Jacob Rump is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Kilachand Honors College at Boston University. His research focuses on topics in mind, epistemology, and the theory of meaning, through the lens of the history of European and Anglo-American thought, especially the phenomenological tradition.
What excites you about philosophy?
I love philosophy’s capacity to bring together ideas from different areas of research and human experience and to help us think about how they are connected to and inform each other. Making these connections in my own work–and with students and colleagues–is what gets me going in the morning. In that sense, my interests lie with the creative and “synthetic” aspects of philosophy more than with analysis and puzzle solving, though I think both aspects are necessary for good philosophical work.
What are you working on right now?
My main research right now is a book project in which I develop a more phenomenologically oriented theory of meaning, one that takes account of recent work on the embodied nature of experience. I’m convinced that work in a great variety of contemporary areas of philosophy, across continental and analytic traditions, needs a theory of meaning more robust than what we have inherited from various strands of the linguistic turn. So I’ve been reading a lot of phenomenology—especially Husserl—and thinking a lot about what meaning is, if it is embodied, and if it is not assumed to be exclusively linguistic, conceptual, or propositional. Also, my recent experience teaching in an interdisciplinary context has reignited research interests in modernist literature, film, and art, so I’ve also been doing a lot of work in these areas. It’s remarkable how often we fail to think about 20th century developments in philosophy in relationship to broader literary and artistic movements such as modernism. Since my own research is largely focused on early 20th century philosophy, this has been a real eye-opener for me.
What topic do you think is under-explored in philosophy?
At the risk of sounding paradoxical, I think the most under-explored and under-emphasized aspect of philosophy today is generalism. Due to the hyper-specialized nature of much of our contemporary philosophical work, we often fail to pay adequate attention to the connections between various domains of philosophical research—the way that different domains of thought presuppose one another in manners that are not always immediately obvious. I think paying more attention to these junctures and to the metaphilosophical questions they raise about the relationships between different areas of inquiry—including the continental-analytic divide, as well as “practical” vs. “theoretical” philosophy—would be a good thing for the discipline, and a useful antidote to our current over-production of narrow research on narrow topics.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Marrying my wife, and maintaining a long-distance relationship as an academic couple–living with, if not yet solving, the the “two body, two institution” problem.
What do you like to do outside work?
Cooking, hiking, biking, beer brewing, and all things DIY.
What are your goals and aspirations outside work?
In line with the DIY theme, I’d like to learn the art of tailoring clothing, and how to reupholster and refinish furniture. For ethical, environmental, and, frankly, even aesthetic reasons, I tend to prefer old and used things to new ones. After the recent election, I’d also like to get more involved in local politics. And my billiard game could use some work.
What time of day are you most productive and creative?
Mornings. In graduate school I devoted an entire summer to reading in preparation for comprehensive exams in the fall—reading 8-10 hours a day. One of the most important things I learned–in addition to a lot of philosophy–was that the work I complete before the end of that first cup of coffee is the best, clearest-headed work I’ll do all day.
What is your favorite sound in the world?
When that kid who never speaks in class suddenly enters the discussion and defends her view with perfect articulacy and poise—the one you’ve seen thinking hard all semester, but who has never said a word, and then suddenly it all comes out.
Find out more about Jacob here.
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