Antony Aumann is an associate professor at Northern Michigan University, and he’s also held positions at the Ohio State University and St. Olaf College. His research focuses on Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, as well as various issues in contemporary philosophy of art, and his favorite class to teach is existentialism.
What excites you about philosophy?
I love that philosophy offers me new ways of understanding the world. It sometimes seems every new article I read offers another lens through which to investigate the situations and circumstances I encounter. I’m forever excited to discuss these ways of thinking about life and death, meaning and morality, and religion and art with my friends and students.
What are you most proud of in your professional life?
Definitely landing a tenure track job. It was a hard road for me. I bounced around after getting my PhD and there was a long stretch when I thought I wasn’t going to make it in academia. But I managed to persevere, and I got lucky too.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve written?
My favorite thing is always whatever I’ve written most recently. This might be a common disorder, but I’ve got a bad case of it. At present, it’s my piece for The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, “A Moral Problem for Difficult Art.” Right now, I think it’s great. In five years, there’s a chance I’ll find it totally misguided.
What are you working on right now?
For a long time, I wrote mostly on Kierkegaard. But lately I’ve been doing more work in contemporary aesthetics. The Kierkegaard stuff remains in the background, though. In fact, I’m writing a book now that draws on Kierkegaard to help us better understand the value of art. My aim is to explain how art can play an important role in helping us figure out who we are or what our identity is.
What’s your personal philosophy?
About eight years ago, I went on a retreat with the philosophy faculty of St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges. Susan Wolf was the featured speaker and we worked through her Tanner Lectures, which eventually became Meaning in Life and Why it Matters (Princeton University Press, 2012). I remember being kind of a pain in the neck during the discussions. But her main thesis always struck me as right: if you want to find meaning in life, do something you love that is also worth loving. I always teach this view at the end of my existentialism class, and I tell my students I’ve finally told them what I really believe.
What time of day are you most productive and creative?
I work best in the morning with a fresh cup of coffee. It’s the only time I feel free from the emotional burdens of the day. Many of my philosopher friends seem to work best in the middle of the night. I often think it would be great if I could do that some of the time. I find that when I work influences how I see the problems I’m working on. So, switching things up would be a great way to break out of a rut. But mornings are the only thing I can do consistently. And I really believe that consistent work matters more than anything else when it comes to my long term productivity.
What are your goals and aspirations outside work?
Outside of philosophy, I need to do something with my hands. I’ve tried kickboxing, furniture building, cello playing, and painting. It’s not important that I be good at the activity – OK, maybe that’s a lie I tell myself – but it has to be something that requires me to use my body. Something that makes me feel like I’m not just a disembodied head that stares at a computer screen all day.
Find out more about Antony here.
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