The Splintered Skeptic
Eric Schwitzgebel interviewed by Richard Marshall.
Eric Schwitzgebel is a mad dog crazyist philosopher at the University of California, Riverside and argues really cool and smart ideas. He also hosts one of the top philosophy blogs, The Splintered Mind and writes books about his thoughts. He likes to have experiments to back up his philosophy, so he’s a kind of experimental philosophy guy like Josh Knobe. This means that there’s always a burning armchair somewhere in the background of his thoughts.
3:AM: I think that it’s going to be helpful to put your thoughts in the context of something that you and Russell Hurlburt wrote about in your first book, Describing Inner Experience?, where you say that despite all the advances in our knowledge about the universe we know very little about our own conscious experience. And yet we have writers of fiction, for example, telling stories where they claim to be telling us what is happening in the minds of their characters. And we make judgments of quality based on these reports, we seem to be able to say that some descriptions are richer than others and we like these. So Proust and Joyce, for example, are considered top writers because of their ability to probe the phenomenology of minds. So you think that it’s kind of bunk. We’re being fooled. We are just in the grip of illusions about our own experiences. Now this is pretty radical stuff. It suggests that I’m systematically always ignorant about my own mental life. Is this right?
Eric Schwitzgebel: Proust and Joyce – and Woolf, who is my favorite in that line – are brilliant artists. But the stream of real human thought is probably much less interesting to most people than what is portrayed in their fiction. Our real stream of thought is probably no more really like the streams of thought we see in their writings than Elizabethan-era conversations were really like what we see in Shakespeare plays. It’s stylized art, in a medium of words.
There are some things we know about our stream of experience. For example, if you’re looking in good light at a canonically red object and you think you are having a visual experience of redness, you’re probably right. But as I have argued in both of my books, I think we quickly fall into error when we try to go beyond a few obvious things. People seem to err massively when they start to think about such issues as what their imagery is like (sketchy or detailed?, flat like a picture or with depth?), or their dream experiences (colored or black and white?, first-person or third-person point of view?), their emotional phenomenology, or their stream of thought. You might think that you think about sex all the time and actually you think about it hardly at all. You might think you’re a poor visualizer with almost no imagery experience and yet actually have lots of imagery going on. Russ Hurlburt has some terrific examples of this latter sort of thing in his work, which involves beeping people at random moments and interviewing them very carefully about what they were experiencing at those moments. My book with him is just one of his many projects. And yet ultimately I am much more skeptical than Russ is.
Early modern philosophers such as Descartes and Locke thought that we know first and best our own stream of experience and then, based on that secure knowledge, we reach more tenuous conclusions about the outside world of physical objects. I think that’s almost exactly backwards. What we know first and best are outside objects. Our knowledge of our stream of experience is much shakier, later developing, and often directly dependent on our knowledge of things outside. I know that I’m having a visual experience of red because I know I’m looking in good light at a red thing, not the other way around. And that case only works well because it’s so clean. Introduce a bit of noise or weirdness and we start to fail.
20th century psychologists like Freud and Nisbett argued that we don’t know our own motives very well, but neither of them really challenges knowledge of our stream of inner experience. For both of them, there’s a big unconscious that we don’t know about, but we still know about our ongoing consciousness. So my skepticism goes farther than theirs.
3:AM: So you’ve some pretty cool experiments to back up your claims about this. Can you take us through some of them to get readers to understand why you’re making such counter-intuitive claims?
ES: I appeal to three different types of evidence. First, I appeal to the reader’s own sense of her experience. For example, right now, form a visual image of something, maybe your house as viewed from the street. Now let me ask some questions. How clear is that image? Is it clear in the center and sketchy at the periphery, or is it all clear simultaneously? Do you have to build up clarity in it over time? Is the image thoroughly colored from the outset or do you have to add colors to it? Is the image in some sense flat like a picture or is it more richly three-dimensional than that? Is the image stable over time or does it shift around a lot with changes in your attention? Most readers I have chatted with, when presented with these questions and others like them, discover some questions about which they are uncertain and about which they could easily imagine people erring. Comparably sized questions about nearby external objects – whether they are thoroughly colored, stable over time, etc. – seem much easier to answer. Even if such doubt-inducing exercises aren’t entirely convincing on their own, I think they help prepare the reader to find my general skeptical conclusions more plausible and palatable. Philosophers who think we have infallible knowledge of our stream of experience tend to focus on a few particular examples, like seeing red and feeling pain in vivid, canonical conditions. But those cases are highly unrepresentative, I think. When we consider real, naturally occurring experiences and carefully consider medium-sized questions about them, it becomes much less tempting to think we have excellent self-knowledge of the stream of experience.
