When you first came to Princeton what did you think your major would be?
I came to Princeton very open-minded about my major. I knew I wanted to study philosophy, but I also wanted to study computer science and take all of the pre-med courses.
What made you decide to major in Philosophy?
My first philosophy class was about the philosophy of science. It had never occurred to me before to wonder about the nature of explanation and what it means for one thing to explain another. But I knew these sorts of questions interested me, and I soon realized that I had found my intellectual home. It took a little time, though, to develop the confidence to see how my intellectual home would support my career goals (vague as those goals were at the time).
Are there any stories about your experiences as a Philosophy major at Princeton that you'd like to share?
When discussing tradeoffs between going into medicine or philosophy, a philosophy professor told me that she goes to a lot of dinners with philosophers and a lot of dinners with doctors. The philosophers, in her opinion, made far more interesting conversation.
What did you do immediately after leaving Princeton?
I worked as a management consultant. On one of my more interesting projects, I examined the ethics training curriculum at a major federal agency. My supervisor at the time had a Ph.D. in philosophy and is now a professor at a business school.
What do you do now?
I am a law professor who writes about bioethics, punishment theory, and the legal and ethical implications of advances in neuroscience. I created the Neuroethics & Law Blog in 2005 (back when people still used the word “blog” in blog titles). To say that my philosophy training has proven helpful as a teacher and scholar is a tremendous understatement. [This interview was conducted in September 2013.]
I tell my law students that the purpose of law school is not to memorize laws. Most people can do that. If you really want to be a valuable practitioner, you need to develop your ability to analyze difficult problems and convey solutions clearly. There are few better places to develop those skills than in the philosophy department.