Thursday, September 12, 2013

Only Ten Theses in Response to a Friend

1. A course of study should have a purpose intrinsic to that course of study, ie. should be undertaken for its own sake. One should not get a PhD just so that one can speak into special societies. To do so only degrades the area of study. (The opposite of this principle is exemplified by 'teachers colleges' and 'leadership' programs, which have no content but merely teach teaching.)

2. An argument or idea ought not be judged as "2 bit" because it does not carry the authentication that only a PhD can grant. Such types of guarantees of quality are only popular because we are so alienated from each other and ourselves that we can no longer discern if an argument is sound or judge the author on our own.

3. We are taught (in school) that we can only learn in schools.

4. We are told (by members of professional guilds) that we should only consume media vetted by professional guilds.

5. We (the masses) are conditioned to think, in various institutions, that institutions are fountains of power, when, on the contrary, institutions rely on the masses to grant them power.

6. Every week, I see another post/share on social media extolling the value of degrees in the humanities, which I assume were all posted/shared by a person with/pursuing a degree in the humanities. Such posts only reveal the time that persons with humanities degrees spend writing and sharing posts which extol the value of their (apparently devalued) degrees.

7. When people say "I am called by God to academia", they should know that they sound like people who might say that they are "called" to be president or to play professional sports. It is possible to serve academics without being an academic; it may even be easier that way. The story of Joseph is not about you.

8. People who get PhD's (in the humanities) now are entering a market that is already in decline and becoming vampiric. The stakeholders must sell the stock to the younger generation in order to secure their jobs/incomes. This behavior started to stink when I was in school, and I can only imagine that it is really reeking now. What lies are those getting PhD's currently willing to tell impressionable freshmen in order to get them to change their majors to philosophy? Do we just assume that everyone is going to have to pursue a graduate degree and that their undergraduate major no longer matters professionally? Do we overlook the rather obvious conflict of interest that betrays the altruism of such humanitarianism (pun intended)?

9. That you are paying for the privilege of reading a book does not make a book more readily read. That you are paying someone to read your reflections on said book does not, of itself, make your work better. I didn't pay you to read this, after all, and I still have no guarantees that you're going to make me a better thinker. Would this change if I paid you; if I introduced money into it? The values of the university are contingent. We must examine whether or not there is an "if" from which the "then" follows, and only upon that basis can we say that a PhD is not just so much pissing in the wind. You can pay a rock for water, but that doesn't make it a fountain.

10. A true teacher needs no accreditation (indeed, he will get none). His lessons are always rigorous, and his tuition is always free (which is to say, he does not gather power but makes his way by empowering the powerless, making him less than useless to the powers).

(if you desire context:

1 comment:

Matthew Grant McDaniel said...

Your words are like gold, brother. Sometimes I think I write things with a subconscious goal to get this kind of response out of you, because I know I need to hear it.

1. I studied the history of ideas because I love them. My inability to find a discipline to do the same at the PhD level was a realization I came to grips with very recently.

2. That arguments ought to stand on their own merits is among my strongest convictions. But of what use are good arguments when no one hears them? Or takes them seriously because of their fallacious appeal to authority? I don't want the truth I bear to be unnecessarily obfuscated. I don't want to hide my light under a bushel.

3. I'm already with you here. I'm much more comfortable and confident in the prospect of self-educating, now.

4. I wish I could wrap up Smith's point into that neat charge of circularity. But I think there's something to be said for being among a community of thinkers to sharpen each other. I have been dull without sparring with you and the twins, for example.

5. Note that my argument for academia-as-community does not explicitly or implicitly support 'institutions' so described. Just like a church is its people and not its building, so too the vision of the academy is its scholars, not its institutions.

6. This was brilliant and incisive, if not a bit of the old self-referential hat trick (the same one employed so often against relativism). But still true.

7. This was actually two points for the price of one. a) That was why I refrained from language around 'calling' and will be better addressed as I reply to Dr. Percer. b) I honestly don't see how I can serve academics if they won't accept me into the community. And anyway, my goal is not even to serve them. I want to serve the people they ignore and forget about. I just want the resources of the academy to do it. Like Robin Hood for idea sharing.

8. I felt this same cannibalistic cycle coming, and I think this is the missing piece of my critique of the prospects for the PhD in potentia. Degree inflation brings me to despair, and admittedly is a driver for my continued desire to get the PhD while I can, before my M.A. is even more worthless than I already feel it is.

9. Spoken like a true Socrates. This the same thing, no? We're still dealing with the Sophists. I guess what I really want is Socrates' wisdom and integrity, with the Sophists' credibility and influence. I needed you to smack me back into reality to see that those things were mutually exclusive then, and still are 2400 years later.

10. And the follow up to Socrates: the one true teacher, the only one to have ever lived. Felt like I was reading Philosophical Fragments there for a second. But I never said I wanted to be a teacher. I didn't make it clear enough in my post, I think. I don't want the professorship. I want the right to think and write and argue and influence and rabblerouse about the things behind the wall in my way. If you're telling me to just go ahead and do it, well...I need to have the guts to. And I need at least someone, anyone, to tell me they believe in me and that they think I can do it. I need that in order to know I'm not being crazy or narcissistic. No matter what I do or how much I fight, I still feel like i need permission from somebody. Not to think. Permission, license, clearance to DO. Because i will have to be held responsible at least partially for the things I say and the results of the ideas spreading. And I need to submit to some sort of authority, one that would on turn lend me their authority, to do it. So, maybe I'm just wanting to be a minister, after all. But pastors have a much different ministry than what i have felt, dare I say it, called to do. There it is.