Sean Carroll is the uber-chillin’ philosophical physicist who investigates how the preposterous universe works at a deep level, who thinks spats between physics and philosophy are silly, who thinks a wise philosopher will always be willing to learn from discoveries of science, who asks how we are to live if there is no God, who is comfortable with naturalism and physicalism, who thinks emergentism central, that freewill is a crucial part of our best higher-level vocabulary, that there aren’t multiple levels of reality, which is quantum based not relativity based, is a cheerful realist, disagrees with Tim Maudlin about wave functions and Craig Callender about multiverses, worries about pseudo-scientific ideas and that the notion of ‘domains of applicability’ is lamentably under-appreciated. Stellar!
3am: You’re a physicist with philosophical interests and skill. How did this begin?
Sean Carroll: My own interests in physics and philosophy certainly stem from a common origin – I’m curious about how the world works at a deep level. I got interested in physics at a fairly young age, reading books from the local public library about relativity and particle physics. I didn’t discover philosophy in any serious way until I went to college. It was a good Catholic school (Villanova), at which every arts & sciences major was required to take three semesters of philosophy (as well as three semesters of religious studies, which could be fairly philosophical if you took the right courses). I really enjoyed it and ended up getting a philosophy minor. As a grad student in astrophysics at Harvard, I sat in on courses with John Rawls and Robert Nozick. Rawls in particular was a great person to talk to, although we almost never discussed philosophy because he had so many questions about physics and cosmology.