Photo of Eric Schwitzgebel

APA Member Interview: Eric Schwitzgebel

Eric Schwitzgebel is Professor of Philosophy at University of California, Riverside. He works on philosophy of mind, moral psychology, Chinese philosophy, skepticism, and science fiction. He blogs at least weekly at The Splintered Mind.

What excites you about philosophy?

I love philosophy’s power to undercut dogmatism and certainty, to challenge what you thought you knew about yourself and the world, to induce wonder, and to open up new vistas of possibility.

What are you working on right now? 

About 15 things. Foremost in my mind at this instant: “Settling for Moral Mediocrity” and a series of essays on “crazy” metaphysical possibilities that we aren’t in a good epistemic position to confidently reject.

Who is your favorite philosopher?

The ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, for his humane and anachronistically egalitarian vision, for his humor, for his self-doubt, for his weird and beautiful prose, for the way he gently upends everything you thought you knew.

If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?

I’d love to see two hundred years into the future. Among the possibilities: the extinction of all intelligent life on the planet, some marginal human existence after ecological or social catastrophe, something similar to life now but with more or fewer gizmos, some enhanced or transhuman biological existence, dominance of the planet by artificial super-intelligent entities, or something else entirely. I regard each of these possibilities as approximately equally likely.

What is your favorite sound in the world?

The moment of silence in a captivating lecture, when the audience is completely absorbed and the speaker has paused, about to drop the next twist.

When did you last sing to yourself, or to someone else?

Old jazz standards on our baby grand piano at home. I’m especially fond of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and my former piano teacher Matt Dennis.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Passover, for its moral complexity, for the open discussion, for the vivid food symbolism, for the tease of having to wait so long to eat that even matzo ball soup tastes good.

You’re stuck on a desert island and you can only have one recreational activity. What is it?

May I give my island long, winding paths that open to beautiful vistas? May I bring my hiking poles? May I touch snow at the top and beach at the bottom, and scribble down notes and stop for tea?

Find out more about Eric here.  

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This section of the APA Blog is designed to get to know our fellow philosophers a little better. We’re including profiles of APA members that spotlight what captures their interest not only inside the office, but also outside of it. We’d love for you to be a part of it, so please contact us via the interview nomination form here.

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