Ten Questions with Ben Springett
Jean Lecomte du Nouÿ’s A Eunuch’s Dream (1874). (Cleveland Museum of Art).
In September 2020 I had the pleasure of interviewing philosopher Ben Springett about his specialist topic: dreaming. I learned a lot from doing this interview and enjoyed thinking about the topic so much that I had to go back to speak with Ben again—this time to ask him our Ten Questions.
Henceforth we will ask Ten Questions to every philosopher we interview. We asked these questions first to metaphysician Sam Kimpton-Nye, which was a really fruitful process, making Ben our second subject.
Interviewing philosophers in this way gives us access to, dare I say it, the people inside the academics! You may find the answers, as I have, inspiring.
Question 1: What’s your number 1 hobby?
‘Enjoying that moment between wakefulness and the obliteration of sleep where rationality has almost entirely slipped away but I can just about realise that I am about to fall asleep. If that doesn’t count as a hobby, I don’t know what does. It doesn’t count as a hobby? Then reading books I don’t need to read, in the bath, with cups of tea. I’m not really sure what a hobby is.’
Question 2: You have a poster of a philosopher in your room. They are your hero. Who is it?
‘It may have been Jacques Lacan but the poster fell down. There is now a mirror in its place.’
Question 3: An alien visits Earth. As a parting gift you give them the three greatest texts of philosophy to read on the way home. What are they?
‘The answer should probably be something like Plato’s Republic, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Marx’s Das Kapital. But I think one of them should be switched with a Mr. Men book to stretch the aliens’ thinking. Probably Mr. Happy.’
Question 4: As you hand over the texts you explain to them what philosophy is in one sentence, hoping not to confuse them. What do you say?
‘“Philosophy is the construction, criticism and study of arguments about fundamentally important issues for living beings which cannot be resolved by science.” That definition is problematic, but hopefully the aliens have gone by this point.’
Question 5: Who do you think the most-underrated philosopher is?
‘Systematically under-represented groups are generally also underrated as well.’
Question 6: When do your best ideas come to you? In the shower, looking at blue sky … ?
‘Usually when I am too far away from a pen and paper.’
Question 7: What fictional character do you identify with most?
‘Yorick, the skull from Hamlet—he’s already long dead before the story has even begun. I feel like I can identify with that.’
Question 8: What’s your favourite film?
‘Some films belong in a transcendent category and should be awarded a sixth star, or have their maximum five-star review in a different colour, e.g. gold; watching such a film amounts to an existential experience. One such example would arguably be It’s a Wonderful Life.’
Question 9: And your desert island disc?
‘God Is’ – Kanye West.
Question 10: You’re being forced to start university as an undergraduate student again. What are you going to study? It can’t be philosophy.
I’d be interested to take any subject by random lottery. I would look forward to not knowing whether I am going to get really good at economics or hairdressing.
Thank you, Ben. That was hilarious yet stirring—reminiscent of some of my dreams, actually. I enjoyed the ride and I hope you did, too.