Krista Thomason is an assistant professor of philosophy at Swarthmore College. Her areas of specialization are contemporary moral psychology with an emphasis on moral emotions, Kant’s practical philosophy, and issues in human rights.
What excites you about philosophy?
I fell in love with philosophy when I took my very first class in college. We read Plato and Sartre and that was it; I was hooked. It felt like coming home. We get to devote ourselves to the biggest questions that human beings confront in their lives. For me, philosophy is at its best when it helps people think through these difficult things and helps people make better sense of their lives and experiences. Sometimes we do that by pointing out distinctions that might not be obvious. Sometimes we do that by offering different frameworks for people to use. Sometimes we do that by pointing out that what might seem obvious isn’t so obvious. One of the most fun things about philosophy is sharing it with people. I love sharing it with my students. Introducing them to the same works and ideas that I fell in love with is one of the best parts of my career. I love sitting down with my philosophy friends, swapping papers, and talking through new ideas. Philosophical conversation is electrifying; there’s nothing else like it.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve written?
My paper “Shame, Violence, and Morality” is my favorite right now. Part of the reason I love it is because I spent so much time working on it. It went through so many revisions, and the early versions of it were rejected from so many journals. When it finally got published in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, I felt like all the work and the time paid off. When I started working on it, I had no idea what I was doing. Trying to publish can often feel like playing a game when you don’t know the rules. It was the article that helped me learn how to write a journal article. I feel like that paper and I grew and got better together.
Name a trait, skill or characteristic that you have that others may not know about you.
I’m a first-generation college student. It’s not something I try to hide, but it often doesn’t come up in conversation. I think it’s important to mention because philosophy, like the rest of academia, isn’t always cognizant of the fact that not everyone in the profession comes from the same kind of background. Many people don’t feel comfortable disclosing the fact that they’re first-generation, and I completely understand that. There can be social costs if people find out, but I know when I discover other philosophers who are, it makes me feel better. So if it helps someone else to know that I’m first-generation too, then it’s worth it for me to say so.
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new talent, what would you most like it to be?
I would like to wake up multilingual. I studied Greek and Latin as an undergraduate and loved it. I miss it all the time. There’s just not enough time in the world for me to learn all the languages that I want to learn. I love to travel and I always feel guilty about not being able to speak whatever the local language is. So if I could just wake up fluent in a whole bunch of languages, that would be perfect.
What is your favorite sound in the world?
The Atlantic Ocean. I grew up in Carolina Beach, NC about three streets away from the beach. I could often hear it at night when my bedroom window was open. I didn’t realize how much I would miss it until I went to college and I couldn’t hear it anymore. I had a hard time falling asleep without it. When I’m back at the beach and I hear the ocean, I feel completely at peace.
What is your favorite holiday and why?
I love Halloween! It happens during the fall, which is my favorite season. It’s hard to beat a holiday devoted to mischief, spookiness, and candy. Trying to come up with costume ideas is one of my favorite parts. My graduate advisor (David Sussman) throws the best Halloween parties. I also think Halloween is the holiday with the best decorations. I even have a Halloween village that I set up every year. I put my Halloween decorations up on October 1st. I have to watch at least one classic horror movie on Halloween night. I make Halloween themed food. I love everything about it.
What time of day are you most productive and creative?
I am 100% a morning person. During the school year, I’m usually in the office by 8:30 or 9:00. I like to turn on my computer and start writing first thing. If I start writing in the morning before I do anything else (e.g., check email or Twitter), I can get a lot done before lunch. As long as I’m in my office with lots of coffee and few distractions, I’m focused. I usually only have about an hour or so of productivity in me after lunch (depending on the day). 4:00 PM is usually my mental cutoff. It’s rare that I get anything done after that.
What is your least favorite type of fruit and why?
I love this question because I have very firm opinions about food (cooking is my hobby). I am from North Carolina, so I will be swiftly disowned after I say this, but it’s cantaloupe. For those who don’t know, cantaloupe is extremely popular in the South. People treat a ripe summer cantaloupe like a delicacy and I just don’t get it. I think it tastes bland and sort of musky.
What’s your favorite quote?
My favorite quote comes from my favorite book, which is Moby Dick. Unlike many people, I didn’t read Moby Dick in high school. I read it well after I was out of graduate school. I think if I had read it in high school I wouldn’t have appreciated it, so it’s a good thing I waited. My favorite quote from it is:
There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed gradations, and at the last one pause: – through infancy’s unconscious spell, boyhood’s thoughtless faith, adolescence’ doubt (the common doom), then scepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood’s pondering repose of If. But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally.
When I got to this line, I read it over and over. Not only is it beautiful, it reminds me that there isn’t one way that life is supposed to go. We often measure our successes or failures against what we think we’re supposed to be doing. We think of life as proceeding along a clear trajectory, but there isn’t a clear trajectory. So many of the philosophers whose work I admire walked very winding paths to get where they are. When things in my life don’t go according to plan, I often repeat “There is no steady unretracing progress in this life” to myself.
Find out more about Krista here.
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