:: Interviews archive ( click for A-Z index)

Digital Ghosts published 20/02/2016


Your whole body is just a system of cells. It’s like a library of interacting books, which all tell stories about each other. Or its like a network of interacting computers. You are a visceral internet, a living digital library. As part of your body, your brain is also digital. If it’s not digital, then what is it? Don’t say analog, because that’s just an infinity of bits. If it’s not digital, then it contains something that escapes binary division. Plato wrote about this in his Sophist, which I think is by far his best dialogue. If you don’t think the brain is digital, then you believe it contains a sophist. To use the Platonic imagery, the brain is a trackless wilderness, haunted by an uncanny shadow.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Eric Steinhart.

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Scepticism and Early Wittgenstein published 13/02/2016


I had always been attracted to the challenge of understanding Wittgenstein’s enigmatic early work. The Tractatus is the result of a phenomenal burst of intellectual energy. Wittgenstein arrived in Cambridge in 1911 to work with Bertrand Russell. He was 22 years old, he spoke little English and had no philosophical training. By 1913 he had already developed some of the central ideas of the book. He wrote it while serving in the Austrian army during World War I. When the war ended in 1918 he had finished it. The book conveys an enormous sense of depth and mystery. You feel that he is on to something important, even if you can’t quite see what it is.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Jose Zalabardo.

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Truth, Knowability, Mind and Romantic Love published 07/02/2016


Romantic love is a classical philosophical topic, and while neuroscientists and psychologists have much to add, I am of the belief that this is one of the few areas left where philosophers have a clear advantage and can make genuine progress. What really drew me to this topic was my interest in the emotions. Add to that my bewilderment upon witnessing the puzzling tendency in the popular literature to focus either on the ‘feelings’ involved in love or the brain chemicals and neural correlates underlying them.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Berit Brogaard.

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Nietzsche, Art and the Neo-Hegelian Commitment published 31/01/2016


Some might see the Nazis, on this front, as having tried to put Nietzsche’s ideas into action in fashioning themselves as the Germanic inheritors of the Greco-Roman culture of the past. Think, in this vein, of all that neo-classical triumphalist architecture of Speer. They wanted to make a resplendent culture, in part by aestheticizing the political sphere, in that famous description due to Walter Benjamin. Nietzsche despised the nascent German Reich under Bismarck, despised power politics, and would have despised the Nazis. But his celebration of excellence, achievement, strength, and splendor, including when these come at the expense of ordinary morality, can leave him uncomfortably close to some ideas that took a hugely nasty turn—a turn, I again stress, that he wouldn’t have supported.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Andrew Huddleston.

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Necessary Metaphysics published 17/01/2016


Metaphysics and science both examine and explain reality, even though the means by which they do so differ. So metaphysics and science share their subject matter, but not their methods. But this non-overlap of methods does not entail that science and metaphysics are two completely independent ways of asking questions about a common subject and providing answers to those questions. Instead, we insist that the methodological autonomy of metaphysics can be maintained even if metaphysicians also employ the empirical results of science — as they should.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Tuomas E Tahko.

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The Hedonistic Utilitarian published 10/01/2016


Once we realise that utilitarianism comes with the idea of blameworthy rightdoing (such as when you push a big man onto the tracks in order to save five lives) and blameless wrongdoing (such as when you don’t push a big man onto the tracks in order to save five lives), then utilitarianism all of a sudden appears to give the right answers. It is indeed right to push the big man, but we should attempt not to become people who are prepared to do this, since this would, even if it helps us to the right decision in this abstract thought experiment, make us dangerous, nasty, and ones no one should want to socialise with.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Torbjörn Tännsjö .

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No Future: An interview with Mark SaFranko published 08/01/2016

Simenon gets inside the skulls and the souls of average people faced with desperate situations. Their characters implode. The pressures build to a point where a being can’t sustain them anymore. There is obliviousness to the condition of the world around those people for the most part. Patricia Highsmith is very much the same. You take these oddball characters, their insides become the engine of the novel. As I often say about Highsmith, you feel like you are trapped inside the mind of an insane person. Simenon is similar. I’m someone who has struggled with those issues myself.

Martin de Bourmont interviews the greatest American writer you’ve never heard of.

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Neuroethics published 20/12/2015


Philosophy of mind interested me deeply, but I was frustrated by the lack of empirical perspectives in the philosophical faculties when I was a student, where the road to hell was paved with empirical propositions! Yet it never seemed possible to me to understand the mind purely through a priori reasoning, ignoring the organ that does the job. On the other hand, brain science took scant interest in conceptual, philosophical analyses at the time, which seemed equally lopsided. Today the situation is fortunately different: philosophy and the neurosciences collaborate in a very fruitful manner. And that is why I now have turned my philosophical focus to studies of consciousness and neuroethics.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Kathinka Evers.

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The Indie Press Interviews 2: Jacques Testard published 18/12/2015


I can think of quite a few badly designed books this year alone that have done very well. But generally book design is not particularly good, and an original design can help you stand out. With Fitzcarraldo Editions, Ray (who also designed a typeface for the publishing house) and I wanted something simple and austere to differentiate the books from the image-driven cover designs you see in bookshops everywhere in the UK. The idea, and it’s not a new one by any means (look at Gallimard, Minuit, Adelphi, etc.), is that you let the writing speak for itself, and that by having such a simple, recognisable look, you’re building up a readership based on trust. I’d like readers to feel that they can trust that a Fitzcarraldo Editions book is worth reading even if they don’t know the author, that it will be something unusual, ambitious, contemporary.

James Tookey interviews Jacques Testard of Fitzcarraldo Editions.

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Thinking How To Live published 05/12/2015


We must distinguish what it means to say that I ought to do a thing and what being what I ought to do consists in. Maybe, for example, being what I ought to do consists in something hedonic, such as being what will maximize my happiness. Even so, ‘ought’ doesn’t mean “would maximize one’s happiness.” If it did, as Moore argued, then “You ought to maximize your happiness” would just mean “Maximizing your happiness would maximize your happiness.”

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Allan Gibbard.

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