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Q: What initially sparked your interest in exploring the work of Gottlob Frege, a little-known German mathematician and logician? A: The first thing I read by Frege was The Foundations of Arithmetic (Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik). At that time, I had studied a lot of math, but no philosophy whatsoever. Frege began the book with a question that had never…

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Q: The notion that certain mental structures are inborn and not derivable from our environments is one that goes back to the ancient Greeks, particularly Plato who first raised this question in his works Meno and Phaedo. Much later, 17th-century rationalists like René Descartes and Gottfried Leibniz further developed this area of inquiry. In fact, you have referred to your…

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Q: Penguin’s Lives series paired “celebrated writers with famous individuals who have shaped our thinking.” Why were you paired with Charles Dickens? A: They sent me information about the proposed series, and I suggested Dickens as an influential author. Q: As a devoted and enthusiastic reader of Dickens’ fiction and an acclaimed novelist yourself, what particularly attracts you to Dickens’…

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Q: You are a highly-respected analyst of Adam Smith’s writing, and renowned for portraying the scale, scope, and detail of his work. What would economic theory and practice be like if Smith had not written The Wealth of Nations? A: Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations (WN) from years of prior research by several others, as well as his own…

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