Among all of the conferences that I have attended or presented at, Kent State’s Graduate Philosophy Conference was the most professionally done of the bunch. I think the reputation of this conference is growing, based on the quality of the papers presented (and from the number I heard that were submitted) and representatives present from top school; this year there were two Harvard students and one Oxford student presenting, along with some of the most creative philosophers-in-training from the American West to East Coast, California to New York, as it were. For anyone looking a good and productive venue to make intellectual progress, I strongly suggest submitting to this conference in the future. Continue reading
An immediate response to the title is: Do we need yet another history of philosophy? Anyone vaguely familiar with their local library’s selections and new arrivals will have seen half a dozen such histories, ostensibly, at least. For example, Anthony Kenny has recently put out a set of volumes, and there has even been the instantiation of a very ambitious attempt at a “History of Philosophy without Any Gaps” by Adamson. Go beyond that, and there are more or less scholarly compilations by Bertrand Russell (much less), Frederick Copleston (more), and Will Durant (less). Smaller chunks of history have been, in some respects, very competently done. I stress the qualifier “in some respects,” a great example being A History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages by Etienne Gilson, which beautifully ties together a number of the ideas with theirs sources (and the relation of the ideas) and philosophers to their intellectual forbearers and inspirations. However, that work fails as a history qua history. Continue reading
I was rereading Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning the other day, and it resonated with me much more so than when I read it in 2007. I suspect part of this has to do with the fact that I was studying physics at the time, and, by now, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in philosophy departments and at workshops/conferences/get-togethers with graduate students in philosophy. In the introduction, in addition to recounting some of his experiences as a young chess sensation —perpetually the highest rated chess player in his age group from the very beginning—, he talks about his experiences in Columbia University’s philosophy department from his days as an undergraduate student. His discussion includes the frustration of having to deal with philosophers (i.e., philosophy professors) who constantly deride certain ideas, take on a smug countenance when presented with difficult to verbalize ideas, and switch to a mode of think that is anything like serious whenever faced with an idea that is not easily resolvable in focus, especially vague terms, terms that are moderately or extremely mystical, Eastern in philosophical disposition, and so on. Waitzkin says, ‘Whenever I had an idea, I would test it against some brilliant professor who usually disagreed with my conclusions. Academic minds tend to be impatient with abstract language— when I spoke of intuition, one philosophy professor rolled her eyes and told me the term had no meaning’ (p. xvi). This is the thing that bothers me about the circles I have roamed in, to this point, and maybe things are different in different departments, but I my experience corresponds to this. The student of philosophy very quickly learns what cannot be said around the tenured professors. Admirably, and no doubt partly due to his undergraduate naivety and partly due to his willfull nature, Waitzkin didn’t seem to go down without a fight when such instances arose.
The discipline of philosophy is something to be held inviolate; the classroom likewise. One might be inclined to ask, what is the function of teaching provocative material to an introductory level philosophy class? There wouldn’t be, if the material didn’t have philosophical import. If the material does have philosophical import, then why chose, at the very least, something that is provocative? One important quality that philosophy is supposed to instill in intellectual thought, itself, is a dispassionate nature, whether in judgment or analysis. Continue reading
A little bit unusual for my blog, I am posting a personal update, which may interest various people for various reasons. This next year should be a rather interesting year in my intellectual development: I have taken a post as adjunct professor of philosophy at one of the United States’ largest community college, the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, PA —a seven-campus college. I will be at the main campus, the Allegheny Campus. Since Indiana University’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science doesn’t grant undergraduate degrees, teaching assignments for graduate students are scarce with so few in-department undergraduate courses, especially for grads in their first two years, I felt it important that I find and take on, at the very least, a one-year appointment as a lecturer, hence the desire to take on an adjunct professorship. Teaching is an important part of the academician’s craft as a whole. Continue reading
Since I have spent the summer studying mathematics at Harvard University with Jameel Al-Aidroos (Ph.D Berkeley), expect that my next few posts, or at least some of them, will be on topics related to mathematics. I want to take some time, in this blog post, to look at where mathematical thought fits into some of my understandings of I have gleaned from studying the history of science. The upshot of the historical, philosophical, and mathematical content and musings will be pedagogical, just to give the reader some idea of where I am going. An important thing to understand, before reading this post, is the distinction between pure and applied mathematics. “Pure mathematics,” as opposed to “applied mathematics,” is, in its essence, math for its own sake, entirely apart from possible applications. In many cases, pure mathematics initially has no known application. Additionally, pure mathematics deals with abstract entities that have been detached from particular entities —and this will prove to be important to what I will say later.