This weekend has been jam-packed with exciting academic events, because we held the 19th annual University of Waterloo Philosophy Graduate Conference here at my school, so the days have been full of lectures, and the nights full of chats in pubs about logic, philosophy of science, and metaethics. Our keynote speaker was Helen Longino, chair of philosophy at Stanford and an absolutely amazing thinker. Reflecting this, we had papers on her work in philosophy of science and social epistemology, as well as on norms of assertion, Carnap’s logic structure, and semantic externalism. Many things were learned, much food was eaten, and much fun was had. But as always, there’s more.
This was my very first philosophy conference. I’ve been going to the International Congress of Medieval Studies for the past few years, and I’m presenting there this year, but it’s a little different there (apart from being way larger). I’m not a medieval historian by trade, so each lecture is a chance to pick out the pieces which I find meaningful and reassemble the arguments. In general I only have a passing familiarity with the content, and take the opportunity to go to as many interdisciplinary sessions as I can. In contrast, the fact that many of the talks at our conference left me initially dumbfounded was something I found quite distressing. I can reassemble them now, but still think I’m missing much of the nuances, and the nuances are what matter in this case. I began to wonder if I was really cut out for this at all. Afterward I had the opportunity to chat with the speakers, we got on well, and I understood their positions much better. More importantly, as we sat and traded stories of how we got into our field and why we did what we did in it, I began to realize that never before had I sat in a room with people who were more like myself. They shared my concerns not merely in a broad sense but in their details, and I shared many of theirs. We shared a deep sense of intellectual curiosity and a desire to apply our education to the world in ways which could aid people. It felt like a family reunion, in some sense.
A few of them questioned my decision not to continue on to the doctoral level, and I found myself questioning it as well. The consequences of pursuing my studies would change me forever, requiring me to leave behind my hometown and all of the people here for a long time, perhaps forever. And I hold a deep-seated worry that although I’m an alright philosopher, I might not make a very good academic. I want to get others to embrace critical thinking, and I think there are ways to accomplish that which lie outside the academy. But it’s something to think about. All in all, not only did I greatly enjoy the conference, but it’s left a sharp impression on me, and I hope that I’ll see the friends I made there again.
Despite the conference, there were blog posts this week. TPK contained the second how-to post on making a good character, and featured the first races article, on elves. Concept Crucible this week was on intuition, and the practice of trusting your gut, and yesterday’s lesson in logic was Modus Tollens.
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