Pioneering philosopher

Senior Matt Tintera will walk across the John Brown University stage in May to receive a diploma like every other graduate, yet there will be one significant difference about Tintera’s diploma. His hard earned piece of paper will read “Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy,” a major only recently offered.

Tintera transferred to the University after spending his freshman year at the University of Oklahoma. During his time there, he pursued a degree in engineering. His end goal was, and still is, to attend seminary, so he felt as though his undergraduate degree was “kind of free,” he said.

He was first introduced to Jay Bruce, head of the philosophy department, through his gateway class. After experiencing Bruce’s teaching style and discovering more about philosophy, Tintera decided it was something he wanted to pursue.

Tintera’s story is one centered on impeccable timing. Before he arrived at the University, philosophy was only offered as a minor. Prior to Tintera’s first year at the University, the school hosted a speaker, one of Bruce’s mentors, who pushed the University to get a philosophy major. Bruce was hired on to bring that vision to fruition along with David Vila, professor of religion and philosophy.

“We thought it was a while before we would start a major, but there was a real outpouring of interest,” Bruce said. “Dr. Vila is the mastermind of everything; he is the one who really shepherded the major through. We were finalizing the major when Matt came in as a transfer,” Bruce said.

Bruce continued, “I was teaching a gateway class, and Matt Tintera and Tim Edgren (now a junior and the second to declare a philosophy major) were in that class. Matt wanted to declare the major before the registrar actually had the major set in place. In a way, he declared the major before we even had the philosophy major.”

For Tintera, the major truly offered him the perfect dynamic of all things he wanted.

“I enjoyed philosophy and [knew] it would prepare me for seminary, so it was kind of an easy decision to make,” Tintera explained. “Philosophy lets me use my critical thinking skills, but it was also about subjects that were important to me. I’ve always had an interest in theology and people’s thoughts; so that was fun for me to able to combine both of those sides.”

Tintera does not regret his decision. His time spent at the University and studying the specifics has made a lasting impact.

“It definitely has taught me to be more cautious and thoughtful about the decisions I make and beliefs I hold but also to be aware of how people think around the world and throughout the ages,” he said. “It has shown me the importance of hard work.”

Philosophy can be seen as a major with little action and too much thought. Tintera has wrestled with that and found the balance between knowledge and action.

“I think I’ve really gained good insight from the things I’ve studied and other times I’ve realized this isn’t the end all be all of life,” he said. “It’s great to read medieval insights, but it’s also great to love your neighbors and your family.”

Bruce described Tintera as a gifted and humble student.

“He wrote a paper last semester about the person I did my doctoral work on, and he taught me something. Matt as an undergraduate was teaching me something.” Bruce said. “Matt is so gifted that I look forward to seeing how the Lord uses him in whatever way. He is incredible.”

Both Bruce and Tintera encourage other students to consider pursing a philosophy degree.

Bruce said, “I make the argument that if you want to go to grad school, philosophy is an incredible major to have as an undergraduate. Philosophy spans all the disciplines and all history… It’s a nice blend of having specific skill but also flexibility in outcome.”