The Next Chapter

Mark Kingwell takes the Proust Questionnaire

The philosophy professor and writer talks about baseball, his sneaker collection and his greatest fear.
Mark Kingwell is a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto. (Claire McNamee)

Mark Kingwell is a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto. He's also a bestselling author. His latest book, Fail Better: Why Baseball Matters, is a philosophical memoir that explores failure and life through the game of baseball. 

Below, Kingwell takes The Next Chapter's version of the Proust Questionnaire. 

What is your favourite occupation?

I think I already have the best job in the world as a philosophy professor who gets to write books. But I imagine wanting to be something else and lately that's been a baseball manager. I want to do something where you can stand around and not really have to decide anything for a long time. Basically once the game starts, don't twiddle the knobs at all. 

What is your greatest fear?

Success. It comes with costs and expectations. I know a lot of people say failure. But it seems to me that success is much more difficult to deal with than failure. 

What is your greatest extravagance?

My art collection. Also I would have to say, and this might be embarrassing, my collection of sneakers. I started wearing sneakers pretty much every day after I decided to stop wearing suits every day. I wore suits every day for about 10 years. I got tired of it and in academic life I don't need to wear suits. I started wearing jeans and T-shirts and sneakers again. Then, because I had some disposable income, I just started buying sneakers that appealed to me. I have a collection of about 50 pairs. What I'm wearing right now are some awesome "Shell-toe" Adidas Superstars with blue and green stripes.

What is your greatest achievement?

My PhD. It took me four years to finish my PhD. I remember the feeling vividly, when I finished and defended successfully, that a lot of things in life are fragile and contingent. But that's something they'll never be able to take away from me. 

Mark Kingwell's comments have been edited and condensed.