What is it Like to be a Philosopher?, Mass Effect, Israeli-Style Hummus, and More

by Daniel A. Kaufman

Interview with our own Dan Kaufman, over at What is it Like to Be a Philosopher?


Conor Friedersdorf’s take on Cathy Newman’s disastrous interview with Prof. Jordan Peterson, on Britain’s Channel 4, gets at the heart of what is wrong with contemporary public discourse.


Ian Ground on Why Wittgenstein Matters, at the Royal Institute of Philosophy


In the wake of the catastrophically disappointing, godawful Mass Effect: Andromeda, it is worth remembering why the original Mass Effect series was not only some of the best video-gaming ever produced, but some of the best science fiction, period.


The best recipe Dan K. has found for authentic, Israeli-style Hummus (which means, much heavier on the Tahini).



18 responses to “What is it Like to be a Philosopher?, Mass Effect, Israeli-Style Hummus, and More”

  1. labnut

    How would you describe your style and tone?

    Expressive. Playful. Combative. Dexterous. Hyperbolic.
    Yes, that is exactly what I see.

    I care a lot about how the sentences I write sound.
    Indeed. Prose can also be poetry.

    We started dating right after the class ended
    You are a fast worker!

    For one thing, philosophy, of all disciplines, should never embrace dogmas – it is supposed to be the quintessentially critical subject
    On the one hand this, on the other hand that.

    Success in this profession means having the greatest possible impact on the lives of the greatest number of people and that happens by way of one’s teaching.
    You are a born teacher.

    I presented papers at the annual meetings of the British Society of Aesthetics in Oxford
    I would love to see more essays on this subject.

    I enjoyed this interview. It gave me a really good feel for the kind of person you are. Actually it confirms everything that gradually emerged through your essays and comments.

    I have one question for you.
    How did you meet Massimo and strike up a friendship with him?

  2. Labnut: Thank you! In response to your question, I met Massimo the same way you did. Through commenting at Scientia.

  3. I thought you had to remove the peel of the chickpeas?

  4. labnut

    From Why Can’t People Hear What Jordan Peterson Is Saying?
    First, a person says something. Then, another person restates what they purportedly said so as to make it seem as if their view is as offensive, hostile, or absurd.

    That sort of exaggeration or hyperbolic misrepresentation is epidemic

    It is epidemic, and from time to time I find the same tactic used against me in the comments. Fortunately it is easier to deal with it in the comments by demanding, in reply, that the offender quote the alleged opinion, which they can’t do.

    Hyperbolic misrepresentation is an effective technique, though deeply dishonest. What can be done about it?

    In the interview you say
    “For one thing, philosophy, of all disciplines, should never embrace dogmas – it is supposed to be the quintessentially critical subject”

    This is true, provided that it takes an all things considered approach, on the one hand this, on the other hand that. I believe that what is urgently needed in our educational system is training in the habit of taking a 360 degree view of a position, by examining all perspectives, to develop an understanding of the arguments for and against a position.

    Thus, to give an evergreen example, philosophy should not be concerned with the truth of religious vs atheist claims. That is taking sides. Instead it should be concerned with revealing and examining all arguments, both for and against atheism/religion, with the intent of equipping other people to develop similar habits of thought so that they can make the best choice in the light of their circumstances.

    A good example of what I mean is Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Arguments in Western Philosophy by Michael Bruce and Steven Barbone

  5. s.wallerstein

    Really great interview!

    I’m pleasantly surprised to see that you come to philosophy from the humanities, not the sciences, since most philosophers I’ve met (online) come from the sciences or from math. Like you, I’m a humanities (and political) person myself. There are philosophers who seem to never have read a newspaper (online or off) and you’re not one of them. There was the one who commenting on the U.K. was unaware of how the British parlamentary system functions and that they have a prime minister, not a president.

  6. labnut

    From Ian Ground’s talk, 15:56
    For Wittgenstein, the aim of philosophy is not truth, but clarity

    Wow, that nails it.

  7. couvent: they come off while boiling. I just use a slotted spoon to collect them from the water.

  8. Yes, I agree too. Exactly right.

  9. Bunsen Burner

    Mass Effect? Really? What are you comparing it to? Deus Ex, System Shock, Fallout 1 and 2? I always found the RPG elements in it too simplistic, the story too cliched and linear, and the action elements undramatic.What makes you give it such high praise?

  10. An excellent interview, Dan. Very entertaining. I know a fair bit about your views from our interactions over the years and especially from your writing at EA, but this brings certain things into focus and gives me a slightly clearer picture of where you are coming from. (And where you are heading!)

  11. Well, I don’t agree with your negative characterizations, so I have no difficulty giving it high praise. I also enjoy many of the games you mention.

  12. labnut

    it is worth remembering why the original Mass Effect series was not only some of the best video-gaming ever produced, but some of the best science fiction

    Where I am concerned you speak an unknown language. The word ‘game’ invokes in me the memories of the exhilarating combativeness and toughness of playing rugby. Or the exhilarating intellectual ingenuity of playing chess. And then there is the ‘game‘ that defined me more than anything else, mountain hiking. Here the opponents are yourself and the rugged mountains. The ‘win’ is doing something that no one else has done or that everyone else thought could not be done. The best companionship I have ever enjoyed was the company of a small band of the like minded as we traversed valleys, ridges and peaks. The best moments were the deep contemplative solitude of the occasions when I choose to walk alone through nature. Nothing could equal the thrill of climbing a peak alone at midnight or the savage triumph of surviving a venomous snakebite, while alone, deep in the mountains, and then to drag oneself out of the mountains, one painful step at a time.

    We represent different generations and different traditions. Has something been lost? Or has something been gained? From my vantage point, younger generations are less resilient and have less of a sense of team membership and fair play. Yet, when I look at my children playing video games, they exhibit skills I can only dream of. How does that affect the formation of their brain during the crucial formative years of childhood? How beneficial is this? What will be the long term effects on society?

    I suspect we are conducting a vast, unplanned experiment on society that is taking us into territory where evolution has made no provision. You are exploring this territory with enthusiasm while I remain on the edge of it, preferring a different kind of territory.

  13. alandtapper1950

    Dan: Thanks for the interesting interview. I especially like your commitment to, and pride in, being a good teacher.


  14. Bunsen Burner

    I was just teasing. Maybe I’ll give it another shot. I was more disgruntled by some of the time wasting mini games I think. Have you considered compiling a philosophy in video games list?

  15. marc levesque

    I found Newman’s interview of Peterson disturbing.

    I think Peterson has some interesting research, but outside his field, on Bill C-16 for example, I think he’s uninformed, and in his latest book, I find his beliefs somewhat confused, simplistic, and a touch scientistic, like using lobster brain biology to help explain his views on human behavior and social relations.

    But Newman’s performance didn’t even get close to those issues. She was out to catch him, trying to poke him into making a sexist remark, but it didn’t work.

    I think she lost some credibility with that interview, and maybe that’s part of why Peterson’s book is now doing relatively well.

  16. Marc: I like Peterson a lot. And he was absolutely correct about Bill C-16. Agreed that Newman absolutely humiliated herself.

  17. marc levesque

    I like Peterson a lot. And he was absolutely correct about Bill C-16.


    It sounded like I was saying that I didn’t like anything Peterson had to say outside of his field which isn’t true, as he often makes observations or says things I think are important.

    And we do disagree on C-16. Maybe I’ll take the time to elaborate if the topic comes up.

  18. Marc: I’m happy to discuss Bill C-16 whenever you like.