Thursday, November 3, 2011

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR, PEG TITTLE

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR OF "SHIT THAT PISSES ME OFF" PEG TITTLE

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Hi Peg, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I learned from your bio that you have a lot of experience in philosophy, what are some of the things you have taught and in turn what have you learned?

Mostly I’ve taught Critical Thinking and applied ethics courses -- Business Ethics, IT ethics, and Contemporary Moral Issues.

I’ve learned that thinking critically is very difficult and most people would rather not do it. Bertrand Russell’s comment comes to mind: “Most people would rather die than think, and many do so.” I put that in my CT text -- Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason -- which has just been published by Routledge for use in CT courses across the country. It’s a mandatory course at most universities and colleges in the States. I wish that were true in Canada.

Actually, I wish philosophy were taught in the high schools, like it is in Britain. We are so behind in that respect. I read Sophie’s World which was written by a Norwegian and thought it really odd because the philosophy was at a first-year university level, but the character and story was geared for young adult. I later found out that since philosophy is taught in the lower grades, most young adults in Europe, or at least in Scandinavia and Britain, are at our first-year level in philosophy. Puts us to shame.

And rightly so. It’s appalling that we don’t teach our teenagers how to think critically and how to determine right and wrong. And these are the fundamentals of philosophy. Most people don’t get that. They think philosophy is all about esoteric woolly and totally irrelevant birdbrain stuff. Couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, some philosophy is like that. But mostly philosophy is all about getting to the root of things; it’s about thinking clearly and coherently about – everything. Philosophy is the discipline that asks why. Which is far more basic and important than when, where, who, what, and even how most of the time. Which is what all the other disciplines deal with. (I’m speaking very generally of course and the historians and sociologists and chemists out there will fume, rightly insisting they too ask why…)


You have written several other books that deal in philosophical thought, tell us more about those books and where we can find them.

What If…Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy is a handy little collection of the classic thought experiments with a one-page explanation of the point of it. For example, here’s one pulled at random:
Imagine a space traveler who lands on an unknown planet and encounters a race of beings utterly unlike any he has ever seen or heard of. If he wants to be sure of behaving morally toward these beings, he has to somehow decide whether they are people, and hence have full moral rights, or whether they are the sort of thing which he need not feel guilty about treating as, for example, a source of food. How should he go about making this decision?

There’s also Ethical Issues in Business: Inquiries, Cases, and Readings. The essays in there are getting dated, but the introduction is still quite good (if I do say so myself!). There are a lot of business ethics profs who just make that intro part of their coursepack.

And there’s Should Parents be Licensed: Debating the Issues. That’s the most controversial, of course. I did several radio talk shows when it came out – very exciting stuff. And still, very important stuff! I mean, really, you need a license to fix someone’s toilet, but not to turn a baby into a mature human being. And if you want to adopt, you have to meet all sorts of qualifications, but if you want to raise a kid who’s your own DNA, you don’t have to be qualified at all. Where’s the logic in that?

Quickest way to find them is go to my website (www.pegtittle.com) and click on the cover, then to the purchase link. But I think they’re all available at all the usual online stores – Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and so on. Though Shit that Pisses Me Off is also available at smashwords. And it's only $2.99, whereas the others are considerably more, being print books published by big publishers...


When did you decide that philosophy was something you wanted to pursue?

Grade eleven. I remember the moment well. One of the topics we could choose for our essay in History was the continuity from Socrates to Plato to Aristotle. I’d heard of these people and had this idea they were wise. Worthy. Important. Anyway, I chose that topic and over the course of a weekend, submerging myself in the assignment, surrounding myself with books, I realized that’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: just read, write, and think.


Tell us more about your book, "Shit That Pisses Me Off" and what was the drive behind it.

The ‘drive’ was all the shit that pisses me off!! There are just so many things people say and do and believe that don’t make any sense at all. And worse, they harm other people, those not-a-leg-to-stand-on beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors affect other people in really serious ways. And that pisses me off! We have a moral obligation to think about what we do. Everything. From calling each other ‘Ms.’ and ‘Mr.’ – which is essentially calling each other uterus-person and penis-person – and how awful is that? What does it say that we divide and label people according to their sex, all the time, before we do anything else – we consider it polite for pete’s sake!! To casual day at the office – why does our boss have the right to tell us what we can and can’t wear? When it has nothing to do with our job performance? To – oh well, you get the point. There’s so much. The weather report. Women’s fiction (so-called). Jury duty. Hockey brawls. There’s 25 in all in the book.

You've also done a lot of work such as serving on the ethics committee of the North Bay General Hospital and working in many positions such as mental health, detention centers, women's shelters and even a small newspaper, can you elaborate on some of these positions and tell us some of the things you encountered while there?

Way too much to say here. Unfortunately, most of my experiences were frustrating. I’d like to be able to say they were fulfilling jobs and I made a difference. But they were not. And I didn’t.

Tell us about your screenplays you have written and what they were about.

Well, I won’t go into detail about all of them. Short synopses are available at my website (www.pegtittle.com). But I will mention two of them. “Exile” was motivated by a kind of person I’ve met all my life (I think we all have) who seem to think life is a free ride, people who are the first to harp about their rights and never once mention their attendant responsibilities. And by (philosopher) Rousseau’s notion of the social contract. I postulate a very near future in which this is the three-strike law: first crime, you get rehab – help, a second chance; second crime, you get prison – punishment pure and simple; third crime, you’re simply kicked out, permanently exiled to a designated remote area, to fend for yourself without the benefits of society – if you don’t accept the rules of our society, fine, go somewhere else and live, make your own society (if you can).

“What Happened to Tom” was motivated by (philosopher) Judith Jarvis Thomson’s famous thought experiment, “The Violinist”. This guy wakes up to find his body’s been hijacked and turned into a human kidney dialysis machine – for nine months. It’s an allegory, of course, for forced pregnancy (aka, inability to obtain contraception or abortion). I think, lamentably, that men in particular don’t get it; they think getting pregnant, having to stay pregnant, is no big deal, when in fact it is life-altering. Literally. So the story shows Tom’s life unraveling in a big, and permanent, way. All because of this one event, this unintended, unwanted, event. (That could have been prevented.)

Both screenplays have placed in competitions, though neither has been optioned, so I’m hopeful about the novelized versions.

What is your next big project and when can we expect to see it out?

More Shit that Pisses Me Off. Expect it in the new year.

Have you ever thought about writing in other genres perhaps fiction of some kind?

I have thought about it, but I think I’m more comfortable with non-fiction; I like critical commentary more than I like plot, characters, setting, and so forth.

That said, I am thinking of turning the two screenplays mentioned above into novels.

What is the one thing you are most thankful for in your life?

Hm. Just one thing? A body, complete with brain, that works well.

Do you have any advice you'd like to give other authors?

Think. About everything.


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