Second, I describe the strange and suspicious diversity of opinion about the stream of experience across the history of philosophy and psychology – diversity that I think suggests error in reporting, not real differences in underlying experience. For example, in the U.S. in the 1950s, people used to say they dreamed almost exclusively in black and white. Now people say they dream in color. Before the 20th century, philosophers and psychologists used to say or assume that we dream in color. What’s the deal Well, I think it has to do with the fact that the 1950s were the heyday of black and white film media in the U.S. This relationship between film media and reports of dream coloration holds cross-culturally too, as I found in a Chinese study I did with Changbing Huang and Yifeng Zhou. In the early 2000s, rural Chinese people with lots of black and white media exposure tended to report black and white dreaming while high-wealth urban Chinese with very little black and white media exposure reported mostly colored dreaming. Have the media hijacked our dreams, so that when the media are black and white so are our dreams? I don’t think so. For example, if you look at dream diaries in the 1950s vs. the 1990s in the U.S., color terms like “red” and “green” appear at virtually the same rate. My hypothesis is rather that some people are wrong about the coloration or not of their dreams, overanalogizing their dream experiences to movies. Either people reporting mostly black and white dreaming are wrong, or those reporting mostly colored dreaming are wrong, or both groups are wrong. (The last possibility is my favorite, but you’ll have to read Chapter 1 of my 2011 book, Perplexities of Consciousness, to see why.)
Third, I examine the instability and variability of people’s reports of their own experiences in the contemporary West. For example, I interview people about their visual experiences of the periphery of vision. Over the course of the interview, people regularly change their opinions about what it’s like to see. At the beginning, most people say that they visually experience a broad field of stable clarity, with indistinctness only in the margins, say 20 or 30 or 50 degrees from the center; by the end of the interview, most people say they were wrong in their original opinion and really they only experience a small point of clarity, maybe 2-5 degrees of arc, that bounces very rapidly around a hazy background. What matters here isn’t who’s right, but how easily people’s opinion changes about apparently as central and obvious a thing as the general character and clarity of visual experience. Another point of variability is in people’s reports of the vividness of their imagery. Across hundreds of studies, psychologists have generally failed to find any robust relationship between people’s subjective reports about their imagery experiences and their performance on cognitive tests that are widely thought to involve imagery, like mental rotation tasks and mental folding tasks. In Chapter 3 of Perplexities, I defend the view that this lack of correlation reflects people’s introspective incompetence in such matters.
3:AM: Now out of this you have the idea that we are often in a state of in-between beliefs. Can you say what kind of a state this is and why you call it in-between? I think you talked about this in relationship to how the ignorance of the phenomenology can interfere with beliefs about really important stuff, like our feelings towards others and this results in a kind of dissonance between what we think we think and this hidden phenomenology?
ES: The best way to conceptualize “belief”, I think, is that to believe something is to steer one’s way through the world as though it were true. And although reaching explicit judgments about things is an important part of steering one’s way through the world, much else is even more important. Suppose, for example, that you are disposed to say, in all sincerity, that all the races are intellectually equal. You will argue for this claim against all comers and really feel that you believe it in your heart of hearts. It doesn’t follow that you really do steer your way through the world as your egalitarian utterances would suggest. You might really be incredibly biased. You might really always treat people of a certain race as though they were stupid. In that case, I don’t think we should say that you really, fully believe in the intellectual equality of the races. Instead, I think, you’re in a mixed-up condition in which it’s neither quite right to say that you believe the races are intellectually equal nor quite right to say that you fail to believe that. I call this an “in-between” state of believing. It’s in-between but it’s not at all like being uncertain. You might still feel unshakeably certain.
I think such in-between states are very common for the attitudes we regard as most central to our lives. Do you really believe that God exists? Do you really believe that family is more important than work? Let’s not look just at what you sincerely say to yourself and others but at how you act and how you react. Let’s look at your spontaneous valuations of things. Often, the match between sincere words and in-the-world reactivity is poor. And I doubt we have very good self-knowledge about any of this.
