Having written the last essay for this academic year I have been enjoying not having to be frantically busy trying to balance work and study. I spent quite a lot of time over the last month or so organising a big party in fact, which was a great deal of fun. I am heading off for a weekend away on Friday to celebrate having survived the first year of my MA. Most of all, I am enjoying going home after I finish work and not having to sit and read the works of members of the Frankfurt School. I sat and had a cup of coffee and ate several biscuits this evening safe in the knowledge that I could do that without feeling guilty that I really should be studying.
At the moment I am anxiously awaiting feedback on the term paper I submitted three weeks ago. Its not that I think I will have failed, but I so want for my writing and what I have laboured on so hard to be considered reasonable. I am genuinely concerned that I just embarass myself whenever I put pen to paper (or the digital equivalent). I find it scary to share my academic interests and insights (possibly an over optimistic description there!) with any one else. Deep down I am quite scared that I really am just stupid, arrogant and don’t have a clue what I am on about.
I went to another conference last weekend at the University of Essex entitled ‘How not to do Philosophy’. It was good and I was very glad I went. I have decided that I need to learn more about Kierkegaard now. The first keynote speaker gave a really clear presentation on dilemma in Kierkegaard’s work and it really interested me. I had already thought that I should find out more about Kierkegaard and even got as far as buying one of those OUP short introduction books. As with so many of these thoughts, however, I had not gotten round to really acting on it. Perhaps the summer is my time to try and follow up some of those half thought ideas of subjects to pursue and read around? I should make a list of them all and perhaps even post it here.
After the weekend I will spend some time thinking about what I want to achieve over the summer, while I don’t have any teaching. I already know that I want to start thinking about potential dissertation topics for next summer and do some research and reading around that. I do have a vague idea at the moment, but I don’t know how feasible it is yet.
Going back to Kierkegaard though, I was thinking about all the writers that I have heard bits and pieces about and that I want to investigate more thoroughly. It seems very, very difficult to maintain a narrow field of interest/enquiry within either philosophy or literature. In the course of trying to better understand any one idea or thinker it seems you are inevitably and inextricably drawn in the directions of related ideas and thinkers. I have long been intending to try and get some grasp of both Heidegger and Hegel (shameful that I haven’t already done so, really) and I have frequently found my previous knowledge of and interest in Kant extremely useful over the last year. But its not just the big thinkers that are useful. As I gain more background and more context, the ideas I am encountering/have encountered take on different shapes and textures and they fit together differently somehow. Something that I learned during the course of my undergraduate degree was to try not to underestimate the important of context in attempts to understand the ideas and concepts I am faced with.
I like the argument that Adorno makes that the process of thought cannot just be duplicated so that another can follow it step by step (I am thinking of somewhere in Minima Moralia, though I am sure it appears elsewhere too). He says something about the risk associated by the gaps and omissions that are necessarily left in any account of thought/thinking. That is, there is always the risk that the recipient will not make sense of what they are reading or will give up deciding it is too much like hard work. There is, however, the possibilty for far greater reward this way. Ideas that originally or conventionally seemed very distant to one another may, in fact, be shown to have an resemblance when approached from a different framework or viewpoint. That also makes me think of what I was reading about metaphorical language a few months ago, metaphor being essentially all about suggesting and highlighting resemblances (particularly novel or not widely appreciated resemblances). I suppose that is a product of how we, as human beings tend to think about and understand the world around us. We look for patterns, for resemblances and differences. Where we see those resemblances is largely down to what we are looking for. It really shouldn’t be all that surprising to me that my studies seem to be the beginning of meandering and exponentially lengthening journey through the whole history of human thought. Ultimately there is an infinite number of possible connections and intellectual leaps of thought that can be made. It feels like I can only explore such a tiny, tiny amount of what there is to be thought about. I have a slight sense of regret that I cannot possibly ever do it justice, I can barely even scratch the surface. It is also amazing and deeply inspiring that there is so much to discover.
So, in defence of my sprawling and rambly dissemination on my recent thoughts, I see the resemblances and the intellectual leaps even if no one else does. I will bravely take the risk of being understood as incompetently rambling 😉
Even now I have just re-read this post before publishing it and find myself returning to the question of the concept and its relationship to the object (that is the influence of Adorno again). I was debating what constitutes sentience with someone recently and I ended up turning the discussion towards the inadequacy of concepts. I tried to argue that the whole reason we were debating (possibly arguing) was because of both over and insufficiency in the concepts that we were both using. This which felt a little like hi-jacking the debate and it would get really irritating if I insisted on doing that regularly. However, I think it is a valid point and worth making, even if it was stretching the bounds of relevancy slightly. Or perhaps I just suffer an inability to focus sensibly on only one topic at a time?