#IWD2019: Philosophy please choose LOVE

I am bereft.

Philosophy is as war. Philosophers I know, respect, love are battling it out. Not the familiar ugly clashes that heighten the discomfort of ill-fitting furnishings in the cloisters of academia, but on Twitter.

I care deeply about the issue at hand. It cuts to the core of who we are and how we understand ourselves, and it appears to be carving up feminism to do so. I have nothing to say about the issue, except to express my grief. Here, instead, I wish to offer proper care to the way that the issue is being played out.

This is war. There are sides. They have been given names. The sort that bludgeon and lacerate when you call them out. Especially with the dually blunt and barbed weapon that is a tweet. The aim is to win. The blind striving to be named on the right side of (popular?) history.

‘Too right,’ you say, ‘the sakes are high.’ To this I say, ‘yes they are, but, way too high for war.’

In war the only option is to defend your side at all costs against the enemy. Where your side is necessarily fixed, lest you be a traitor; and set hard against enemy lines, lest you be thrown into no-man’s land. You are your allegiance, the name that you have been given, ’til death.

In this — a war of words, ideology, dogma, tweets — the loudest, the sharpest, and the fiercest advance. Uncompromising consistency and savage wit fortify. You live or die by your un-editable mis-speak. There is no territory to make mistakes, to be mistaken, nor to learn from it. There is no listening, no imagining, no love. There is no UNDERSTANDING.

‘No wonder,’ you repeat ‘the stakes are so high.’ Again I say, ‘indeed, but the sakes are way too high for all this.’

For these stakes are women. And we deserve so much more than war. We deserve to think, to question, to bend, to breathe, to falter, to be fully human, to be heard, to be seen. Not as history repeats immemorial that we be reduced to our given name.

So for this International Women’s Day I ask you (all people) to take the time to recall your own deep wounds (we all have them), the stultifying pain, the explosive rage. Then imagine those same feelings are the ones that are being felt and expressed by your so-called enemies. Your imagination lit with these empathetic feelings, seek out the women in your life (friend or foe, close and distant) and offer them the greatest and hardest of all things, that is, to listen with an open heart. Not to placate, not to vindicate, but to really see, to love.


Time to Walk the Walk (3rd Anniversary Edition)

So it is three years, today, since I started this blog. To talk the talk of philosophical practice. Hurrah! Now, as of today, I am contractually obliged to start to walk the walk. To teach, explore, discover, assess, reflect on philosophy as a practice across its history and traditions with real live university students. Ahh!

After a very long stretch of climbing the shit mountain (some of which is described in the last edition), now quite to my surprise and relief I have scored not one but two academic philosophy jobs at two universities. Taken together they pretty much make one academic job; this cobbling together of part-time gigs, often at multiple institutions, is the current (problematic) usual for early career academics. But, what is unusual in my case, is that I have managed to get any job at all (let alone two!) while inhabiting the commonly maligned no-person’s land of major thesis corrections — completed, submitted, viva’d, still not yet awarded the PhD, more than student less than Doctor. Surprisingly,  too, is that the two institutions are actually near each other, and both are prepared to accommodate my commitments to the other.

For one of these gigs I am promoted to course lecturer/instructor. Although quite an experienced undergraduate teacher, it will be the first time I do and am all the things, with that comes great freedoms but also great swathes of institutional policies to abide by.

The great freedom (perhaps liberty) I have taken is to combine my expertise in history of philosophy (see A Divine Orgasm? for a taste of my research and here for my academic profile) with my interest in philosophical practice (explored throughout this blog) to create my dream course. For ‘Great Works in Philosophy’ I am tracing the changing and varied views on what constitutes philosophy and its relevant practices, through as large a variety of voices and traditions as can be possibly fit (jammed) into a 12 week introductory course.

I shall ask my students, these burgeoning philosophers, to seriously think about what philosophy is and how to be a philosopher via some of the greats. It will, of course, include Socrates’ method, Plato’s dialogues, Descartes’ armchair, Locke’s empirics, Kant’s whatever Kant does; but also, Elizabeth and Masham’s letters, and Astell’s proposal, Confucius’ ritual, Averroes’ commentary, Augustine and Hildegard’s illuminations. The program also invites us to go on philosophy adventures. Thus, we shall observe the paintings of the Romantics then attempt to produce our own masterpieces to explore Schiller’s idea of philosophy as artistic self creation. And meditate with a Buddhist monk and teacher to contemplate philosophical self and emptiness.

If you are interested, an outline of the syllabus is available here.

I am truly grateful to have this opportunity. To walk the philosophical life and share a glimpse of it with others, who perhaps, might even begin to walk it for themselves. What a way to celebrate How to be a Philosopher’s third anniversary.