It might help repair our ignorance about such matters if we had good knowledge of our stream of experience. If I knew, for example, that I was frequently having angry thoughts about my children, or if I knew that I felt a kind of emotional soaring at the prospect of a new project at work and an emotional crash at the prospect of having to come home early to have lunch with the family – that might provide an important set of clues. But we don’t know such things about ourselves, and in fact we regularly fool ourselves in such matters to protect our self-conception.
3:AM: You have come to suggest a new philosophical position, ‘Crazyism’, which is partly motivated by this work but broadens out into the thought that all metaphysical positions have to accept some counter-intuitivism somewhere along the line. Is this right? Can you explain your thinking here and why we should all be crazyists?
ES: Bizarre views are a hazard of metaphysics. If you look across the history of philosophy, all metaphysicians say crazy-seeming things when they talk in depth about such issues as the mind-body relation, personal identity, causation, and the basic ontological structure of the universe. Even philosophers who explicitly prize common sense can’t seem to keep true to common sense about such matters. The great “common sense” Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid, for example, attributed immaterial souls to vegetables and said that physical objects can’t even cohere into stable shapes without the regular intervention of immaterial souls. So here’s the question: Why? Why are there no truly commonsensical metaphysicians? Nietzsche, Leibniz, Schopenhauer, Descartes, David Lewis – all of them say some incredibly bizarre-seeming stuff. Why is metaphysics so uniformly crazy?
My suggestion is this: Common sense is incoherent in matters of metaphysics. There’s no way to develop an ambitious, broad-ranging, self-consistent metaphysical system without doing serious violence to common sense somewhere. It’s just impossible. Since common sense is an inconsistent system, you can’t respect it all. Every metaphysician will have to violate it somewhere.
Common sense is an acceptable guide to everyday practical interactions with the world. But there’s no reason to think it would be a good guide to the fundamental structure of the universe. Think about all the weirdness of quantum mechanics, all the weirdness of relativity theory. The more we learn about such things, the more it seems we’re forced to leave common sense behind. The same is probably true about metaphysics.
But here’s the catch: Without common sense as a guide, metaphysics is hobbled as an enterprise. You can’t do an empirical study, for example, to determine whether there really is a material world out there or whether everything is instead just ideas in our minds coordinated by god. You can’t do an empirical study to determine whether there really exist an infinite number of universes with different laws of physics, entirely out of causal contact with our own. We’re stuck with common sense, plausibility arguments, and theoretical elegance – and none of these should rightly be regarded as decisive on such matters, whenever there are several very different and yet attractive contender positions, as there always are.
I conclude that regarding the fundamental structure of the universe in general and the mind-body relation in particular something that seems crazy must be true, but we have no way to know what the truth is among a variety of crazy possibilities. I call this position “crazyism”.
3:AM: Is this what motivates you to look at the history of philosophy? You have an interesting approach to this scholarship where I think you use the historical figures as giving you new data for your theories. Can you say something about this and perhaps give examples of how this works?
ES: Most philosophers, when they read the history of philosophy, are primarily concerned about one of two things: working out the nuances of the interpretation of various philosophical heroes, or evaluating historical philosophers’ claims for truth or falsity. That’s not how I approach the history of philosophy. I’m primarily interested in what the history of philosophy tells us about the psychology of philosophy. Nietzsche, I think, had a similar attitude. What does it say about how philosophers think, that historical figures in philosophy would say this rather than that? What does it say about the psychological origins of our own current philosophical attitudes?
Consider my answers to some of your previous questions. I’ve looked across the history of metaphysics to see if any philosopher can sustain a thoroughly commonsensical broad-reaching metaphysical picture. From the fact that no one seems able to pull it off, plus some other considerations, I draw a conclusion about the necessary conflict of metaphysics with common sense. I’ve looked at the history of philosophical and psychological opinion about colored dreaming and noted that that opinion seems to vary contingently with available cultural metaphors for dreaming. The same media-dependent contingency, I think, influences philosophers’ claims about ordinary waking visual experience, which it now seems natural to us to compare to photographs. (See Chapter 2, ‘Do Things Look Flat?’ in Perplexities.) I’ve also looked at German philosophers’ rates of involvement in Nazism in the 1930s. Heidegger was no exception; many of the leading German philosophers appear to have been swept up in Nazism. From this fact about philosophers, I conclude that expertise in philosophical ethics offers little or no protection against being lured into noxious ideologies. This seems to me to be evidence that professional philosophy doesn’t tend to generate lots of real practical wisdom.
