When you first came to Princeton what did you think your major would be?
I had no clear idea: I thought it would be one of music, classics or philosophy.
What made you decide to major in Philosophy?
Professors Margaret Wilson and Arthur Szathmary. They had interesting pasts and world views. They were individualistic and non-stereotypical. The Department was small, and the students had the chance to get to know the professors, beyond their institutional facades.
Are there any stories about your experiences as a Philosophy major at Princeton that you would like to share?
Professor Szathmary was in the United States Navy in World War II, serving as an interpreter and interrogator of the Japanese. He was an empathetic guy, as is evidenced by the fact that the Imperial Court would call him once a week to make sure his health was fine; this continued throughout his retirement. If he received the call during a discussion of aesthetics, he would take it, and his manner would become quite formal during the call, and then after the call he would revert to a relaxed professorial style. I had a rifle I had to store when I moved back to New York after law school, and he volunteered to keep it in a closet in his home. Years later he was moving and called me to ask what he should do with the rifle. I had visions of him plinking squirrels from a porch in the country.
What did you do immediately after leaving Princeton?
I took a year off, then went to law school. I had thought about translating Arnold Geulincx’s Ethica, but realized I had to make a living and so went to law school. Philosophy as a discipline was helpful at law school and in the practice of law.
What do you do now?
I’m a lawyer, specializing in Investment Company Act of 1940 related financings and biotech financings. The ’40 Act is a dense statute, and studying philosophy has been a great help in working with the statute, and in dealing with complex documents and arguments generally. [This interview was conducted in 2015.]
The world will over time become more institutionalized and formulaic given the drivers of technological development and the ability to act on analyses of large data sets. The Princeton philosophy students have the intellect and abilities to lead non-formulaic lives. They will be able to set their own course. A student who was in the Department with me, studying continental philosophy, was a bankruptcy lawyer in Seattle. He was able to move to the cancer/healthcare area of law. These are two wildly different types of practice, but he had the intellectual ability and training to do both. Students in pedestrian majors, such as English, Economics and the like, will just be grist brought to the mill of commerce.