Amuses

Ripples

Today was the last lecture day for two of my seminars. I had anticipated a feeling a loss, because I had been enjoying myself so much these past months. But it turned out differently.

At this stage, both seminars were focussing on the papers we are meant to be writing in the next month. Because the philosophy of language seminar required a huge abstract and the philosophy of mind seminar only asked us to do a five-minute presentation of our paper-to-be, I had put most of my effort into the philosophy of language paper. Something had to go, because for the skills seminar I had to do a big presentation this week. I thought I had made the right choice, but in retrospect, I am not so sure.

This is what happened. The big presentation which I had done a lot of work on, went fine. It was on “language and cyberspace” – in fact, about the connection between language and the protection of cyberspace. I only received positive feedback; no critical remarks, not on the content and not on the presentation, which I think did not happen to anyone else. However, I went almost 5 minutes over the time-limit, so I will certainly get penalised for that. Never mind. It will not be a bad mark.

For the philosophy of mind seminar, I did a 5 minute presentation of the problem area that I wanted to investigate. I had checked with the professor beforehand if that was ok. However, it turned out that everyone else had put much more effort into their plan, so I felt a bit silly. Which was aggravated by the fact that I still not quite sure how to tackle the problem which I want to adress. Despite the research workshop I attended last week, which was great, but ended up saddling me with more questions than I had when I came in. Sniff.

So, all my cards on the philosophy of language paper. My chosen topic was collective speech acts. I had really worked hard on it, and because we were required to write a huge abstract (1500 words for a 5000 word paper), I wrote a full first version. My work was based on an article provided by my professor, plus some more recent work which I had found myself. I had also done some analysis myself, so it was part original. I had to present this work, as the last of the group, and initially it seemed to go well. The group liked it, felt that I was nearly finished, and liked the work I had done.

Enter my professor. He questioned the basic assumption, which is that groups, according to him, cannot have intentions, and certainly companies cannot. I was flabbergasted. This was the basic assumption of the article he had suggested himself. Also, I could not make head or tails of his statement that companies do not feel anything. Of course they do. They are groups of people. We agreed to differ and I will have to introduce a disclaimer in my essay that I take this “controversial” position, and sort out this issue at some later point. But I was disappointed. There was no feedback on the work I had done, just this going on and on about this one issue. It must have upset him in some way, he said afterward that he was agitated by my approach.

My ever supportive husband told me not to be upset – because my professor has done this before, just to me. And yes, the group did not like it either, one or two started to defend me, which was brave of them. Husband also told me to take this somewhat-over-the-top criticality as a compliment. Which may be right, because the other students were given a much less critical treatment, even when their ideas seems sketchy or incomplete. Sigh. I suppose so.

I am still wondering how to solve the philosophical problem, about collective intentions. It may well be that in fact the same problem is at the bottom of my philosophy of mind issue Рwhich is how life develops from a single autopeiotic system, say, a cell, into a social entity through adaptivity. Because social entities eventually develop language. Not as individuals but as members of a group. So I have written to the philosophy-of-mind professors to ask them about group-intentions in herds, schools, and flocks.

Now it it time for a drink. A large one. With ripples.

2 Comments

  • Piet

    You certainly deserve a large drink, Inge. Good luck with your philosophy of mind tasks. And actually, I am sort of curious to know about language and cyberspace.
    Have a nice weekend.

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