Marcy P. Lascano is a Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Long Beach. She works in 17th and 18th century philosophy – mainly metaphysics and mainly women philosophers. She publishes on Cavendish, Conway, Astell, Masham, du Châtelet, Locke, and Leibniz.
What excites you about philosophy?
I like the weird stuff. I especially like early modern women’s metaphysics, like Cavendish and Conway. It’s a wild ride.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve written?
It’s probably not the best thing I have written, but I have a Philosophy Compass article called, “Bodies in the Spiritual World,” about Anne Conway’s account of body. She thinks that everything is spirit and that bodies are merely condensed spirit. But in the article, I show that bodies play an important role in her philosophical system, for instance, by serving as the outer image of our moral status and as the repository of memories, thoughts, and knowledge. I really like that it gets used in undergraduate classes a fair bit. I also like the title.
What are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?
I am reading The Well-Ordered Universe: The Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish by Deborah Boyle. I highly recommend it. It is a great introduction to Margaret Cavendish’s philosophy. I don’t agree with everything that Deborah says, but it is a really impressive work. I am reviewing it for Mind. In non-philosophy, I just started Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone. I like a good detective/mystery novel.
What time of day are you most productive and creative?
You know that time of day after lunch when everyone gets sleepy and wants to take a nap? That’s when I’m working. I’m not a morning person. In the mornings, I drink coffee, read the news, answer emails, and try to avoid direct contact with other humans. The afternoon/early evening is when I do my best work.
What’s your poison?
A Grey Goose Martini with blue cheese stuffed olives. Yeah, that’s right – vodka, not gin.
What’s your top tip or advice for APA members reading this?
I’m probably not the best person to give advice, since I tend to just do what I want. That said, I think that there are a lot of interesting things that one can work on in philosophy, and you shouldn’t let what is fashionable or what everyone else is working on dictate your research. I wrote my dissertation on Locke and Leibniz. When people hear that, they think I work on the New Essay. However, I wrote on their answers to the question, why there is something rather than nothing? When people hear that, they think I’m a bit crazy. I had a woman ask me during an APA job interview why anyone would be interested in such a topic. I told her that I couldn’t really understand someone who wasn’t interested in it. I obviously didn’t get that job, but I can’t say that I care. If you aren’t enjoying what you are working on, then it’s just not worth it.
Who has been the biggest influence on your philosophical work?
Nobody gets very far in philosophy without a lot of help from others. I owe the work that I am doing now to one of my advisors from UMass Amherst – Eileen O’Neill. She encouraged me to work on women philosophers, and without her guidance, expertise, and enthusiasm, I wouldn’t be doing what I do. I started working on Emilie du Châtelet and Mary Astell in 2006 because Eileen suggested that they would be relevant to my interests. Eileen worked really hard to bring women philosophers back into our histories. She got a lot of people working on Cavendish, Conway, Astell, and many more. Without her edition of Cavendish’s Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy, I doubt that so many people would be working on Cavendish now. I can’t say how much working on early modern women philosophers has meant to me. The work is exciting and fruitful, and the historians of philosophy who work on these women are absolutely wonderful scholars and generous human beings. I am filled with gratitude to have found something I love so much, and I owe it all to Eileen.
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