Desheng Zong is a professor of Philosophy at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics as well as the East China Normal University. He became interested in philosophy after reading Russell and Wittgenstein and earned his PhD from Tulane University. Currently, his research interests include possible worlds theories of content and philosophy of action in the Aristotelian-Anscombean framework.
What excites you about philosophy?
I was on a red-eye flight back to the U.S. after a four-month overseas stay. In the wee hours after meal service I went to the back of the plane to purchase a drink. I ended up having a conversation with the flight attendant who served me the bourbon. “What you do for living?” he asked. “I’m a philosopher,” I said. “Get out here!” he said, handing me the drink and laughing.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on action theory. I’m pursuing a research agenda inspired by what I call the “triple A theory of action” — the tradition in the study of intentional action championed by Aristotle, Aquinas, and Anscombe. It’s my belief that the causalist tradition, which has dominated the philosophy of action in the past forty plus years, is a research paradigm ill-conceived from the very start. Actions, in my view, are entities in the class I call “rational order of things,” they’re not physical events plus x, regardless how that x is spelled out. The time has come for us to question the dominant view and return to the rich tradition represented by the three A’s.
If you could be someone else for a day, who would that be and why?
It would have to be Gareth Evans. Evans is one of those philosophers I call “trench philosophers.” Just like soldiers in the trench in World War I who had to deal with issues not of their own picking but issues they were confronted with and from which there was no escape — flooding, rodent problem, enemy artillery, living in close quarters to the sick, the dead, and the decaying, etc., the issues trench philosophers deal with are not issues that they “come to work on,” as Donald Davidson said of how he got into working on action, but are issues that they have no choice but respond to because they are being overrun by them.
What do you like to do outside work?
I skateboard a lot, pretty much everyday, and I would like to call myself a skateboarder. If I could turn the clock back twenty years, I’d definitely be grinding ledgers and rails, in which case I would most definitely not be doing what I’m doing now. My current goal is to ollie down a five set.
What are you reading now? Would you recommend it?
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