Actual Wisdom: Achille Varzi

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Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: If I didn’t exist, neither would you (strictly speaking). It’s all closely connected, you know…

Claim to fame: Apart from being the best cigarette roller in the Northern hemisphere? I don’t think I have any claim to fame, though I fear people will remember me as the guy who went on prime-time TV during the infamous 2000 Florida Election Dispute to explain (unsuccessfully) the metaphysics of holes to the manual recount Canvassing Board.

What’s your most valuable or unexpected college experience? Finding out that I wasn’t as smart as I thought. It happened several times. Painful, but very healthy.

Back in my day… People were still using the old card catalog in Butler Library, Room 310. Obviously CLIO is much better. But I loved that room, those little drawers, those old typewritten cards, and the thought that they had been browsed through by thousands of people before me. I also loved spending hours in the alcoves nearby. Now I just do everything online. It’s comfortable and efficient, but not as intellectually romantic.

What’s the craziest student excuse/extension story you’ve heard? “This argument is valid. Therefore, you will grant me an extension.” Paradoxical, but almost perfect, as all logic students will appreciate. Unfortunately it prompts the reply: “This argument is valid. Therefore, you won’t get any extension.”

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Are you serious? Cheese, of course. On the other hand, you tell me what’s wrong (but not paradoxical) with the following reasoning: Cheese is better than nothing. Nothing is better than (oral) sex. Therefore, cheese is better than (oral) sex. By transitivity.

Three things you learned at Columbia:

  1. Nothing ever gets fixed permanently.
  2. Commencement really is just the beginning.
  3. The hardest thing to teach is the difference between “if” and “only if”.

What’s your advice to students/academics/the human race in general? Just remember this: You may not be what you could have been, but you can still be what you are not.

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  1. Honored student.  

    Professor Varzi is an incredibly entertaining teacher. Take his class if you can!

    Thank you, Professor Varzi, for the privilege of being your student!

  2. This guy....  

    is a motherfucking boss. First day of class, he writes his name on the board and spells it wrong. I was thinking, "This guy is either the worse professor ever or a complete and utter genius." Turned out to be the latter. It really is an honor to be Varzi's student.

  3. Hands Down  

    The classiest cheese/oral sex reasoning I've seen in either Senior or Actual Wisdom.

  4. transitivity

    Varzi is the love of my philosophical/mathematical life. So much respect for his oral sex/cheese answer.

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