Saturday, June 10, 2006

Grad school: one year down (sort of)

Four more to go. (Or thereabouts. If my undergrad experience is any indication, it may take a wee bit longer. But I hope to be more efficient on this particular run through academia.)

The academic year had a pretty good finale. In the afternoon there was a reception for philosophy undergrads, which involved a great deal of catered food. Not many grads were around for that, but a lot of that food was still there in the common room by the time the grad student "coffee hour" came around a few hours later. The pre-existing spread was augmented by one hundred fifty wonderful dollars worth of food and drink (double the normal amount set aside for coffee hour--I guess some money was left over in the budget). Included was a beer keg. This was advertised beforehand, and for some reason attendance was heavier than usual. Good fun.

I think grad school is treating my brain pretty well so far. I learned a bunch more about Kant (I was already a fan) and Frege (he's much more important than I ever realized). I was also introduced to the very cool Wittgenstein (already kinda knew he was cool), Wilfrid Sellars (ditto), Freud (used to think he was a nut) and Kierkegaard (had no idea who he was before). I can say without hyperbole that Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein in particular have already Changed My Life in a variety of positive ways. (Philosophy is not useless. It may even be good for the soul, whatever that is.)

One class focused on some really recent philosophy of language concerning one of the Big Debates of the day. This seminar was, in the words of the prof, both "sobering" and "encouraging". He mused that there have only been about ten good arguments in the history of philosophy, with the implicature that probably none of these arguments have been made in the past five years--and yet it is still possible to have a flourishing career as a philosopher. Yay!

Summer plans include a reading group on Kierkegaard, a reading group on Hegel, and a reading group on Miscellaneous Philosophers We've Heard Are Important (maybe starting with Dewey; I'm going to push for Rorty). Later in the summer will be German lessons. Meanwhile I'll have to spit out the approximately three dozen papers that I owe profs from the courses I didn't quite complete over the past year.

(In case anyone is wondering, I will probably be spending the whole summer here in Chicago.)

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