Interview with Robert B. Talisse, author of Engaging Political Philosophy

From the Routledge website:

51eSICcQhFL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_What sparked your own interest in this area of philosophy?

My earliest philosophical interests – interests that developed even before I was aware of philosophy as an academic field – had to do with politics.Perhaps this is due to the fact that I entered teenage during the Reagan era in the US, and at that time it was difficult to escape philosophical questions about the political world. The television, movies, and especially the music I was encountering all were driven by political concerns.By the time I was 16, I was convinced that the world was soon to be destroyed by madmen with inordinate political power.The question was whether anything at all could be done, and if so, what.This introduced me to the idea of political critique, which naturally raised philosophical issues about what proper criticism is.In a way, then, my political concerns as a teenager brought me not only to political philosophy, but to broader philosophical questions about reasoning, argument, disagreement, and knowledge.When I began studying philosophy as an undergraduate, I was fascinated by two quite different books, Mill’s On Liberty and Robert Paul Wolff’s In Defense of Anarchism. In college, I began thinking, with Wolff, that some form of democracy was the only fitting response to the anarchist’s challenge to political authority.But whereas Wolff famously concludes that no proper version of democracy is practically feasible, I started thinking, with Mill, that individual liberty and autonomy requires there to be a social environment that enables and encourages free thinking and the open expression of heresies; and I also began to think that this kind of social environment can persist only under conditions of democratic governance.As a professional philosopher, my central research is focused on the relations of democracy to epistemology – the ways in which the project of collective self-government is related to the projects of forming, sustaining, and exchanging warranted beliefs.It seems strange to think that a few overly-anxious teenage years could be so formative.

More here.