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APA Member Interview: Avery Archer

Avery Archer is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at The George Washington University. He earned his PhD in philosophy from Columbia University and his current research—which lays at the intersection of action theory, philosophy of mind, and epistemology—focuses on the rational significance of desire and intention.

What excites you about philosophy?

I love arguments and ideas. I think there is something sublime about a careful, well-constructed argument, and there are few joys more exquisite than encountering an idea you didn’t even know existed about an unfamiliar but important topic. I still remember the exhilaration I felt when I first learned about Fred Dretske’s notion of a relationally absolute concept. I was enrolled in my very first epistemology course (taught by Jim Pryor), and I couldn’t help but be inspired by the ingeniousness of Dretske’s response to Unger’s epistemic scepticism. I thought to myself: “these are the kinds of ideas and arguments I would love to spend the rest of my life thinking about.” And now here I am.

What are you most proud of in your professional life?

I am most proud of the fact that I get to read, write, and teach philosophy for a living. Hailing from a small village on the island of Tobago, where the opportunity to practice philosophy professionally simply did not exist, and being the first member of my family to earn an advanced non-professional degree, doing what I currently do was anything but expected. There were numerous challenges and significant sacrifices along the way, which have made me deeply appreciative of having this luxury that many who share my background simply do not have.

What are some of your interests outside of work?

Culturally speaking, dance is a big part of me. I love it! I also paint (watercolor and acrylic) and sculpt (clay and wood), though I haven’t had much time for these hobbies of late. Also, I have an unhealthy fascination with comic book lore and fondness for all things sci-fi fantasy. In short, my nerd cred is in pretty good order.

If you could have a one-hour conversation with any historical figure, who would you pick and what topic would you choose?

I think it would be ridiculously awesome to talk to Charles Darwin. Besides having the opportunity to challenge some of his views on race, I would love to hear the details about how his ideas developed and about the impact they had on him both intellectually and in terms of his relationships with his religious friends and loved ones. I would tell him all about how his ideas helped to awaken me from my dogmatic slumbers, and discuss some of the ways they continue to challenge and shape my conception of myself as a human animal.

Who would win in a fight between Wonder Woman vs Supergirl?

Wonder Woman, hands down. Supergirl may boast superior strength and abilities, owing to her exposure to earth’s yellow sun. But Wonder Woman has centuries of battle training, at the hands of great Amazonian warriors, that would easily give her the edge. Incidentally, I think a similar point applies to philosophy: patient hard work, the acquisition of analytical skills, and the discernment that comes from years of experience wrestling with philosophical questions trump raw mental processing power and innate talent. Ideally, you would like to have both. But the former outshines the latter in the making of a good philosopher.

Find out more about Avery 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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