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Blog: A Brush With Philosophy

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The other day I went to a PHILOSOPHY SEMINAR. Or did I? How can we really say?!? Aaaah! Do you see?

The reason for my attendance was that for the past three years of my PhD I've heard academics ENDLESSLY banging on about Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida and various other French blokes who appear to have had a LOT to say about pretty much everything. However, try as I might I have never managed to find out WHAT they are saying (apart from "Aaaah! Do you see?"), particularly when it comes to my particular topic area. At least Umberto Eco wrote an actual paper about SUPERMAN (which everyone goes on about EVEN MORE) that you can read and see what he was on about, this lot don't even seem to have bothered with that.

I've found it all a bit annoying, to be honest, and when I have tried to ENGAGE with Philosophy it gets even worse, as Philosophy basically seems to involve acting like a teenager who has had their first cigarette, boring other people in the kitchen of a house party by saying "Yes, but what if none of this is real eh? aaaah! Do you see?" It also seems to involve making big pronouncement about entire other fields that you don't actually understand, getting it completely wrong, and then claiming it's an INSIGHT. Whenever I've seen people Do Philosophy around comics, for instance, they invariably say things like "Stan Lee invented Captain America" or similar, after which I have FRANKLY no time for anything else they say.

HOWEVER, I always think it is a good idea to get INVOLVED with such things and at least have a GO, just to see if your suspicions are correct rather than simply harrumphing round dismissing things. In that spirit I have gone to the Homeopathic Hospital, for instance, or taken a course in Stand-Up Comedy, or indeed done ACUPUNCTURE. In this way I have learnt that a) a homeopathic hospital is run by people who don't know really how hospitals work but are trying to pretend to be one like off the telly b) stand-up comedy is a lot of work for something that doesn't have an awful lot of SOUL to it c) Acupuncture definitely does SOMETHING but I have no idea how.

THUS I went to an Introduction To Philosophy Seminar in that hope that EITHER my preconceptions would be blown apart and I would gain an understanding of thought through the ages OR my preconceptions would be ratified and I could stop worrying about it. Friends, I got NEITHER of these things, but also... aaah, do you see? BOTH!

Pretty much all of my preconceptions turned out to be true. Within 5 minutes of the seminar starting it was clear that the bloke running it was the sort of teacher who asks blindingly obvious questions, asks for someone to give the blindingly obvious answer, and then calls them an idiot for saying something so blindingly obvious, so that very soon you get LONG SILENCES until someone is forced to be the patsy. Thus when he said "1,2,3,4 - wot is next eh?" it took AGES for some brave soul to eventually say "5?" and he then said "BUT WHY?!?" "Because you're adding one each time?" someone else (correctly) said and then there was much verbal strutting about before he said "No, it's because we're counting in Base 10!"

WHAT THE?!? Reader, I could not help myself. "No it isn't," I said. "It would be the same in Base 6,7,8 etc etc, and the sequence is nothing to do with the base." He waved away my CORRECT POINT and said "Oh well I could have gone on and done a longer sequence", which was not the point AT ALL, and left me ANNOYED for the rest of the session.

HOWEVER, the actual PHILOSOPHY bits were Quite Interesting. I do like Greek Philosophers and their MAD THEORIES, although again these were made ANNOYING. e.g. he told us Zeno's Paradox about ARROWS (i.e. before you go anywhere you have to go halfway there first, but before you can go halfway you have to go half of that etc etc so you can never go anywhere) which is all good BRANE FUN if you are FIFTEEN AND DRUNK but it is not QUITE as MIND BLOWING as it was made out to be. There were lots of good bits about how Philosophy developed and The Enlightenment and all that, but as it went on I thought "Hang on, you said it's all about finding things out for yourself and fearlessly investigating, but this appears to be a long list of dead men who said all this CENTURIES ago."

Also, and it pains me to say this, it all happened in a room full of PhD students who, with the best will in the world, are very APT to taking any opportunity to make everything about their own thesis and go into lengthy, unnecessary, detail about it, much like Doctor Doom does when he reveals a cunning plan (HEM HEM). It all got A BIT ANNOYING!

However, it also left me wanting to know some more FACTS about it all, and on the way home I had the SHUDDERING REALISATION that I could just watch a TELLY programme about it! Apart from comics, TELLY is pretty much the main source of all my knowledge, and so I was DELIGHTED to discover that there are MANY series on the YouTube which not only do all the Fun Stories about Philosophers, but also illustrate it with stock Open University footage of actors wearing bedsheets. THIS is the sort of learning I want please!


posted 14/10/2019 by MJ Hibbett

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This is the best blog post you've written yet. Try giving a talk and being interrupted by PhD students Anxious To Prove A Point...
posted 31/10/2019 by Floyd

I have! The best one was when someone wanted to insist that Doctor Doom was quoting FLAUBERT because he's mentioned a GARDEN or something and I had to very politely say "Yes, MAYBE" until they stopped.
posted 31/10/2019 by MJ Hibbett

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