Revelation at the County Fair

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: Philosophy is a swamp where no boots get wet, and everyone thinks they’ve found the one yellow-brick road.

Just a note: I’ve put two more papers up in the Essay Archive. And thanks for the WordPress tips: I’ll be acting on them shortly.

Rereading my prospectus has sparked some old circuits to life, flushed blood into vestigial habits of thinking. Make no mistake: the reason I carve philosophers so much is simply because I am one.

My dissertation project was my demon for a long, long time: I kept thinking that I had caught glimpses of ways to innovate around feuds both ancient and contemporary. All I had to do was wrestle the beast to the mat. Given what I’ve learned about human cognition (the stuff they should be falling over themselves to teach in philosophy, of all places), I no longer think that’s possible. All I was doing was gaming ambiguities this way and that, asking original questions, sure, maybe, but never really coming close to any knockdown answer – just another way to pose the problematic.

Conceptual gestalt shifts intitially strike some as promising, even compelling, simply because they deliver thought to uncharted terrain. The paths you lay are bound to smack of inevitability, given your ignorance of the alternatives. But as time passes and others wander this way and that, striking off in competing directions, the terrain becomes as trammelled as a fair ground meadow, and the necessity that seemed to warrant any step this way or that begins to evaporate. Cynicism sets in, and skepticism is not long to follow, and before you know it, someone decides to raise the ferris wheel across different ground, maybe this time on the posh side of town.

Where the process can begin again.

So maybe this is why I traded it all in for a cause. There’s nothing quite like good old fashioned fear (and a healthy dollop of status anxiety) to anchor your interpretations.

A strange sensation, bumping into former fanatical versions of yourself. I see all the slo-mo smuggling, all the minor and drastic mutations, all the conceptual babies abandoned, and the new one’s born, and I think, “Ah, the Great Circus!”

So much better than the County Fair.