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

Beware of Philosophers bearing Trojan Horses

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Sinon is brought to Priam, from folio 101r Roman Virgil

We witness the greatest human horror acted out for the good of an idea. Lives, societies, countries can be fractured, mutilated, deeply and inconsolably scarred by the embodiment of an idea. In turn, we worry about the harm ideas can cause. We fear they will mess with our heads, bend wills, break hearts.

So last time (excluding the special edition), when I suggested that we imitate — that is, imaginatively act out — ideas that are not our own as our own, I also acknowledged the worry that we risk being damaged, corrupted, by the bad ones. Continue reading

Special Edition: How to be a philosopher during the #Brexit fall out

The EU referendum result made me angry, very angry, anxious, uncertain, and sad, very sad. And like a great many people, I needed to express that anger, anxiety, uncertainty, and sadness loudly and viciously. No philosopher is immune to these needs, these natural feelings, and nor should we expect or demand otherwise.

As our initial shock subsides, though, I have been wondering how, in this circumstance, to be a philosopher? Now, do not confuse this with that meaningless cliche ‘I am being philosophical about it’ — this just amounts to the faux-intellectualisation of resigning yourself to the fates. Rather to seriously consider how to come to understand, act and react as a philosopher during this uncertain, over-wrought, divided time. Continue reading

The Art of Listening

We’ve all had those conversations. You know the sort. The ones where you are simply talked-at — incessantly. The talker-at only pausing for necessary bodily functions (well, we hope). And if you do manage to get that edgeways word in it is either received with eyes-glazed impatience or that faux-attention that is really only seeking a gap to recommence the talking-at.

Yet, we are all guilty of them, these conversations that amount to no conversation at all. While we are usually (excruciatingly) aware when we are being talked-at, we often fail to realise when we are doing the talking-at. Especially when it all seems so civilised, politely taking turns to talk, keeping friendly eye contact, and paying sincere attention. Your body (including your mouth) is doing all the right things, but in your head all you hear is BLAH BLAH BLAH, except perhaps the bits you want/like/agree, or the random bits that make you go WHAT?! Continue reading

My Philosopher to be

For International Women’s Day.

How To Be a Philosopher

Originally posted for World Philosophy Day (2015), but as it is about a philosop-HER, reposted for International Women’s Day (2016).

As this blog is about being a philosopher, for my World Philosophy Day special edition, I thought I would talk about the philosopher I want to be.

So far in my philosophical life I have encountered quite a few philosophers who I admire, aspire to, and have been importantly influenced by. My undergraduate lecturer and supervisor who first introduced me to my philosophical interests and loves. My graduate supervisor who manages to generally challenge, and extract my intellectual best while also being tolerant of my (many) peculiarities. My philosophy hero whose every shining idea and charismatic word I hang on like a starstruck groupie (gushing and all). In addition to these living examples there are also a number of dead philosophers whose ideas and lives have made me think hard…

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The Rights and Wrongs of Ignorance: Now the Rights

Following from last time, you will now not be surprised that I remain pretty ignorant. As I described, my schooling neglected to … well, everything. This meant I went off to university ignorant of the one required skill — how to learn.

Entering my first real institute of learning, I was a lone naturally skilled, self-taught thinker set amongst a sea of educated, trained learners. For me, it was not simply a matter of adjusting to a new learning environment and new expectations, not just the next step on a path of learning progression. I had no path. No points of reference at all. I was like Columbus off on an uncharted ocean, with only the hope of finding the East Indies before falling off the flat earth. Only I had many more naysayers and a lot less funding. Continue reading

No Arguing Here!

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This is not philosophy.

Last time we did some philosophy. (Yes, I recently posted a World Philosophy Day special edition, so keen eyed pedants counting all editions technically I am referring to the time before last. However, counting only regular editions it is rightly last time; this is what I mean when I say ‘last time’ here. Okay.)

My aim (last time) had been to show you that with a good tool (my guiding principle) and a little guidance (my blog’s aspiration) everyone is — that is, you are — capable of engaging philosophically with the ideas of philosophy, even those of its greats. Instead of just letting the ideas of such formidable thinkers simply wash over us or blindly adopting them as our own, we can all be philosophers and gain a deep and clear understanding of someone else’s thought. To my mind this is probably the greatest skill any human, let alone any philosopher, can have — to properly come to understand another human’s thought.

Also last time (re: pedants, as per above) I gave you an example of how the view of one of philosophy’s great thinkers can be questioned, along with revealing potential problems and weaknesses in his argument. I showed that the powerhouse Daniel Dennett is human too.

But I worry. Continue reading