An Interview: Approaching Texts as Philosophical Improvisations

For those interested, I was interviewed recently by a colleague, fellow philosopher, and friend, J. Douglas Macready, who blogs at The Relative Absolute. In the interview, we discuss informally, what I have called in the past, an “improvisational” approach to texts.  You can access the interview here. The prelude to the interview reads:

Every philosopher eventually stumbles upon the question of method. How should philosophical texts be approached, read, interpreted, and assimilated into one’s philosophical project? How should philosophical inquiry proceed? What are the sources of a genuine philosophical method? Conversely, is method even necessary, or does it impede philosophical reflection?

Recently, I have been thinking through these questions with my colleague Cynthia R. Nielsen, who blogs at Per Caritatem. We have been exploring the methodological potential of jazz improvisation. The possible relationship between jazz improvisation and philosophical methodology arose during a discussion of Nielsen’s dissertation and her forthcoming book titled Foucault and Self-Writing: On the Art of Living as Improvisation (forthcoming, Wipf & Stock 2012.) Nielsen, who is both a philosopher and a jazz guitarist, has been writing at the intersection of music and philosophy for some time (see her “What Has Coltrane to Do With Mozart: The Dynamism and Built-in Flexibility of Music,” Expositions Vol 3 No 1 (August 2009): 57-71,) but recently jazz improvisation has begun to inform her approach to philosophical inquiry in a fresh and innovative way.

In the following interview, Nielsen explains her “improvisational approach” to philosophy, and sketches out the practical application of this approach, it benefits, and its limitations.