Speculative Realism: Quit While You’re Behind (Sort Of)

I will open with a personal note: I never really understood what most of the philosophical schools and their names stood for, I suppose I was educated to read texts and discuss ideas, not necessarily to come up with cool names that somehow encapsulate a whole school – maybe it’s the lack of analytical philosophy tradition in Russia, or rather the lack of zeal that it is characterized by in the West, you know, all that militant language and all. For example, when I read Steven Shaviro’s observation about speculative realism and Kant, I agree with it wholeheartedly and not only on some sort of an intellectual level: Continue reading

Derrida and the Professors.

In his famous pronouncement against the future professors who will inevitably take interest in his journals, Kierkegaard writes:


That I shall acquire a certain renown, surely not even my bitterest enemy will deny. But I begin now to wonder whether I shan’t become famous in a genre quite different from the one I had envisaged, whether I shan’t become famous as a naturalist, in that I have made discoveries or at least delivered a very considerable contribution to the natural history of parasites. The parasites I have in mind are priests and professors, these greedy and virulently self-reproductive parasites which even have the shamelessness (which is more than other parasites have) to want to be of service to those they live off. (XI 2 A 277)

Not very nice, yet ultimately a prophetic observation that is cited by professors as a proof of the greatness of their subject, cited sometimes with a kind of self-depreciation that is considered to be a good enough penance for the thankless job of studying such an ungrateful thinker – here we are editing, collecting, and publishing his multiple journals, essays and books, and yet he dares to accuse us of being parasites and useless idlers! However abusive Kierkegaard is, especially at the end of his life, the image of a parasite is hard to dismiss in light of all the secondary literature on Kierkegaard…  Take the old discussion of the status of the secondary literature – is it really fair to the thinker to write a commentary after commentary when he himself explicitly mocks the idea and takes it to be a gross misrepresentation of his work? On one hand, one could claim that the very title of an “expert” on Kierkegaard should be so ironic and disconcerting that various reports of suicides among Kierkegaard professors should be a norm in the news. On the other hand, so what if Kierkegaard ridiculed his future experts – we don’t have to listen to his judgments, because he clearly wanted to be studied, wanted to be the object of future admiration and here is the proof from his writings etc etc. Think about someone closer to our time, someone like Derrida – can we think of his “disciples” as betraying the thought of the Master by producing a stream of secondary literature I have previously described as “derridalogy”? Continue reading

Meme: Passion Quilt

Ack. Both Carl of Dead Voles and Sinthome over at Larval Subjects tagged us here at Perverse Egalitarianism with a meme. I’m particularly irritated today because even while all the grades for my five courses were turned in on Monday morning, I have been–predictably enough–inundated with student complaints, or rather, weak petitions/pleas to “reconsider” or “further discuss” the grade I gave them (I had two emails that started with, “I don’t mean to disrespect you, but…”–if only I could send emails to students in that respect). Is this a practice limited to my institution or is it a generational thing? Anyway, sometimes this stems from a simple misunderstanding, no complete ignorance, of the concept of averages. So, some of my students just don’t understand that even though they may have earned a B on the midterm, but an F on the Final–their average is a C, not a B. Yet, most of these complaints take two forms: (1) I can’t get this grade because I will lose my scholarship (not my problem, do the work) or (2) Here’s a bunch of family/life drama that I didn’t want to tell you about, but now since you gave me a lousy grade, I’m telling you so naturally you will be compelled to change it. (Why tell me all this now?) Yes, I understand that many of my students are dealing with difficult problems (single mothers, broken homes, working two jobs) and I’m often very sympathetic (when they aren’t giving me bullshit cliches), but they made the choice to enroll in the class which means doing the work and showing up regularly (I had one student that missed 14 classes and wondered why he failed the final). I’m sorry, but some people just shouldn’t go to college. In fact, I had a student living in a homeless shelter that earned outstanding grades this semester so I’m rather wary of the two excuses I noted above.

I don’t know, it’s not that many of my students can’t do it, they can, but more often than not they lack the will, or much more frequently, they lack the intellectual skills (which I end up teaching throughout the semester, almost constantly) to succeed in the class, but really, I can’t believe that some of my students actually passed high school. It’s a problem, indeed. I try different things in the classroom, I’m aware of different learning types, I make myself accessible, but very often my students simply want me to tell them the answers, they don’t want to be bothered with any of the philosophical work, if it smells complex, it’s immediately suspect or worse, not worthy of their attention. I know this is cynical, but I always feel conflicted at the end of each semester. On the one hand, I got a few very nice emails from students thanking me (one to the effect of “I always thought of my courses as hoops to jump through for the grade, but your class really made me think differently about things” Aces!!!), but on the other hand, I have to take it up the ass after the fact from a bunch of ingrates that didn’t bother to do the work who are all trying to appeal to my pity so I’ll give them a passing grade (for some reason my students think D is not passing, it’s not great, but it’s passing I always say). Sometimes I’m Pollyana enough to just think to myself “I reached someone, very cool,” but it’s far more depressing when I think of the bulk of my students that are willfully ignorant, uncritical, and who simply refuse to think.

Enough of my ranting and raging, here is the meme: Continue reading