P.S. I hope to give the regular blog a reboot, so fingers crossed, a new edition will be coming to you next month.

#IWD2018: How to be this PhilosopHER

I have been effectively homeless for about 10 months now. The only reason I have not been literally homeless is due to the generosity of my friends. I am deeply grateful for their gifts. Nevertheless, I lack home in the essential senses of permanence, security, mine.

My homelessness is the direct outcome of my husband leaving me. I understand his reasons. For you to understand them is his story to tell. But this is not about him. This is not about any one of the men, who without malice nor intent have done me great harm by wielding power over me that they deny that they possess. This is not even about the institutionalised, internalised, implicit biases of Man. This is about this philosopHER. I am her. Continue reading

A Divine Orgasm? How to be a Philosopher celebrates turning two

Well, as regular readers may have noticed, this Philosopher has been on blog hiatus so she can get her PhD written. But today I have put a pause on the thesis-ing to do a bit of blogging to celebrate the second birthday of How to be a Philosopher!

Since I really can’t escape my thesis at the moment, I thought I would deviate from talking about philosophical practice and tell you about some philosophical content. You guessed it, my thesis. Definitely not my academic pitch, the ‘thesis of my thesis’ for fellow philosophers, but the after a pint or three in the pub ‘well you asked for it’ random punter pitch. Continue reading

It only really happens when you don’t realise…

An odd thing happened when I reached university. I automatically became an ignorant, racist, homophobe — well, at least in the eyes of my fellow newly acquainted middle-class, liberal, southern state first years. All because I came from rural Queensland (i.e., Australia’s version of the UK’s up north or the US’s deep south, etc).

No doubt I was ignorant when I arrived at university. I have said so previously. However, I was not completely unsophisticated, which is what they meant. I might not have been on a school trip to Europe, but I could still easily point it out on a map. Wow, I even knew it was a continent not a country. Similarly, I was bemused (and quietly amused) that their exclusive institutions necessarily made these homogeneously white north shore Sydneyites (and Melbourne’s equivalent) better educated on Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island peoples, when I had actually met some, even went to school with a couple. I was also well aware of the consequences for my grandparents when they arrived off the boat as the wrong sort of immigrants. While, I remain deeply saddened that the unwavering belief of my supposedly inherent prejudice was cause for a couple of my closest friends to push me away when they came out, despite our favourite local club being the gay bar.

Nevertheless, it is true that I grew up amongst such prejudices. I even learnt to harbour some of them — what child doesn’t? Importantly, though, I unlearnt them, too. Continue reading

The Best Worst Mistakes of my Life

I cocked-up my Cambridge interview. You know the ones (no, I didn’t either) where candidates who look good enough on paper (in my case, for a philosophy Masters) need to also look good enough in person. Well, having long harboured (completely unfounded) aspirations to attend ‘Oxbridge’ this Aussie country kid was about to come good and she cocked it up — possibly my worst error of judgment in my academic philosophy education.

Lucky. Continue reading

Special Edition: How to be a Philosopher when the world no longer has room for you

Well, ‘the argument from conspiracy’ won out. The United States have elected a President who grounded a whole campaign on it, and won. The bullshit won.

The Oxford Dictionary marks ‘post-truth’ as the international word of the year. And that does appear to be the world we live in now.

Anger, fear, and sadness are dominant. As the world deepens the chasm between the fearfully bereft and uncompromisingly self-righteous, it simply cannot stop shouting. Continue reading

Who needs an expert, anyway?

So the headlines tell us we are living in a post-fact world. And the expert is declared — DEAD.

We are witnessing, what I like to call, the ‘argument from conspiracy’ rapidly shift from the domain of crackpots and closet bigots to the dominant (i.e., loudest) mainstream position. This argument assumes that a conspiracy — some clandestine, usually nefarious, ulterior motive — underlies claims of fact, especially those facts that undermine the assumed conspiracy, or oppose claims consistent with it. It follows that no such fact is to be trusted, nor the source of that fact trustworthy.

At its most extreme, no fact is indeed fact. ‘It’s all a cover up!’ Hence, we are now post-fact, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

The basic argument from conspiracy is: Continue reading

I don’t know anything about … but I know what I like

We’ve all heard it said, probably confidently announced it ourselves. It usually crops up when we are talking about things like art, music, wine. That definitive proclamation

‘I don’t know anything about [insert particular thing] but I know what I like!’

Often followed by an emphatic ‘And I know I don’t like that!’ Typically whilst aggressively pointing at some divisive piece of contemporary art, avant-garde music, or expensive wine. Continue reading