Having finished my master of philosophy at one of the Dutch universities, I often find myself confronted with prejudices against philosophy, both in the world and the job market. The discussion about closing one of the faculties of philosophy in the Netherlands (Earsmus University Rotterdam) has brought them all to the surface once more. Here is my response.
It’s dangerous to reflect once it’s finally going the way you hope. Writing seems like a delicate balance of happiness, frustration and a sense of urgency. Is it me, did something change, or I am I just (finally!) ready to write my PhD, after two-and-a-half years of reading and preparing?
Building momentum, struggling through meters of books, reading complete oeuvres and random books that happen to exist. Reading systematically and hap-snap, but most importantly: taking notes. My notebooks don’t only provide the background that help me now, but will also be the most valuable archive of my own thinking, my development. Future-me will laugh at them, recognising turns in my thinking due to Agamben, Wittgenstein, Badiou, Blanchot.
An interesting aspect of writing is rhythm. Everything is music (sorry, Jim, not sound). The importance of a rhythm to propel one’s writing forward, music without words, music that is more than background, more than closing off the world around. It’s a beat that moves, the lets the words flow. It keeps out the superego, that would refuse every single word as none reflect the truth that is to be said. That cannot be said. Which is precisely why one needs to go on, either in first person singular, or in the formal we/they.
The present-me is happy. Is only concerned with this moment, one word at the time. Reaching the end of this project, already thinking and constructing the next. Always continuing, faithful only to the illusion of the philosopher-me.
Language. Always language. Something that I don’t understand, which is always beyond understanding, always framing us. Which makes me want to re-read Benjamin. Again. Always already again. While I spend my days here, speaking German and English, writing in English, thinking in Dutch/English/German, reading French/Dutch/German/English.
Perhaps it is a necessary part of any great piece of music, the moment of despair right before you find yourself not in a different position, but definitely back on the ‘right’ track. Right being a feeling. Track being the long and windy road ahead. The same one that looked unbearable the day before.
Sometimes, one just needs constructive feedback. Somebody who tells you sweet loving things even when you are definitely impossible. Somebody telling you they like you most of the time, but also very annoying.
Or, a supervisor who turns out to be very enthusiastic about the project you’ve been working on for a whole year, encourages you to pursue the impossibility that is implied by the thoughts and who understands the value of undertaking the project. To see its place within philosophy. And within society.
Amazing! I couldn’t believe it at first. I’ve been walking around with a smile on my face ever since, being more annoying and obnoxious to friends who happen to be around. It’s for the sheer fact that my throat is really not well, and that most probably I still have a fever, otherwise I would have organized a party tonight, and invited everyone to come dance, until the break of dawn.