When looking for teaching work as a graduate student in 2003, I contacted Michael Sandel to ask if I could be a TA for his famous Justice course. He proceeded to give me the most enjoyable job interview I've ever had. He began with some suspicion. "Your work here is in Asian religions," he said, "and your background is in sociology and geography. But we're going to be teaching Aristotle and Locke and utilitarianism - how are you going to be able to keep up with that?" I told him that I knew more than it might look like I knew on paper, and he proceeded to grill me with questions about Immanuel Kant's moral philosophy and John Rawls's theory of justice. He was satisfied with my first answers; by the end, he came to ask me with some surprise, "How do you know so much Rawls?" He hired me with confidence, and was pleased enough with my performance that two years later he hired me to record the first online seminars for a distance version of the course through Harvard Extension School.
So how did I get to know Rawls? I became interested in Western philosophy before I ever discovered anything Asian - through a mini-course at Queen's University, through a course in high school, through debates online. I've read Western philosophy avidly since then; today my blog addresses Western philosophies - analytic, "continental", historical - just as much as it does Asia.
I've taken and audited courses in philosophy wherever I've been able to - at McGill on ethics with Susan Dwyer, 19th-century philosophy with George di Giovanni and formal logic with Michael Hallett; at Cornell on Spinoza, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud with Geoff Waite; at Harvard on partiality with Niko Kolodny. The formal logic proved surprisingly useful twenty years later when I began studying discrete mathematics for computer science!
My dissertation engaged at length with the works of Martha Nussbaum, using Śāntideva's ideas to question Nussbaum's critique of the Stoics. I had the opportunity to sit down with Nussbaum for an hour or two when she visited Harvard, and to send her the finished product. Though the dissertation is critical of her work and raises significant questions about it, she praised the dissertation highly in an email to me and wrote me a letter of reference as I applied to academic jobs.