Sunday, August 24, 2008

They're God Damned Sophists

φιλοσοφία is not the articulation of a desire to earn money and fame through publishing works and amassing journal articles. Philosophía is not subject to some social system or departmental union of hapless layabouts attempting to amass funds. Philosophy, love of wisdom, love of knowledge, is not some half-hearted endeavor meant to serve as a distraction while one mucks about attempting to live one's life and have a good time at a bar. Philosophy is that act of engaging with reality and discerning truth and knowledge and wisdom.

Which does not appear to be what Graduate School is. Grad School is a collection of Sophists doing the exact same mundane, opportunistic, money driven bullshit that the sophists of antiquity did.

Sure, philosophy is there, kind of, suppressed into the background by due dates and grading hierarchies and class schedules. A brief glimmer of philosophy may appear within the designated time frame of a class. Philosophy, as a thing, in this metaphor, can occasionally be seen struggling against the tide of everyday activities. But philosophy is not what this place is about. It's not the primary drive. This is just another system. This is just another mundane actualization of self-preservation maintained by beings incapable of manual labor.

In the Emendation of the Intellect Spinoza wrote:
So I wondered whether perhaps it would be possible to reach my new goal-or at least the certainty of attaining it-without changing the conduct and plan of life which I shared with other men. Often I tried this, but in vain. For most things which present themselves in life, and which, to judge from their actions, men think to be the highest good, may be reduced to these three: wealth, honor, and sensual pleasure. The mind is so distracted by these three that it cannot give the slightest thought to any other good.

The point being, of course, that to engage in philosophy one must abandon all of that other shit. To pursue knowledge and wisdom one must abandon those fabricated sorts of "knowledge" and "wisdom" propagated by society. To actually be philosophers we can't be concerned with our department's funding, the readership of our newsletter, or introductory picnics meant to foster a welcoming social atmosphere.

Yes, to be beings concerned with our own self-preservation and social, financial means we must be concerned with those components of the grand social fabrication which foster development in those arenas. To increase funding we must jump through those hoops. To have a keen social life we have to maintain and foster those relationship by jumping through those hoops. To maintain our existence we must jump through those hoops.

But in the effort to do philosophy; in that effort to pursue and find truth, knowledge, and wisdom? Those hoops are hindrances; they do not behoove us.

So when you observe these people with their families and their children and their friends you start to wonder why they're here; why they're maintaining the position that they are philosophers when, obviously, they are not.

And the answer really does little more than fill one with an inconsolable rage.


Caleb said...

μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Ααμμηνϊάδεω Ιῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί' Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε' ἔθηκεν

Sing, goddess, the rage of Jay the son of Hamman,
the destructive rage that sent countless ills on the Achaeans...

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