Some people seem it obvious that professional philosophical ethics doesn’t generate moral wisdom and good behavior, but few have argued for it systematically and empirically. In fact, I have a whole series of empirical research projects on the moral behavior of ethics professors.
3:AM: The moral behavior of ethics professors? Surely their behavior is a model of virtue and rationality? Not!!!
ES: I don’t feel the cynical pull on this issue that most people seem to feel. It has always seemed to me that philosophical moral reflection – pondering both grand moral issues and more applied issues about what to do here and now – ought to have an overall positive influence on one’s moral behavior. And it seems empirically likely that professional ethicists engage in such reflection more often than do other people and at least as well. But it has also always struck me, in personal interactions, that ethicists don’t in fact behave much differently than other people.
So I went ahead and ran a bunch of empirical studies. Here are some: I looked at the rate at which ethics books are missing from academic libraries compared to non-ethics philosophy books similar in age and popularity. Ethics books are more likely to be missing. With Joshua Rust, I looked at whether professional ethicists in the U.S. vote more often than other professors (on the assumption that voting is a civic duty) and whether they are any more likely to respond to emails designed to look as though written by students. Ethicists behaved the same on both measures. With Josh and several others, I looked at courteous and discourteous behavior at philosophy conferences. Ethicists seem to slam doors, talk rudely during presentations, and leave behind trash at their seats at the same rate as do other philosophy professors. In a survey that Josh and I sent to ethicists, non-ethicist philosophers, and a sample of professors in other fields – again in the U.S. – we found that although ethicists were much more likely to say it was bad to eat meat they were just as likely as other professors to have reported eating meat at the previous evening meal. And although ethicists tended to say they see more moral value in donating blood, donating organs, and donating money than did other professors, the apparent rate at which they actually do those things appears to be no different overall. And of course there’s Nazism, which I have already mentioned.
So I’m inclined to think that we now have systematic empirical evidence, which we didn’t have before, that ethicists in fact behave no better, on average, than do other professors, at least in the U.S. and Nazi Germany. I’m still working on how to reconcile this finding with the practical value of philosophical moral reflection. It would be too easy to snap these results into my general skepticism about philosophical reasoning and about human rationality and self-knowledge, resulting in a diatribe against the value of philosophical ethics. But I think that’s too facile. I favor a more complicated story.
3:AM: Now one of the things you are is also a scholar with interests in Chinese philosophy and philosophers. Now there’s been a lot recently about the division between Analytic and Continental philosophical traditions and I find appealing Brian Leiter‘s approach to this which basically denies that there are two traditions, even though sociologically there are probably interesting things to notice. So he famously has reread Nietzsche as a naturalist philosopher of morality. So I guess I’m interested to know what your interest in Chinese philosophy means? Do you find a separate tradition in the actual kind of philosophy done by the philosophers you have studied, separate from the Western tradition in terms of approach, intuitions, conclusions, purposes and so on, or is your interest in the continuities, the broadening out of a unified philosophical perspective? I think many readers will be like me and confess to knowing little about these philosophers, so could you tell us about what you’ve been studying in this area?
ES: One of the most valuable things, I think, about reading the history of philosophy is seeing that the broad questions explored by different thinkers are often similar – what is the nature of a person? How should we balance the apparent competing demands of morality? How much do we really know about the world? – but the answers to those questions, and the approaches taken to trying to answer those questions, are often very different. And the farther one gets away from the standard canon of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, etc., into weird minor philosophers and different cultural traditions, the more diversity one starts to see, I think.
But there is one big problem in making these cultural shifts in one’s philosophical reading, which is that many philosophical traditions build upon a network of culturally specific presuppositions, especially religious ones, that are hard to get one’s head around and take seriously from a contemporary secular or mainstream American-Christian perspective. This is why ancient China is particularly inviting. Although of course there is a foreignness to the ancient Chinese and things one needs to know about the period to get the most out of the texts, nonetheless the main ancient Chinese philosophers are quite comprehensible at a first pass even without any specialized knowledge of the tradition. This is especially true if one looks beyond Confucius and Laozi to figures like Mozi, Mencius, and Xunzi. Later Chinese philosophers, Indian philosophers, and Islamic philosophers are often not as approachable.
The ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi is among the most interesting radical skeptics in philosophical history. The great Western skeptics – Sextus Empiricus, Montaigne, Bayle, Hume – are all interesting in their own ways, and Zhuangzi is every bit their equal, and yet different. If you’re interested in skepticism and you don’t read Zhuangzi, you’re missing out on a valuable perspective.
The ancient Chinese Confucians Mencius and Xunzi had a very interesting debate about whether human nature is good – about the relation between morality and our natural impulses, about the universality of morality, about the developmental sources of morality and the proper course of moral education. I think we still have a lot to learn from their framing of these issues. In fact, the Mencius-Xunzi debate about human nature is how I got started thinking about the moral behavior of ethics professors.
3:AM: And I think Indian philosophy has been of interest to you as well. I suppose what will interest people is whether ideas from the East have permeated the West more than perhaps might be recognised, and vice versa? At a time when the world can seem splintered, and especially when we hear so much about the irreconcilable Western and Eastern world views, do you think a greater awareness of the shared understandings and streams of philosophical thought that you seem to be finding should be a priority in philosophy, so we should ensure that Descartes and Zhuangzi, for example, being taught together?
ES: I’m still struggling to get my head into Indian philosophy. I’’s a very difficult tradition, and I think I will never feel comfortable in it the way I feel comfortable with the ancient Chinese. When I write an article or pull together a course syllabus, I’m interested in looking at things from a broad perspective, historically, if I can do so while keeping things coherent for the student or reader. When I have the knowledge and competence to do so, and I think a philosopher outside the main stream of the Western tradition has an interesting perspective that I can bring to bear, I will bring that philosopher into the conversation. I am not satisfied with my knowledge of the Indian and Islamic traditions yet, however. I wish I could fission myself and lead three philosophical lives in constant contact with each other!
3:AM: You have some really wild thought experiments and as a science fiction fan I want to ask you to talk about a couple! So can you talk about ‘Strange Baby’ and why its important? When you put together these ideas do you draw on your reading of sci fi and watching tv and films to put the experiments together? Can you say what are you fave books/films in this area are, who are the writers you find helpful, if any? Do you think we’re going to become super-intelligent bio-machines?
ES: Well, ‘Strange Baby’ still needs some work, I think. What intrigues me in science fiction, and what I was trying to take a step toward in that blog post, is similar to what intrigues me in non-Western philosophers. A good science fiction writer can open your mind up to possibilities that you might not have considered before, can break you out of your culturally-given shell of presuppositions about how the world must be. I especially like science fiction that explores possibilities around amplification of our cognitive powers and what this means for our sense of personhood and our values. Greg Egan is terrific in this way, I think, especially in Diaspora and Permutation City. Olaf Stapledon too, especially Sirius and Last and First Men. Recently I’ve been enjoying Vernor Vinge‘s portrayal of group minds in A Fire Upon the Deep and Children of the Sky, though sometimes I find his plot-to-mind-bending-idea ratio a bit too high.
If we continue on our current technological trajectory for another 50 or 200 years – which I don’t regard as a given – I think the human mind and human body might become very different from the human mind and human body as we know them today. Maybe, indeed, as Egan envisions (and also futurist Ray Kurzweil), we will mostly be uploaded onto computers and able to duplicate and alter ourselves at will. Then we might look back upon natural unmodified human beings as only a baby step up from monkeys, terribly cognitively deficient.
Let me bring this back to meta-philosophy. We can barely get right the most simple of logical puzzles (see, for example, the Wason selection task or the Tversky-Kahneman conjunction fallacy). Given that kind of cognitive deficiency, how could we reasonably hope to sustain complicated, abstract philosophy page after page without serious error? How could the giant architectonics of Kant or Hegel, for example, possibly be right? If we go the way Egan and Kurzweil envision, our descendants will laugh at us – hopefully good-naturedly, with some respect for how much we were in fact able to achieve with our little monkey brains.
3:AM: The other idea was the question: ‘Is the United States Conscious’ Great question, and yet there are serious issues at stake here. Can you let people know what the issues are and what the answer is? So will we wake up one morning and find out that Google rules the world?
