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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Meet the Infinite Progression

As many of you know, the 21CM family has recently expanded. We have a brand new member, Hille Paakkunainen, whose drumming can be heard all over our new album. In order to introduce her to you all, Kris sat down with Hille to do a brief interview, which was conducted after the final note had been recorded for our new album, Body, Monad, World.

Kris: It’s been great having you as both a band mate and a departmental colleague! Would you mind telling people a little bit about your musical background?

Hille: Thanks, Kris, I’ve had a lot of fun starting to drum for 21CM, and I’m loving being at the Syracuse philosophy department. As to my musical background, I’ve played a couple of different instruments before, sometimes in bands, but this is the first time I’m drumming in a band. I played accordion as a kid and a teenager. You know, a lot of Argentinian and Finnish tangos and French and Finnish waltzes. This is very popular stuff in Finland. Then I got obsessed with the guitar when I was about 13, and I’ve played guitar on and off ever since. I’d like to try my hand at playing bass properly at some point. But I’m really enjoying the drumming. It’s very relaxing to get to hit objects as hard as you want and have rhythmic noises come out.

Kris: What kind of music do you like to play on the guitar? Do you prefer playing electric guitars or acoustics or both equally?

Hille: I play both, depending on mood. I go through phases. Currently I seem to be stuck in a quiet acoustic phase. Sometimes I like to (try to) shred on the electric. (I can't actually shred.) I guess my general tendency on the electric is towards somewhat restless playing -- genre-wise, maybe post-hardcore, post-rock, and some type of math-rock come most naturally to me. (I hope these genre names are right -- I had to look them up based on bands I like that are similar in style to how I think I play.) On the acoustic I just play folk, sometimes with some jazzy overtones. But I haven't been playing guitar that actively for a while now. I tend to just pick up the acoustic for a half an hour and amble around in the sounds for a while, as a break from other things. I should pick up my guitars more actively again.

Kris: Since we are a band composed of philosophers who write music about philosophy, would you mind talking a little bit about your philosophical background and orientation?

Hille: I do ethics, broadly construed, and philosophy of action. I finished my PhD at Pittsburgh about 6 months ago. Before the PhD, I did my undergrad in Glasgow, Scotland. I seem to gravitate towards ex-industrial towns.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about whether and how metanormative theorizing might help us settle first-order normative questions, and about what the consequences are if it can’t. For instance, could there be a satisfying metaphysical explanation of the nature of norms that didn’t at the same time yield a criterion (however unwieldy) for settling first-order normative disputes? I’ve also been thinking a lot about internalism about reasons, about its relationship to various sorts of subjectivism, about the nature of practical reasoning, about the norms for good reasoning and what explains them… And I wonder what, if anything, normative realism’s explanatory commitments are, just as such; and what semantic and epistemic theses it is possible to (sensibly?) combine with a realist metaphysics of norms. I’m not sure whether this gives you a sense of my philosophical orientation. I couldn’t give you an -ism or a set of -isms that I’m definitely happy buying into, though there are obviously loads of -isms that I’m interested in, and I think some are more viable than others. Ask me again in a few years.

Kris: And are there any current projects you are working on that you are excited about?

Yes, there are a couple of different things. There’s a series of papers on constitutivism, the idea that you can derive practical norms from the metaphysics of agency. (I wrote about that a lot in my dissertation; I’m reworking it into papers now.) I think the constitutivist idea is very powerful, and that there is a valid argumentative schema from metaphysical premises, about the nature of agency, to first-order normative conclusions about what the norms of practical reason are. And I think we have to do some really in-depth philosophy of action in order to show either that there are sound instances of the schema, or that there aren’t. Either way, philosophy of action is indispensable for metanormative theorizing. I myself don’t think the constitutivist project succeeds, and that’s because of what I think is true about the nature of agency. But I won’t go into the details now.

There’s another project that I’m quite excited about, on a topic that I’d like to see written about more: namely, the idea that you might try to derive practical norms from the conditions of concept-possession, in something like the way that people have tried to derive epistemic norms from the conditions of concept-possession. Again, I think there is a valid argumentative schema here, though it’s a bit hard to tease out; and that we need to look very hard at the conditions of possessing various normative concepts in order to figure out whether there are sound instances of the schema or not. What this metasemantic idea has in common with constitutivism is that it’s an attempt to derive first-order normative views from purely metanormative premises, thus giving a normatively non-question-begging argument for first-order normative conclusions.

There are a couple of other projects that are a bit less developed that I’m working on right now, but I already go on too much. Time to rock on.

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