Sylvia Bellia of Italian Glamour Magazine published this interview Nigel Warburton: il filosofo del web on the Glamour magazine blog (in Italian): here's the English version of the main part of the article:
Sylvia Bellia: Why have you decided to write introductory philosophy books? What are the reasons for studying philosophy?
Nigel Warburton: Everyone asks philosophical questions at some time in their lives, questions such as ‘Is there a God?’ ‘What really matters in life?’ ‘Could I be dreaming?’, ‘Could I exist apart from my body?’ and so on. That is part of being human. Philosophers have been discussing this sort of question for more than 2,500 years. I wanted to make their thinking accessible to anyone who is interested. Too often academic philosophers write just for one another in rather dry and inaccessible prose.
Philosophy is a subject that thrives on discussion and debate - it isn’t a passive subject, but one that stimulates thought. We each have to make up our minds on a range of fundamental questions about our existence and philosophy, at its best, can help clarify those questions, building on insights from some of the greatest thinkers of the past and present.
SB: In your opinion, what's the major unsolved problem in philosophy?
NW: The problem of consciousness: no one has yet been able to give a plausible explanation of how consciousness arises from the complex combination of brain cells.
SB: You have interviewed leading philosophers of our time. What have you learned from this experience?
NW: Many of the leading philosophers are eager to communicate their ideas to a wider audience, and some are quite brilliant at it. They bring their ideas to life through discussion. Their enthusiasm can be contagious.
SB: What do you think the future of philosophy will be like?
NW: The Internet is already transforming philosophy and the way that it is communicated. Easy access to philosophical works online, ebooks, blogs, videos, podcasts, email, Twitter even, are all making an impact. I’m sure this will continue and evolve in ways that are hard to imagine.
I hope that philosophers will take on a larger role as public intellectuals: there are so many significant contemporary questions about justice, fairness, morality, art, science, technology, and more, that cry out for serious philosophical discussion. I also believe that philosophers will reach far wider audiences than ever before: Michael Sandel is an example of a philosopher who is already doing this through the Internet, television, radio, and through large public debates, but I anticipate there will be many more philosophers in the public realm than there have been in the recent past. Computers and digital technology have transformed our world in the last decade, and philosophers of the future will have much to say about this revolution.
SB: What are the advantages of a philosophical podcast?
NW: Podcasts of philosophical discussion, capture the life of a conversation with the advantage for the listener that you can eavesdrop at any time, and replay any part you didn’t understand the first time. Emphasis, irony, passion, humour - these are all conveyed in the voice in a way that can be hard to capture in the written word. There is also something direct, intimate and personal about hearing a thinker’s voice, particularly when listened to on headphones.
SB: Do you believe that great literature is often deeply philosophical, and great philosophy is often great literature?What books do you consider both philosophical and literary?
NW: Shakespeare, Kafka, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Beckett, T.S. Eliot, and indeed most great literary writers engage with philosophical questions both directly and indirectly in their work. That’s because philosophy is at the heart of the human condition. Plato, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and many more philosophers were undeniably great literary writers. Crudely, writers who show rather than simply say, those who find indirect ways of communicating their thoughts, who do it through character, situation, and impersonation are most likely to be thought of as literary. Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, and Kierkegaard’s Either/Or (and particularly ‘The Seducer’s Diary’ within that), are classic examples of genre-defying books that are both literary and philosophical.
SB: What was your first philosophical book?
NW: The first book about philosophy that I tried to read was Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy which I picked up from the library when I was a teenager. I didn’t get beyond the pre-Socratics (which is partly why I began with Socrates when I came to write my own A Little History of Philosophy). Before that I’d read, but not really understood, the novel Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre (a philosophical novel), and then went on to read his short Existentialism and Humanism. [ends]