ES: My interest in the consciousness of the United States is connected to my “crazyism”, my skepticism, and my interest in breaking away from our culturally given presuppositions about the structure of the world. It also connects with my recent interest in Vinge. In Anglophone philosophy since the 1960s, the dominant approach to the mind has been materialism: the view that human beings are naturally evolved beings, wholly made out of material stuff like elementary particles, with no immaterial soul of any sort. On materialistic views of consciousness, the reason that we have a stream of conscious experience is that we have brains that represent the world, can guide us in goal-directed action, and that are massively informationally connected in complex self-regulating loops. It is that fact about the complexity of our organizational structure that is responsible for our having a stream of conscious experience so that there’s “something it’s like”, phenomenologically, to be us, or to be a mouse, while there’s nothing it’s like (we ordinarily think) to be a toy robot.
But the United States appears to have all those same features! The citizens of the United States are massively informationally connected, in complex self-regulating loops – not in the same way neurons are connected, but just as richly. The United States engages in environmentally responsive coordinated action, for example in invading Iraq or in taxing imports. The United States represents and self-represents, for example via the census and in declaring positions in foreign policy. As far as I can tell, all the kinds of things that materialists tend to regard as special about brains in virtue of which brains give rise to consciousness are also possessed by the United States.
The United States is a large, spatially distributed entity. But why should that matter? Isn’t it just morphological prejudice to insist that consciousness be confined to spatially compact entities? The United States is composed of people who are themselves individually conscious. But why should that matter? We can imagine, it seems, conscious aliens whose cognition is implemented not by neurons but by intricate networks of interacting internal insects confined within their bodies, where each insect has a minor animal-like consciousness while the organism as a whole has human-like consciousness and intelligence. (Maybe such aliens are much-evolved descendants of bee colonies.) In the vast universe, it seems likely that intelligent environmental responsiveness, and consciousness, could emerge in myriad weird ways. It seems chauvinistic provincialism to insist that our way of being conscious is the only possible way. So why not regard group organisms as possibly conscious? And if so, why not the very group organisms in which we already participate, given that they seem to meet standard materialist criteria for consciousness?
It would be crazy to think that the United States is literally conscious in the same sense that you and I are conscious. But, as I mentioned before, I think we have good reason to think that something radically contrary to common sense must be true about the mind-body relationship. Maybe this is one of those weird, true things. Or maybe not. Maybe materialism is wrong. Or maybe, though it seems strange and unjustified to think so, spatial compactness really is necessary for some hunk of material to be conscious. Or…. I’m not sure this is something we can figure out with the tools at our disposal.
If it is true that the U.S. is conscious, I have no idea what to do about it. If the United States is conscious, would Exxon-Mobil also be conscious? Would disbanding a corporation or a nation be a kind of murder? I have no idea. And I guess that maybe I’m different from a lot of other philosophers in that I think it’s exhilarating to find myself tossed into such confusion, with my apparent certainties evaporating beneath me.
3:AM: So you’ve been working on these issues and it seems that you’re opening up a very crazy world. One thing that seems worrying is that the picture you give of us humans is that we’re really in the dark about even those things we thought we could trust and be certain about. You seem to suggest our lives are much more twilightish than ever. So here’s something that could follow from what you’ve suggested: if people don’t really know what they’re feeling then we shouldn’t worry when someone claims to be really unhappy because hey, what do they know? They’re just reading off this report from irrelevant factors. Couldn’t we just stop caring because we can’t trust these reports anymore? Wouldn’t this be both justified and kind of horrible?
ES: Yes, I do think skepticism can be dangerous. Who knows where the politics might lead? For example, people with severe disabilities often report surprisingly good quality of life. I’m told that insurance companies like to discredit those self-reports because then they can justify denying people treatment, saying “well, despite their reports, five more years of life like that isn’t really worth paying for”. Now, I too think we ought to be really careful with quality-of-life self-reports, but it makes me nervous that my opinion is so convenient for insurance companies. Overall, though, I doubt that skepticism is more dangerous than certainty.
3:AM: Finally, if you were to give the smart but non-philosophically trained reader a list of five books that’ll blow their heads off with wonder, other than your own of course, what would they be? And your all time favourite film?
ES: Tough call! I think everyone finds different things wonderful. Here are some of my favorites, for what it’s worth, in no particular order:
Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
Olaf Stapledon, Sirius
Greg Egan, Diaspora and/or Permutation City
Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths
Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
My all-time favorite film is My Dinner with Andre. I watched it over and over again in college, gradually shifting sympathies from Andre to Wally. I really have no idea whether that film is any good. My perspective on it now is too personally laden with memories.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Marshall is still biding his time.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, January 20th, 2012.