Dan Mohlers is a professor of philosophy at Rutgers University.
His book Thesis of a Year is a collection of essays on philosophy, and he teaches philosophy at New York University.
I spoke with Mohler by phone about how he wrote his book and what he’s learned since then.VICE: What was the impetus behind writing Thesis?
Mohler says the book’s origins are rooted in the idea that the universe has a finite amount of time, which he attributes to his atheism.
“My whole approach to philosophy is that the way you know is by what you think about the world, and if you think the world’s finite, you’re going to think that’s the way it should be,” he says.
“So the world is just a bunch of things that happen to us and happen to people, and so that’s what you have to believe in to know how the world works.”
The idea for Thesis began in the fall of 2009, when I was reading a lot of Nietzsche.
I was thinking that it’s the very same thing I think I’m about to say: that the world has finite resources.
The world is finite in the sense that it is finite for me.
And I thought, What if I could say this is the way that I think?
This is what I’m saying about this finite world, this finite universe?
And then I started thinking about what is finite.
I said, Well, it’s finite in that it doesn’t really have a beginning.
And then I thought about this idea that there are only two things that are finite: existence and nonexistence.
So if there are two things there, they’re either the same thing or they’re different things, so they don’t have a difference, and they have a continuum, and then it’s just the continuum of all the things that exist, which is finite as well.
And so I started to think about what it is that is infinite, and that was my starting point.
And that’s how I thought I started the book.
Then, one year ago, I thought: There are finite things that do exist, and there are infinite things that don’t exist, so we have infinite time, and we have finite space.
And there are finite states of being, and I said to myself, Well there are also infinite ways to be finite.
So that’s my starting premise.
And the idea for that is that there’s infinite possibility in all of these things that you can think about, and you can look at all of them and see what’s the one that’s best, or what’s most possible, or how it could work best for you, or maybe the best thing you can do, or whatever.
And if you look at those possibilities and you see what makes you think they’re best, you can say, That’s the best possible, and maybe the most optimal way to do it, and this is how I’ve come to think.
And it’s also the best way to understand what you’re doing, so that you’re thinking in the most accurate way possible.
And that’s where I’m going with this book.
I don’t think there’s one answer to everything, but I think the whole book is about thinking about infinity.
I started thinking that when I saw the world was finite, it seemed to me like I was a very limited thinker.
And you’re in the same situation as I am.
And at the same time, I have the power of infinity, and the ability to change the world.
I have to choose to do what I think is best for the world in a way that is the most useful to the world that it can be to change that world, because I can’t make the world better if it’s still finite.
And even though the world exists, I still have that power.
And this is what makes me a better thinker.
I think there are three ways that I can look to think more intelligently.
I could look to what we call knowledge.
And here I’m thinking of what we use in our everyday lives to make sense of things.
So we look at things.
We see things.
And we think, I don of know what it’s about this that makes this something good or this that’s good, or this is not good.
I think we think of these, you know, we know what this is, this is good, but what can I do to make this better?
Or what should I do?
So I think there might be three kinds of knowledge, and one is what we can know.
So for instance, I think of this as this is a good thing, and it’s good because I have this power of knowing this, but then I’m trying to use that knowledge in ways that make it good for the people around me.
Or maybe I think that it would be better for me to know that this is an unhealthy thing, because it’s bad for me, but that’s another