Interview with SAS Faculty | Giacomo Andreoletti

22 september 2021

Giacomo Andreoletti, SAS professor, has recently published a research article in the journal Synthese. Founded in 1936, it is one of the most prestigious philosophy journals. Synthese is highly ranked based on the Scopus metrics as well as the first journal in the Google Scholar metrics in the Philosophy and Epistemology & Scientific History categories. 

Andreoletti’s article, co-authored with Giuseppe Spolaore (the University of Padua, Italy), is titled “The future ain’t what it used to be. Strengthening the case for mutable futurism.” The paper explores mutable futurism, an unorthodox view in the philosophy of time according to which the future can literally change. The article aims at strengthening the case for mutable futurism by elucidating its theoretical and inferential commitments, as well as providing it with a coherent metaphysical model and a plausible formal semantics. 

Follow the link to read the article.

What questions does the analytical philosopher fear? Why does time remain the main subject of our conversations? How can we find peace and happiness in the philosophy of time? All the answers (but even more questions) are in our interview. 

1. How to recognize an analytic philosopher? What distinguishes him from a continental philosopher?

It is extremely hard to provide a fair characterization of what distinguishes an analytic from a continental philosopher. Whereas the topics that they address are substantially the same, perhaps the main difference has to do with methodology and style. Everyone who is acquainted with contemporary philosophy can tell rather quickly whether a specific article is in analytic or in continental philosophy. However, it is challenging to provide a fair account of what the difference amounts to. One could be tempted to say that analytic philosophers are more interested in logic and rigor. But one could easily reply that continental philosophers care about rigor and logic as well. Perhaps the simplest way is to just give a causal account, as it was recently argued by philosopher Timothy Williamson. The idea is that disciplines are partly traditions, hence are somewhat defined by the temporal causal relations among the figures that worked in the discipline. So, in this account, analytic philosophy would be just the kind of philosophy that (roughly) originated with the work of philosophers such as Frege, Russell, and others, whereas continental philosophy originated from other works.

2. How do you usually respond to questions about your profession?

I think it depends a lot on who is asking. If the question comes from someone who does not know anything about philosophy, then I do not say that I do philosophy. I am simply too afraid of the subsequent question “but what is philosophy?”

3. How did you develop your interest towards your disciplinary field?

I think I developed an interest toward philosophy in high school. My philosophy teacher in high school transmitted me the interest for philosophy, and then it developed at the university.

4. What does time mean to you? Did your everyday attitude towards time change since it has become the main subject of study?

I am rather sympathetic to the view that sees time as eternal and static (eternalism and B-theory). In this view, past, present, and future equally exist. I am not sure it changed my everyday attitude towards time, but it is rather comforting to think that all the events of which we have fond memories exist in the same way our present does. They are just located at different times.

5. What do you talk about when you don’t talk about time?

Everything has to do with time in one way or another, so, in a sense, we always talk about time.

6. Are there situations in life where one does not need formal logic?

I think formal logic is especially useful when one addresses complicated issues. Formal logic is really helpful with providing tools to disentangle difficult and abstract problems.

7. Why does an IT student need to study Philosophy?

I am not a computer science expert, but there is a natural link between formal logic and computer science. One of the businesses of formal logic is to create formal languages. It is then natural to use those languages to develop tools such as algorithms, computer languages, and softwares. Historically, formal logic contributed to the advent of computers, and it is still nowadays relevant for the field.

8. Why is there no Philosophy major at SAS?

I actually do not know, but I think that there should be a philosophy major at SAS. We have many good professors working in philosophy, and many of our students are interested in it.

9. We often see you playing chess with professors and students on the first floor at SAS. How can one become a member of your Chess Club?

It is quite simple. We have a telegram group, and we usually communicate there. If someone wants to join the club, they can simply contact me or one of the other members.

10. What, besides chess, makes you happy?

Please first define happiness (this is what an analytic philosopher might say, and, more importantly, it is also a way to avoid this question).

11. They say that Russians and Italians have a very similar worldview. Is that true?

Yes, I agree that the worldviews are similar. In my experience, Italians and Russians are the only ones that applaud when a plane lands. I am not sure what it means, but it must mean something profound.

12. How many languages do you speak?

Only Italian and English. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Russian is quite basic.

13. What did you talk about with a student during your last Professor in the Box session?

The last student that visited my Professor in a Box came just to have a casual chat and discuss our summers. It was nice.