July 15, 2010


For those students who haven't come across Graham Harman's blog, stop reading this and go look at his posts filed under "advice". I'm somewhat interested in the Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology movements in "post-continental" philosophy these days, so I've had philosophical reasons to follow Harman. His analysis of Heidegger's "Tool-Being" in Being and Time is excellent, and the conclusions he draws from it incredibly creative. But what I've come to appreciate most about his blog are not his philosophical musings, or the details about whatever random thing is happening in his life or interests. Rather, what keeps me coming back are his advice posts aimed at young academics. I find them both inspiring and comforting. I don't always agree with the things he says, but they always feel a bit like a pat on the back.

As I re-read his newly posted "old posts" (which were lost in switching from one version of his blog to another version of it), I am coming across many of his advice posts, and will inevitably post some of my favorite insights as I go. One that I came across just now that I particularly like has to do with when we have "theoretical reversals". There are times where we make a 180 degree turn with respect to some key feature of a theory we endorse. Besides all the other interesting things he has to say about them, I particularly like the idea that "It often takes 'calendar time' to bring them about rather than 'work time.' You need time to become bored with a theory before it’s easy to see the holes in it." I've been working on one project for well over a year now, and only in becoming bored with it have I been able to begin questioning much of what I had taken for granted all along.

We all get swept up in new and exciting ideas. This is one of the most enjoyable times to be a philosopher. But, it seems to me that during the euphoria of having these sorts of really exciting new opportunities for thought may not be the best time to be overly critical of them, nor to expect yourself to be. You will inevitably be somewhat blinded, which is perhaps a sort of enabling condition that allows us to put in the work that is required to learn something new. Roll with the new thing, see where it takes you. There will come a time down the road where the passion turns to sober consideration. This is the time to really make your lasting evaluations. I think it is also during these times when one ought to reevaluate their allegiances in general.

I've always been particularly interested in theories of ideology. Through investigating these interests, I've branched into psychoanalysis, political theory, and much of what I work on today, especially Badiou and Zizek. But having come to the end of my current project on Badiou, I'm finding that I am no longer certain that Badiou has the answer to the problem I thought he did in the beginning, and I am again feeling the need to re-engage with my lasting interests. This is not to say that I don't support Badiou on many points, or that my interest in him will not last. But in this post-excitement period, I am getting a renewed sense for what is really important to me in philosophy.

We often think that we need theoretical or "work" distance in order to be able to be critical of our own ideas. I think this is true. But, it is also true that we need "time" distance, or distance from the initial period of fervor to see where we really stand. I'm going to try to keep this in mind and allow myself the giddiness I feel when I take on something new, leaving the self-examination for later.

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