Work/Life Balance APA Member Interview: Karen Ng

APA Member Interview: Karen Ng

Karen Ng is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She works mainly on nineteenth-century post-Kantian thought (especially Hegel) and Frankfurt School Critical Theory.

What are you working on right now? 

I recently completed a book on Hegel, which argues for the systematic importance of the concept of life for his philosophy, focusing in particular on the Science of Logic. In conducting research for this project, it became evident to me that the importance of this concept stretched far beyond Hegel and his contemporaries, and I am now working on thinking through how this Hegelian background can help us understand Marx’s concept of species-being anew. My hunch is that there are important connections between how Marx conceives of social critique and contemporary theories of ethical naturalism (for example, in Philippa Foot, Michael Thompson, and John McDowell). I’m also working on several papers, which are all thematically connected in my mind: a paper on Marx’s critique of Hegel and how this bears on Axel Honneth’s conception of social freedom; a paper on the connections between Hegel’s conception of ethical life and Marx’s concept of species-being; and a paper on an organic model of schematism in Kant.

What are you reading right now?  Would you recommend it? 

 I been reading a lot of history books this year. I recently finished Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, and Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton: A Global History. Wulf’s book documents Humboldt’s life by investigating the deep, international impact he had on how we conceive of and investigate nature; Beckert’s book presents a global history of capitalism from the perspective of cotton as a commodity. Both are highly recommended and have greatly expanded my understanding of the nineteenth-century in different ways. I’m currently reading Mary Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, which was the perfect companion on my recent trip there.

In fiction, I recently finished Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, which I cannot recommend enough. Life-long female friendship, the ambivalences of marriage and motherhood, working-class politics, education, and intellectual life — an honest and gripping narrative portrayal of all these things over a life-time is no easy feat.

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new talent, what would you most like it to be?

To be fluent in 10 different languages.

What time of day are you most productive and creative?

Between breakfast and lunch.

What is your favorite sound in the world?

I’ll list three: the ocean, the human voice, the piano.

 What 3 items would you take to a desert island other than food and water?

(Are people items?) People I love, goggles, and board games.


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