The Social Science Research Council has just posted on its website an interview I did with Mark Lilla, professor of humanities at Columbia and, most recently, author of The Stillborn God. We had a most pleasant conversation. In particular, I asked about his experience of the discussion about his book on the SSRC’s blog, The Immanent Frame. Lilla’s enthusiasm, hopefully, will encourage other academics to participate in discussions outside of the usual medieval media of journals, conference panels, and monographs.
How did you find your Immanent Frame experience? I enjoyed having people well known in the field responding quickly to what I wrote. What was also good is that they knew I’d get to respond to them as well. They had to develop what they thought were their strongest arguments and not make ad hominem attacks.
Was the discussion productive? Very productive, especially the exchanges with José Casanova. I saw him in Washington after our exchanges, and both of us were saying, “Isn’t it great we could do this?” He had misunderstood just what the book was about, and I had misunderstood what he was driving at. Blogging about it led to a quick, mutual clarification. A little bit of that happened with Chuck Taylor as well.