“When they start singing – I’m out.” An interview with Markus Gabriel

Markus Gabriel during a Radboud Reflects lecture in 2019 © Ted van Aanholt

Last February, the Dutch Society for Phenomenology (recently renamed as the Dutch Society for Phenomenology and Existentialism) organized a two-day conference on phenomenology, existentialism and realism at our very own Radboud University. Keynote speaker was none other than Markus Gabriel, philosophy professor in Bonn and academic superstar among the ranks of Dennett and Žižek. By now, with his forty years, he might have lost the honorary title of being ‘the young god of German philosophy’, but his credentials are as impressive as ever: full time professor at the age of 29, visiting professor at a dozen of universities around the world (among others, UC Berkeley, the Sorbonne, and the universities of Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon, Aarhus and Venice), an extremely prolific output of more than 20 books and a never-ending list of publications, and a fluent speaker of English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish besides his native German (and yes, he can read ancient Greek, Latin, and basic Hebrew and Chinese as well). On top of that, when he is not busy flying around the world to give lectures, attending talk shows, or writing books in taxi’s and hotel rooms, he is a husband and happy father of two.

Somehow, he also managed to have some time for this interview. After a failed attempt on the night of his talk, we finally managed to steal some of his time during the lunch break of the conference. Even the gods must eat after all. What followed was a roller coaster ride of a conversation – the man talks as fast as he thinks – about the questions that keep him awake at night, his thoughts on (the end of) phenomenology and the future of New Realism, his work ethic and his future ambitions. Full of anecdotes, lots of laughter, and quotes in ancient Greek, it was certainly a memorable interview.