Maegan Fairchild is a PhD Candidate at the University of Southern California, working primarily on metaphysics and philosophical logic. Her dissertation is on material plenitude: the view that there is a multitude of coincident objects wherever there is any material object.
What are you most proud of in your professional life?
I think my proudest moments have been due to my students. A few weeks into an introductory logic course I taught a couple of years ago, a group of students approached me at the end of class. One was carrying a huge stack of advanced logic books — including an advanced textbook on mathematical logic and the Begriffsschrift — and the others were trailing behind a little sheepishly. We’d just gotten into proof theory, but they already wanted more. This is what they’d dug up in the library, and they were wondering which to start in on first. In every course I’ve been involved in, my students constantly surprise and challenge me with their creativity, curiosity, and the immense courage they show when faced with daunting and unfamiliar material. That I’m sometimes able to keep up with them is, I think, a pretty cool thing.
What are your goals and aspirations outside work?
I could try to come up with something clever or inspiring here, but really: I want a dog. I aspire to be a person who has a dog.
What are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?
I’m not reading anything at the moment, so I’ll take the opportunity to gush about a weird and wonderful piece of experimental fiction I read this summer. In July, the sports news website SB Nation ran an article by Jon Bois called “What Football Will Look Like in the Future.” The article looks normal at first, but then the words (quite literally) fly off the page, and you’re whisked away to a sci-fi story (actually titled 17,776) about space, capitalism, climate change, memory, immortality, the metaphysics of games, and — of course — football. I can’t say much more without spoiling the best bits, but Bois does a great job of taking advantage of the browser-based storytelling medium, and made me more invested in football than I’d ever been before.
What’s your top tip or advice for APA members reading this?
It’s really easy to fall into doing philosophy — and specifically, philosophy graduate school — in a way that can feel really isolating I’m very lucky to have spent most of my philosophical career so far in very supportive and collaborative environments, but even so, when I hit a snag on a project my first instinct is sometimes to hole up alone with the problem for days at a time. At least for me, this is almost always the wrong strategy. Our colleagues are incredible resources, and we are better off when we talk to each other about our work –even and especially when we’re stuck.
In general, some of my most rewarding experiences have been collaborations with other philosophers. This is true outside of research as well: I have had the opportunity to be a part of a lot of extraordinary outreach projects with extraordinary people — like Minorities and Philosophy (MAP), which Yena Lee, Liam Kofi Bright, and I started in 2013 (now run by Elise Woodard, Olufemi Taiwo, and Simona Capisani), and the Los Angeles Chapter of “Corrupt The Youth”, started by Rima Basu as a branch of Briana Toole’s Austin-based program. I have learned so much from the colleagues and students I’ve met through these projects, and have become a better and braver philosopher because of them.
So, the short advice: try to avoid the rut of thinking this is anything other than a hugely collaborative enterprise, and take advantage of opportunities to expand your philosobubble as much as you can, whenever you can.
If you were a brick in the wall which brick would you be?
Find out more about Maegan here!
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