Via McSweeney’s: “dream jobs that you’re glad you didn’t pursue”

From McSweeney’s, this a column about “dream jobs you’re glad you didn’t pursue.” This week’s column is “So You Wanted to Be a Marine Biologist”:

Many people went through the marine biology phase. Most of them moved on. Not you though. You saw your dreams through to the bitter end. You started college and attacked your undergraduate degree in biology with fervor. Probably about the time you got to Organic Chemistry you started questioning your choices, but you powered through with more than a little help from that homely chemistry major you suddenly took an interest in and then let down not so gently when the semester was over. Now you were four years in and committed to the graduate school path, because you knew that without a doctoral degree your career in marine biology would end at one or more of the following (in relatively descending order of acceptability):

Continue reading


Anxiety of Influence? Heidegger on Husserl…

The, er…rocky, but fruitful relationship between Husserl and Heidegger is well known.  I was skimming through Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger this afternoon and I came across this passage in a fiery letter Heidegger wrote to Karl Lowith in 1923:

In the final hours of the seminar, I publicaly burned and destroyed the Ideas to such an extent that I dare say that the essential foundations for the whole of my work are now clearly laid out.  Looking back from this vantage point to the Logical Investigations, I am now convinced that Husserl was never a philosopher; not even for one second in his life.  He becomes ever more ludicrous.

And that’s actually pretty tame.  I can’t remember where it is or where I read it, but I think in a letter to Jaspers or another letter to Lowith Heidegger pretty much says something like “Husserl has totally gone off the deep end,” and goes onto accuse Husserl of being impressed with himself for founding phenomenology.  Nothing like a little hostility…

Though one need only to look at Husserl’s marginal notes in his copy of SZ to get wind of his rather unethusiastic reaction.  I think it was there that Husserl characterized Heidegger’s work as either irrational or at best, a superficial continuation of his own work.  Throughout the PTP (cited above) one can find a number of Husserl’s comments regarding Heidegger’s attacks on him as well as Heidegger’s work.

Teaching, Narcissism and Attendance Policies



Via the Philosophy Job Market Blog, I got a hold of The Ethicist column in the NY Times which wrestled with this question:

My medical school makes video recordings of most lectures and puts them online at each professor’s discretion. Many students sleep through the earliest lectures and watch the recordings later. Recently one professor withheld this useful study aid because attendance at his 8 a.m. lecture was low. Was it fair to deny us this tool meant to enhance our education? — NAME WITHHELD, NEW YORK

Not surprisingly, the ethicist wants to know motives, if it’s for self-serving narcissistic reasons then that’s no good. On the other hand, if its for pedagogic reasons, great! Here’s the full response:

If the lecturer withheld the video version out of self-regard — a wish to draw a big crowd and maximize the applause — then he was wrong to do so. The purpose of this enterprise is to educate the students, not to gratify a professor’s vanity. If online lectures are an effective way to do the former, they should be available. But do you know what his motive was? He might believe that attending a lecture is how students learn best. If any discussion is to accompany it, a sufficient number of students must be in the room. Students must be present if they are to ask questions. Even those students who never raise their hands can benefit from engaging with the queries of their livelier classmates. Some teachers can best assess how they’re doing by looking for the glint of understanding in the eyes of the students — tough to do when those eyes are closed in sleep in a dorm room miles away. All of which is to say: check with the lecturer. If he withheld the online lectures for pedagogic reasons, fair enough. If he acted out of narcissism, he is to be censured. The same act can have different ethical meanings depending on the motives that inspired it.

The writer over at the PJMB worries about falling into the self-regard category. This got me thinking about my own rationale for my attendance policy. Continue reading

Intelligence vs. Effort: Stop Reading, Start Trying!

From Scientific American:

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids

Hint: Don’t tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on effort—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life

By Carol S. Dweck

Growing Pains

Many people assume that superior intelligence or ability is a key to success. But more than three decades of research shows that an overemphasis on intellect or talent—and the implication that such traits are innate and fixed—leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.

Teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, produces high achievers in school and in life.

Parents and teachers can engender a growth mind-set in children by praising them for their effort or persistence (rather than for their intelligence), by telling success stories that emphasize hard work and love of learning, and by teaching them about the brain as a learning machine.

A brilliant student, Jonathan sailed through grade school. He completed his assignments easily and routinely earned As. Jonathan puzzled over why some of his classmates struggled, and his parents told him he had a special gift. In the seventh grade, however, Jonathan suddenly lost interest in school, refusing to do homework or study for tests. As a consequence, his grades plummeted. His parents tried to boost their son’s confidence by assuring him that he was very smart. But their attempts failed to motivate Jonathan (who is a composite drawn from several children). Schoolwork, their son maintained, was boring and pointless.

Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings. Continue reading

The Awesomeness of Students: Part III

Another dispatch from the front lines of teaching my wacky (but mostly endearing) students (see also here and here and here). I had an email exchange with a student in my Logic and Critical Thinking course today. This student, it should be known, had kept up with the material, showed up for class regularly until right before the midterm. I have not seen her since the midterm, an exam she failed miserably. Since then, no student. This morning I got out of bed, grabbed my coffee and opened my email (half expecting news that Condi Rice got herself blown up) to an email from this student, “Dr. Shahar, are you using the same text next semester?” I responded most likely, but added that I will be adding another text to the required reading list. I also expressed concern that I hadn’t seen her, asked if everything was ok etc. Oh yes, she responded, “I decided months ago that I was going to retake the class. Thanks for your response!” Out of a sickening morbid curiosity I checked the roster for my Logic class next semester and guess what, she’s taking the class…again…with me. Why do students think this is a good idea? In fact, even with her excellent attendance for the first 4 weeks she was on the whole, not a good student: aside from being combative she didn’t take any of my suggestions, never attempted to redo any of her failing assignments after I offered, never showed up at office hours, scheduled appointments with me 3 times never to show up and continued to sign all her email correspondence with me “Still confused.” I mean really: what the fuck?

Evangelical Christians and Pornography

Via Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic Monthly, this short video, from the God Tube teaches the proper evangelical Christian manner in which one should deal with internet pornography.

Er…I’m pretty sure that’s not quite what Matthew had in mind….it said gauge out your eye, not destroy office machinery.

This Day in the History of Philosophy

October 11, 1841

An obscure Danish thinker Søren Kierkegaard, after returning the engagement ring to his fiancée Regine Olsen on August 11th of the same year, finally decides to break off the engagement completely and in person possibly sensing that breaking up with “a love of your life” with a letter would not work as a great excuse of all the tortured years to follow. The break-up in person goes well. He leaves for Berlin and proceed to explode into an enormous amount of books and journal entries, according to some so-called scholars, he does so in order to get over the fact that he could not marry Regine Olsen. 

Ever since that day, all lonely and awkward teenage boys with a taste for human tragedy read Kierkegaard’s journal entries and letters about his fatal break-up and imagine that if indeed they would ever succeed in securing anything even remotely resembling a girlfriend, they would immediately break-up with her under the most mysterious circumstances. Sometimes they cry out: “Oh Regine!” in their sleep.


PS. Upon closer inspection of the included picture of Regine Olsen, she is judged to be hot by the author of this entry.