mymind celebrates the thinkers and doers, and few people today seem to think and do quite like Stephen West. Since 2013, West has produced the "Philosophize This!" podcast, which breaks down philosophy concepts for the average mind. From ancient Greece to modern day, he walks listeners through the ideas that shaped our world, always in a light-hearted and approachable way. The show's tagline, repeated in every episode for the last ten years, sums up our own life philosophy: "Thank you for wanting to know more today than you did yesterday."
So of course, we were curious to know what's been on Stephen West's mind lately.
What’s the best compliment you received recently?
My neighbor said that I have good forearms. It was around sunset on trash day. I was rolling my giant trash can out to the street, and he said there was something about the way I was gripping the handle and the evening lighting that made him just have to tell me that my forearms are above average. I also need to add that my forearms are not actually good by any stretch of the imagination. I think he got dental surgery earlier that day and was still coming down from his meds. I haven’t talked to him since. But I want to. If you’re reading this, John, don’t be a stranger!
What’s the last thing you read?
"Consciousness Explained" by Daniel Dennett. An old mainstay for understanding contemporary discussions in the philosophy of mind. For an upcoming episode of the podcast.
Search the title or author of the book, or just search "books" to find a book you've saved to your mind.
What book do you want to read next?
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. Never have been able to get through it all the way.
A quote that’s meaningful to you?
From Friedrich Nietzsche:
“To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not—that one endures.”
Highlight the text, including quotation marks, to save this to your mind as a quote.
It reminds me that bad things happen to everyone. There is no escaping it. But often rooted in those momentary bad experiences are the things that make us the most interesting. And that the true test of a person is not whether bad things have happened to them; it’s whether they continue to endure for themselves and those they love.
Best gift you’ve ever given?
I gave a friend who was getting into cooking a nice cast iron pan. It’s one of those gifts that will give them enjoyment immediately, but it is also something that if they take care of it they can potentially pass it down to their great grandchildren as something that may be special to them.
Where do you want to travel to next?
Astana, Kazakhstan. Other than that, nowhere for now. I am highly skeptical of travel being something that is as universally good as the people in my country seem to commonly believe it is. If I’m being honest with myself, the movie depiction of globetrotting with a smile on your face, soaking in the wisdom of different cultures, I think is a fantasy for the way I am. It’s far more likely I leapfrog from city to city, stressed beyond belief, my unfamiliarity with my surroundings putting me in the way of the people trying to live their lives there, so caught up in my own itinerary and travel fantasies that I never really receive much value from the experience.
What would you buy, if money weren’t an issue?
What hobby would you take up, if you had the time?
Woodworking. I think when I’m done doing digital media I will find a way to work with my hands and only interact with people face to face.
What’s an image or piece of art you can’t get out of your head?
Episode nine, season one of the show "Dave" on Hulu. It’s some of the best writing I’ve ever seen.
A product of any kind you’ve been appreciating lately?
A standard ice pack from the store. Try this with your significant other or kids in these summer months when they’re SUPER warm coming in from outside and are tired. Hold the ice pack in your hands to get them extra cold and THEN give them a head rub. Your hands warm up pretty quickly so you need to keep re-cooling your hands with the ice pack. It’s pretty great.
The funniest thing you’ve seen lately?
Tim Dillon making fun of Jordan Peterson fans.
If you could build an extension of your own mind, what would it look like? How would it work?
I can’t visualize what it would look like because it would be mostly in audio and taste/smell. I have some weird thing where I remember sounds and audio clips really easily, so even when I’m reading I’m just remembering my voice saying the stuff I want to remember for later. In a world that indexes so heavily on the visual, feeling connected to the sounds, smells and tastes gives you a multi-sensory advantage. I try not to see the world as something to merely look at as a visual spectator.