Subtle Egomania

I think the best examples of egomania are not the obvious “illusions of grandeur” that are easy to spot, but subtle intonations that suggest something like this: “I am doing X, I find X to be interesting and I am excited to do X, therefore everyone must be doing X and if, in fact, they are not doing X or think X is lame, there’s something really wrong with them, because, since I find X to be interesting, I can’t comprehend why they don’t.”

In philosophy this annoying characteristic is most often seen in people who project their own personal likes and dislikes onto the general field of philosophy and claim that because they are really into something and their friends are really into it as well, it is the latest most important idea in philosophy while any sensible person knows that it cannot be the case, because every single graduate student group, either online or offline, thinks its ideas are the freshest and the most exciting. But to cite an obscure early Christian writer, “When I was a graduate student, I thought like a graduate student, every book I read was the best book ever, every conversation I had was the most insightful and promising. But when I grew up, I realize how huge the world really is and how insignificant and banal my little observations are. I realized that there are people out there who neither agree nor disagree with me, because they are doing their own things and are not easily moved by my project.”

To think that just because you find online interactions productive for philosophy, they are the future of philosophy is foolish, especially since the blogs were around for many years and nothing philosophically interesting really came out of it.

On a sad personal note, my old iPod died today and I was going to go and try to get it fixed at the Apple store or get a new one, but guess what? I cannot, because tomorrow is the day iPad is out and there are already lines outside of the store. Damn it!

Philosophy as Biography?

It’s fairly well-known (I think??) that when asked about the life of Aristotle, Heidegger retorted that all we need to know is that Aristotle was born, he thought, he died.  That is to say, who cares about the life of Aristotle, it’s irrelevant to understanding what he wrote down on paper.  Derrida suggested (somewhere) that the “official” biography of anyone is problematic because it serves to freeze that person’s image, and in turn, produces a truth that give rise to a predominant perception of that particular person for, well, who knows how long.  Derrida counters such a view of biography (however successful) with a more fragmentary and “novel/radical/interesting” (whatever that means) reading of a philosopher’s writings that may actually contain and “reveal” a more more accurate biography than the “official-minded” biographies.  Yet, there may be a better way.  Osip Mandelstam wrote something to the effect that, “It is enough for us to tell of the books one has read, and his biography is done.” Emmanuel Levinas provides us with some sparse details–an “inventory” as he calls it– of his biography in “Signature,” and pauses to note that his biography was “dominated by the presentiment and the memory of the Nazi horror.” This business about philosophy and biography isn’t really new, Diogenes wrote a biography of a bunch of philosophers, and that was a while ago after all.  I recall some biography of Nietzsche suggesting he was a closeted homosexual and that’s why he was so filled with vitriol against Christianity and the conventional morality that goes along with it.  I don’t know, how much should we pay attention to philosophers lives as a way to illuminate their writing?  Here’s a rather odd answer in the form of a biographical reflection by Alain Badiou,”Philosophy as Biography,” which appears in the latest issue of The Symptom:

Nietzsche wrote that a philosophy is always the biography of the philosopher. Maybe a biography of the philosopher by the philosopher himself is a piece of philosophy. So I shall tell you nine stories taken of my private life, with their philosophical morality… Continue reading

Boring Notes on Merleau-Ponty: Time and Subjectivity (plus Lemons)

I recently finished reading Lemon, a rather strange, but entertaining novel that details the rise and fall of a love affair between a man named Wendell and a lemon. There are obvious psychological interpretations one could wield here about projection, possession, obsession, fetish and so on, but that’s the less interesting route. There is a very funny sequence when he and the lemon visit his parents:

Do you talk to it? whispers his mother.

-Yes I do. But not condescendingly. Not like to a dog.

-Does it talk back to you?

-Mom, it’s a lemon.

-Is it a talking lemon?

-It speaks yes in a way to me, but not out loud. I’m not insane.

For some reason I kept thinking of Merleau-Ponty while I was reading Lemon. Continue reading