Mark D. White is chair and professor in the Department of Philosophy at the College of Staten Island/CUNY in New York City, where he teaches and writes on the intersections of philosophy, economics, and law.
What excites you about philosophy?
I love that philosophy gets to the core questions that underlie everything. If you dig deeply enough into any area of thought—for me it was economics, but it’s true of any field—eventually you’ll hit questions that only philosophy can answer, and I think those questions are the most fascinating.
What are you most proud of in your professional life?
I once blogged about suicide based on an essay by Thomas Hill in which he framed it within a narrative view of life (the idea of “writing your own ending” rather than having it written for you by circumstance). Soon thereafter, a reader emailed me to say the blog post helped her come to terms with her mother’s suicide.
What’s your personal philosophy?
My moral philosophy comes from Kant, but my general philosophy of life comes from Lao-Tzu.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I don’t know if this is “outside” of work, because I can do it while I’m working: I’m always listening to music, which I consider the most important thing in my life — other than the people in it. I listen mainly to jazz, metal, and classic rock.
When did you last sing to yourself, or to someone else?
I sing to myself all the time; the last thing I sang to someone else that I remember was several years ago, singing Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” to my ex-girlfriend’s voice-mail in a last-ditch attempt to get her back. It didn’t work.
What time of day are you most productive and creative?
Until recently it was always in the early morning; I wake naturally between 4 and 5 a.m., and used to get so much work done before noon. But that seems to have changed, and sometimes I now work better after lunch, at least on creative work.
What are your goals and aspirations outside work?
I’d like to write a novel.
What’s your top tip or advice for APA members reading this?
Don’t write only for your fellow philosophers, that is, in journals and monographs, but write for the public as well—wherever you can. The former may earn you greater rewards in academia, but the latter carries unique benefits you can only get from reaching a much larger and broader audience.
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