A few quick words: This month’s essay will be our last monthly installment. While we all enjoy producing content for you, getting these essays out the door has become something of a chore so we’re scaling back from monthly to occasional in the hopes of prioritizing quality over quantity. We would rather use the stage this podcast gives us to bring you content that feels fully fleshed out rather than just meet the deadline. Give it a chance and if we hear enough requests to bring back monthly essays we will probably oblige. There are a few other changes coming as we try to grow and tweak this little experiment. Thanks for your support and loyalty
By Vincent Lee Metal
I’m going to take a moment to break from character and explain the why and how behind the creation of the Professor Metal character and how he came to be involved in a Philosophy podcast. I hope you’ll forgive the break in the performance, but even I, great though I am, cannot be Professor Metal at all time.
Okay, so the breaking from character is off to a bad start. Still, there is a story to be told, as I have found to be the case behind so many things we see in our day to day lives.
I have worked to understand people for as long as I can remember. I started traveling just to be able to see what “over there” was like and whether or not the people were any different. I’ve seen things from a wide variety of places and perspectives within modern society, and most of the perspectives I have sought solely so that I might know what the view looks like from there. I’m not some kind of anthropologist or sociologist. I just really like to understand where other people are coming from. And from this I have figured out one important thing: Everyone likes to think that they are ultimately a good person.
Now, despite what you may think from the phrasing of that observation, I do not disagree; people are, by and large, decent enough. But even people who do more harm than good can often justify their actions well enough to fool at least themselves. And that has always made me wonder if it is possible to have the capacity for empathy AND lack the need to justify one’s actions as ultimately good.
It is worth noting that at the point in my life I started wondering about these things, I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I’m still only relatively certain. But I had neither entertained the idea of college nor even bothered completing high school. I was not unintelligent. I was just not as familiar with the ideas that had come before me. I did not even know that the thing I had been kicking around in my head had a name already: it was my first Thought Experiment. After quite a few years of wandering, I eventually settled down and decided to try my hand at school for the first time in a long time.
It turned out that my strengths were in the things I had never really had much interaction with in K-12: Political Science, Sociology, Philosophy, things what are largely mental pursuits. STEM fields always interested me, but my limited capacity for memorizing formulae and equations did me a disservice in this regard. And yet, I did relatively well in other courses of study. I met the people what would become the members of the Philosophical Chain Gang back in those days and we became fast friends, having several common interests and a tolerance for one another’s company. Then, as almost every good story about a rather radical shift in a person starts, I met Someone.
It started by learning about the things she was in to, and amongst those, the Steampunk aesthetic spoke to me quite strongly. It started with the way I dressed when going to conventions. People started asking me if I was a Steampunk character they were simply unfamiliar with or if I was an “Original Character”. Then I started dressing like that every day. It was comfortable, like the way I should have been dressing all along.
One day, at a convention, a small child walked up to me and asked me if I was a super-villain. The ideas and concepts I had once pondered as something of a leisure activity came back to me. I smiled, and told them that indeed I was. One of my friends at the convention with me told the child I was called Professor Metal. Sitting around telling stories about the Con at the end of events spawned several stories about this character that we just sort of made up on the spot. It wasn’t until several months later that this would come to be something more than jokes told in passing between people what knew each other from the various conventions, many of which I performed security duties for.
When sitting around doing concept work for what a podcast from myself and the people what would later come to be the Philosophical Chain Gang would look like, these gentlemen who had become like family to me raised the possibility of having a bit of fun with the idea of Professor Metal. I feel that for sake of giving credit where credit is due, this was not originally my idea. But the group of us picked it up and ran with it, as the idea of using me as the mediator/commentator had already been raised. I have a decent enough voice for that sort of thing and I do not have the ability to come up with well-formulated arguments as quickly as the rest of the Gang.
As we have built the podcast, we have sort of created the lore around this character, Professor Metal. He is a super villain that feels no need to defend his actions as “good”. And yet, I feel, he is ultimately not a bad person as he makes himself out to be. He doesn’t lack empathy, but neither does he feel that he is morally responsible to anyone but himself. He is a constantly evolving character, developing in ways that neither myself nor Sean, who easily does more work to make this podcast what it is than the rest of us, can foresee. It has been a great year of creating content we can be proud of; content we hope you have been enjoying if you have been with us for a while now or that you will enjoy if you are only finding us for the first time.