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Triumphantly Breaking Free from Academic Philosophy, But Still…

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In 2015 I received the National Humanities Medal at a ceremony at the White House. President Obama himself put the medal around my neck, and the rumor was that he made the final choice. In the speech he gave before awarding all the medals, in addition to citing my work on Gödel and Spinoza and Plato, he spoke of me as the philosopher who sometimes chooses to write novels. Again, the suggestion that I wasn’t any less of a philosopher for writing novels is what made me the happiest. That’s Rebecca Goldstein, in an interview with Clifford Sosis at What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher? The interview is fascinating throughout. One of its themes is the intensity of the pull of academic philosophy for those within its gravity. Kyouei Design, “Magnetic Field Record” Goldstein was a philosophy professor at Barnard when her first novel, The Mind-Body Problem, was published, to critical acclaim. She says: I did something completely insane for someone who had her heart set on an academic career in philosophy, especially as a woman, meaning someone who really had to do everything right to have any chance of being taken seriously. I published a novel, called The Mind-Body Problem… Shelly [Goldstein’s husband then] was horrified, warning me that I’d ruin my nascent career in philosophy, and obviously he was right, but I didn’t have the ears to hear what he was saying… The book received attention out in the world. It was a bestseller. And if being a novelist had been something I’d set my heart on then what happened would have been beyond wonderful. It’s hard to feel sorry for that younger me, having a successful novel on her hands. Poor kid, what a problem. But frankly, I didn’t know what to do with that success. Frankly, it embarrassed me. Goldstein has gone on to have a successful career as a novelist and writer. Yet she was ambivalent about her early success; it left her unsure of the quality of her philosophical thinking, or what academic. . .

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News source: Daily Nous

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