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This month, we sit down with Agnes Callard (University of Chicago) to talk about aspiration. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Have you ever wanted to get into something? Maybe you find it really boring to sit through an opera right now, but you think you might be missing something and want to learn how to appreciate opera. Or maybe you don’t know anything about how to play football, but you’d really like to learn. In this episode, Agnes Callard argues that both examples are cases of having one set of values, wanting to have a different set of values, and going through the long process of revising the values you’re living according to. You don’t currently know anything about what makes a great opera great, but you hope that after this process is over, you’ll be able to just see it. And you don’t know what being an athlete fully involves, but you want to be in a position where you can truly recognize what makes a great play worthy of admiration.

Our guest argues that during this process, you partially understand the value that you eventually want to fully understand. This raises a bit of a philosophical puzzle, because if the thing you want to value is something you don’t yet value, then what’s the basis for you wanting it? You don’t fully value it yet–you currently value other things. And yet, we seem to be able to teach ourselves to live under new value systems in this way.

Join us as Agnes Callard explains how to sort through all of these difficulties in a systematic manner. Maybe you’ll learn why you always wanted to get into abstract expressionism but never could!

Matt Teichman