I have never bumped into Tim Maudlin, but I have felt his gravitational tug. A Reddit discussion of “heavy hitters in philosophy” called Maudlin “probably the most influential person in philosophy of physics.” Someone chimed in that Maudlin, whose books include The Metaphysics Within Physics and Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity, is “without a doubt an intellectual beast.” Maudlin impresses even science writer Jim Holt, not an easy feat. When I asked Holt “What’s your utopia?” he replied “arguing eternally about gauge theory” with Maudlin and a few other pals. To get a sense of Maudlin’s style, read “The Defeat of Reason,” an essay that covers truth, quantum mechanics, Einstein, Bohr, Bohm, Kant and Kuhn. It ends by suggesting that we “shorten the dignified designation Homo sapiens to the pithier and more accurate Homo sap.” Ouch.
Maudlin and I crossed paths online after I posted an old profile of Karl Popper, in which I poke fun at the philosopher and his formidable housekeeper, Mrs. Mew. Maudlin commented on Facebook that he couldn’t decide who was more obnoxious: Karl Popper, Mrs. Mew or John Horgan. That made me smile. I emailed Maudlin, and he agreed to answer some questions. The timing was fortuitous, because Maudlin, as he details below, is creating a philosophical mini-utopia. Maudlin also vigorously defends philosophy against ignoramuses who ask, Why do we need philosophy?