Keith Dromm is an Associate Professor of Philosophy in the Louisiana Scholars’ College at Northwestern State University. He specializes in epistemology, Wittgenstein, applied ethics, and the philosophy of film.
What excites you about philosophy?
I like how philosophy meddles with our minds. Now, I like how philosophy can eventually give us peace of mind, to paraphrase Wittgenstein, but its capacity for disrupting our ordinary ways of thinking is important. That is how philosophical problems are created; it can protect us from the perils of customary thinking, but it can also be valuable in itself.
Nietzsche explains how in a remark from Daybreak (§454) that I love. He is commenting on the book itself:
you must be able to stick your head into it and out of it again and again and discover nothing familiar around you.
I think this is a good aspiration for philosophical writing. The less familiar the world is, that is, the stranger it is, the richer and in other ways more interesting it is.
What is your favorite thing you’ve written?
It would be my book Wittgenstein on Rules and Nature. It concerns an aspect of Wittgenstein’s writings that has interested me ever since I started reading Wittgenstein as an undergrad, which is the many but scattered remarks about human nature and instinct that occur throughout his later writings. They seem in conflict with some of Wittgenstein’s methodological remarks, and they’ve suggested to some commentators naturalistic and even foundationalist interpretations of him. This book started out as a revision of my Ph.D. dissertation, but in the process of revising it I came up with a new way of accounting for these remarks, but one that still resolves that apparent tension and opposes those interpretations. What I ended up writing was almost an entirely new work. It remains my favorite because I continue to develop its ideas and I’ve some found some other applications for them, even outside of exegeses of Wittgenstein. It received some reviews; each one was for the most part positive, but they mostly made me happy because they meant that people other than my mother had read my book, and my mother didn’t even read it.
What is your favorite film of all time?
I’ll give my top three because I’ve never asked myself that question before and I was surprised at how easily and quickly I came up with three films. Since college my answer to the question about my favorite film has always been, and remains, François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. It contains scenes that have stuck with me for most of my life because of their beauty and depth. It is followed, although not in any order, by Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise and almost any film by P. T. Anderson, but Magnolia would probably be at the top. The Jarmusch film is about the subdued adventures of a trio of hipster misfits and my enjoyment of it hasn’t waned after repeated watchings. P. T. Anderson is a wonderful craftsman and I especially like trying to discern all the elements of his often complex direction. Philosophy of film is an area I work in, but I chose these films less for their philosophical content or relevance, and more for how much enjoyment I get from repeated viewings of them.
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’m content with ignorance and surprise when it comes to most things about me and my life, but events in the world give me great trepidation and distract me from things I’d rather be doing. I wasted a lot of time last year trying to predict the results of the presidential election. So, I would like to know the three or four major world events that will happen in the upcoming year.
Find out more about Keith here.
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