis explores whether there are certain aspects to the faculty of understanding which are enabled (perhaps uniquely) through the emerging philosophical notion called “second-person relatedness,” a mode of relation famously identified by Martin Buber in his book I and Thou. In recent years, this mode of interpersonal interaction has become an increasingly important theme in experimental psychology, social neuroscience, philosophy, and theology. On most conceptions, understanding is a much more holistic and interrelated quality than knowledge, simply speaking, yet modern epistemology has – in response to skepticism -- primarily focused on the issue of propositional justification. Furthermore, some accounts suggest that second-person relatedness aids in the acquisition of understanding in a manner that cannot be substituted by other forms of learning. On this account, situations in which ‘I’ relate to ‘you’ are important and may even be essential to the communication of understanding. These situations can be expressed using the metaphor of joint attention, a mode of second-person relatedness in which two people “share awareness of the sharing of [their] focus” (Peter Hobson, 2005). This second-person relatedness can be found in diverse contexts, including theology, by means of Aquinas’s account of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Finally, the conclusions drawn from this study have implications for a wide variety of fields, including artificial intelligence.

About me:

I am an active-duty US Air Force officer being funded to study for a doctorate, as part of a unique officer development program sponsored by the USAF Chief of Staff. My primary Air Force career of ~12 years is pilot, and I’ve served in various operational tours in different locations around the world flying the F-16. Before coming to Oxford, I was stationed near Fairbanks Alaska with my wife (Sara) and two children (Evelyn and Elijah), who are all accompanying me in England. I graduated Oxford with an MSt in Science and Religion July 2022 (Mansfield College), and before Oxford I completed (Feb 2020) an MA in Philosophy and Apologetics (in-correspondence) from Southern California Bible College and Seminary, San Diego California, near my hometown of Oceanside. My undergraduate is in astronautical engineering (w/ a minor in Arabic) from the United States Air Force Academy (class of 2012). My first year at Oxford, 2021-2022, I played for the university American Football Club (OULAFC) and the university Athletics Club (OUAC). I’ve since continued with Athletics and have also picked up rowing (Oriel Summer VIII’s 2023, and hopefully again 2024). At Oriel, I’m involved in my MCR and am one of the founding officers and treasurer for the Oriel College Metaphysical Club (OCMC). I’m also a reader for the Newton House Theological Centre, in central Oxford. I’ll depart Oxford for my next assignment Summer/Fall 2024, possibly returning to the cockpit, or perhaps fulfilling an advisory role at the Pentagon (or anything in between).

Links: (link to book review, below)  (recent podcast on emergence of AI).

Selected Publications:

Articles: Book review (see link), Alister McGrath Natural Philosophy: On Retrieving a Lost Disciplinary Imaginary, in the journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (vol 75, No.2, p. 139-140).

Conference / Presentation: 2022 Ian Ramsay Centre Summer Conference: Alister McGrath, Celebrating Four Decades of Achievements in Science and Religion. Presentation title, “Greatness in the Little-Big Things of Professor Alister McGrath.” Forthcoming, March 2024 National Senior Stretch (Thriving Minds by Academy Learning), talk on “Wisdom from the Skies.”


Academic Interests:

science and religion, philosophy of religion, intellectual history, premodern philosophy/worldviews, analytic philosophy and theology, biblical and Christian anthropology, philosophy of artificial intelligence