Achille C. Varzi

A Truly Negative Biographic Sketch

This is not my official CV, so don’t take it seriously. But then, again, didn’t Wittgenstein say that we shouldn’t expound on what we cannot speak about? I am not sure he wasn’t cheating, but I can’t help disagreeing with those who dislike that thought.
    In short: I am not what I could have been, though I could have been what I am not. I don’t live in Italy but I was not born in the USA (and not in this century). I’m not dead either, thank goodness, at least not yet. And I am no longer unemployed.
    My work has nothing to do with engineering or business administration (or with car racing, in case you didn’t know the difference), but I don’t mind that. It never occurred to me that philosophy might not be the right choice. On the other hand, no one ever told me philosophy doesn’t pay well, so I shouldn’t say I don’t have regrets. Don’t we all?
    My first book (Holes, of which I was not the only author) was about nothing. Or maybe that’s not quite true; it just was not about the usual sort of thing a materialist philosopher writes about. For holes are not material objects, hence their identity and persistence conditions are not easy to pin down. (Nor is it easy to account for their causal role, if any; don’t forget Locke!) Yet there’s no doughnut without a hole, so one cannot just ignore the issue. At least, we didn’t think one can.
    Not that my other books are concerned with more solid stuff. For instance, Parts and Places (also not by me alone) does not dismiss boundaries and empty receptacles, while Ontology and Words and Objects (currently not in English) consider what there isn’t no less than what there is. Ditto for other, non-dissimilar editorial projects on Events, Temporal Parts, Fiat Objects, or Lesser Kinds, not to mention the incongruities of Time Travel or the impalpable world of Geography.
    In logic, for a while I didn’t do much except for worrying about truth-value gaps. Of course gluts aren’t less tricky, so I could not neglect them. But I cannot say that I’m an expert and An Essay in Universal Semantics does not provide a theory that many would endorse. (I haven’t met anybody who dislikes it, actually, but neither have I met somebody who really likes it.) Meanwhile, I could’t stick to my plan of never writing a Logic textbook. It didn’t do it for the money, though: unlike its competitors, this one is truly inexpensive.
    As for the rest, I won’t add much. My work in progress is not restricted to such topics but it goes without saying that I am not done with it yet. One thing I’m not ashamed of is that I do not just write for the eggheads. Somehow I don’t think that that would be right, though I’m not sure Insurmountable Simplicities won’t convey the wrong message. Nor do I write exclusively for the grown-ups. For many a year, Roberto and I could not found the time (or perhaps the energy) to do something useful with our illustrated philosophical stories for children, but we never said never and today, whether you like it or not, The Planet where Things Disappeared is no longer unpublished.
    And do I dislike teaching? Of course not. On the contrary, there is not much in life that I like better--were it not for the vast amounts of time spent grading.

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Last Revised: June 11, 2008