Justin Alderis, '11


When you first came to Princeton what did you think your major would be?

I recall being decidedly undecided, but if pressed I guess I'd say I was leaning towards either psychology or physics.

What made you decide to major in Philosophy?

Frankly, it was just too much fun! I could get my fill of both philosophy of science and philosophy of  mind. I'm something of an autodidact, and philosophy provided both the freedom and the focus to apply my disparate learnings into a single coherent pursuit.

Are there any stories about your experiences as a Philosophy major at Princeton that you would like to share?

I'm more than a little embarrassed about this, but I'd be doing this profile a disservice if I chose a more tame story. I once fell asleep in a Princeton Philosophical Society Dinner with Prof. Tom Kelly. And also every single morning in the front row of his class. And then again even in a one on one office hour with Prof. Kelly, in which he was my Junior Paper adviser. Now let me be perfectly clear- with no hesitation do I say that the onus of this debacle is entirely mine.

Prof. Kelly is genuinely fascinating and brilliant- his lectures in epistemology covered a lot of new ground for me and greatly enhanced my understanding of philosophy as a field. And despite this I couldn’t seem to maintain consciousness in his midst. At the time I think I was foolishly and awkwardly hoping he wouldn't notice (that I had
repeatedly fallen asleep *directly in front of him*). If you’re reading this professor, I hope its not too late to extend my sincerest apologies, and my sincerest gratitude for sharing your wisdom and knowledge with me. Despite how it appeared back then, it really did mean a lot to me.

What did you do immediately after leaving Princeton?

I sat down and tried to write a novel- including a well researched business plan on how to get it published. In the end I was my own worst critic; unable to produce writing I felt was of sufficient quality, I moved on to other things. Lately, my wife has been pushing me to try again, so I work on it here and there when I have the time and inclination. What's it about? I guess you could say it's a thinly veiled platform for a bunch of warring ideologues to spout their ethical dogmas at considerable length; metaphysical shenanigans ensue when the personified embodiment of time itself weighs in. This philosophy stuff- once you've got it in you, it really sticks to your bones!

What do you do now?

I could simply say my wife and I are landlords and leave it at that, but the truth is I go where opportunity takes me. We're already looking to start a second business in whatever service is in the most demand by our community (and researching that market is our primary occupation when we're not landlording). I'm also extremely eager to start a family, and it is with great enthusiasm that I intend to take on the role of primary caregiver. [This interview was conducted in 2015.]

Final words?

Ultimately, the thing that made the most difference in my life wasn’t my degree, but the friends I made and the very conscientious investment I made into developing a network of interesting and capable people. But the education I received in philosophy very much provided the foundation for that (as well as the non-trivial flexibility in time I needed to build such a network). Philosophy trained me in rhetoric and logic, which gave me an enhanced awareness of the conversations I was in and the ability to ask very tricky questions and look past false dichotomies. The fact I could consistently say something unexpected gave people the impression that I was smart or at the very least interesting (I prefer to think of myself as a Socratic fool)- and that alone has opened plenty of doors for me.