A Lenten Song

•March 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Here’s a song that you won’t hear during Liturgy, but it’s one that reminds me of Lent every time I hear it. Excuse the language if that kind of thing offends you.


Run, motherfucker, run!
Will you jump with me through the fire?
In these dark places
evil hosts pad their savings, spent on younger faces.

It kills me to act surprised,
so why don’t you just say no?
If you’re mad at the world, no matter,
as my fake heart concedes to your fake love.

Jump, motherfucker, jump!
Will you burn with me on the pyre?
When the fires have died, you gotta lengthen your stride.
You better run, motherfucker, run.

It kills me to act surprised,
so why don’t you just say no?
If you’re mad at the world, no matter,
as my fake heart concedes to your fake love.


•April 19, 2013 • 2 Comments

I passed my defense. Glory to God.

Pre-Defense Poem

•April 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I am defending my thesis tomorrow. I got this email from one of the professors on my committee today:


Here is a heads-up about what to expect tomorrow:

The Examination

by W. D. Snodgrass

Under the thick beams of that swirly smoking light,

The black robes are huddled in together.

Hunching their shoulders, they spread short, broad sleeves like night-

Black grackles’ wings; then they reach bone-yellow leather-

Y fingers, each to each. And are prepared. Each turns

His single eye—or since one can’t discern their eyes,

That reflective, single, moon-pale disc which burns

Over each brow—to watch this uncouth shape that lies

Strapped to their table. One probes with his ragged nails

The slate-sharp calf, explores the thigh and the lean thews

Of the groin. Others raise, red as piratic sails,

His wings, stretching, trying the pectoral sinews.

One runs his finger down the whet of that cruel

Golden beak, lifts back the horny lids from the eyes,

Peers down in one bright eye malign as a jewel

And steps back suddenly. “Is he anesthetize-

D?” “He is. He is. He is.” The tallest of them, bent

Down by the head rises: “This drug possesses powers

Sufficient to still all gods in this firmament.

This is Garuda who was fierce. He’s yours for hours.

“We shall continue, please.” Now, once again, he bends

To the skull, and its clamped tissues; into the cran-

Ial cavity, he plunges both of his hands.

Like obstetric forceps and lifts out the great brain,

Holds it aloft, then gives it to the next who stands

Beside him. Each, in turn, accepts it, although loath,

Turns it this way, that way, feels it between his hands

Like a wasp’s nest or some sickening outsized growth.

They must decide what thoughts each part of it must think.

They tap at, then listen beside, each suspect lobe;

Next, with a crow’s quill dipped into India ink,

Mark on its surface, as if on a map or globe,

Those dangerous areas which need to be excised.

They rinse it, then apply antiseptics to it;

Now silver saws appear which, inch by inch, slice

Through its ancient folds and ridges, like thick suet.

It’s rinsed, dried, and daubed with thick salves. The smoky saws

Are scrubbed, resterilized, and polished till they gleam.

The brain is repacked in its case. Pinched in their claws,

Glimmering needles stitch it up, that leave no seam.

Meantime, one of them has set blinders to the eyes,

Inserted light packing beneath each of the ears,

And caulked the nostrils in. One, with thin twine, ties

[Up the heart]. With long wooden-handled shears,

Another chops pinions out of the scarlet wings.

It’s hoped that with disuse, he will forget the sky

Or, at least, in time, learn, among other things,

To fly no higher than his superiors fly.

Well, that’s a beginning. The next time, they can split

His tongue and teach him to talk correctly, can give

Him opinions on fine books and choose clothing fit

For the integrated area where he’ll live.

Their candidate may live to give them thanks one day.

He might recover and may hope for such success

He might return to rejoin their ranks. Bowing away,

They nod, whispering, “One of ours; one of ours. Yes. Yes.”



The Turn

•February 26, 2013 • 2 Comments

“There are two great men in history whom he [Wittgenstein] somewhat resembles. One was Pascal, the other was Tolstoy. Pascal was a mathematician of genius, but abandoned mathematics for piety. Tolstoy sacrificed his genius as a writer to a kind of bogus humility which made him prefer peasants to educated men and Uncle Tom’s Cabin to all other works of fiction. Wittgenstein, who could play with metaphysical intricacies as cleverly as Pascal with hexagons or Tolstoy with emperors, threw away this talent and debased himself before common sense as Tolstoy debased himself before the peasants – in each case from an impulse of pride. I admired Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, but not his later work, which seemed to me to involve an abnegation of his own best talent very similar to those of Pascal and Tolstoy.” -Russell

Really interesting. I think a lot of academia feels the same way, though not in the same words, as Russell does. I wonder if Russell ever thought deeply about why Wittgenstein “debased himself before common sense” instead of just “impulse of pride”. He writes the Tractatus, then rejects it for the common. Russell recognized Wittgenstein as a genius. Did he recant that claim?

What I would give to see a conversation between these two after the Investigations was written. I feel like it would represent Wittgenstein’s conversation with the academy as a whole, who have mostly written off his later work as something which came forth inexplicably and never should have seen the light of day.

The Hot New Thing

•February 6, 2013 • 4 Comments

I was told the following things by my professor at my language seminar:

“Chomsky killed ordinary language philosophy”

“he did this by showing that all language has structure (through some kind of observation of developmental psychology of language)”

“ordinary language philosophy LOST”

“phil of language theories are to predict and explain the data”

This is the kind of department I find myself in. I stood dumbfounded at what was coming out of this guy’s mouth. I can’t get out of here fast enough.

Hard to Explain

•February 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The limits of my language are the limits of my world



If this seems surprising, perhaps it is because we forget that we learn language and learn the world together, that they become elaborated and distorted together, and in the same places.



I find that these two quotes complement each other. I have at multiple times tried to explicate to my peers what these quotes are trying to say, but I have found it is really hard. The truth of the statements seems so overwhelmingly obvious to me that I am left dumbfounded when someone tries to refute them. It is like Sidgwick dealing with someone that doesn’t care to be moral. Sidgwick says you drop the conversation right there, since there’s nothing to be done with an ethical theory for someone who doesn’t want to be moral. 

Analogously, I don’t understand how you can study philosophy seriously without understanding the intimate relationship between our words and the world. We understand them together and in the same places. We also become confused about them in the same places. When I talk about my words, I just am talking about the world, because they cannot be separated. 

For someone who doesn’t see this, it becomes almost impossible to convince them. It is a nice piece of philosophical befuddlement when something seems overwhelmingly obvious only to you. It must be what madness feels like.

A Poem for a Gloomy Day

•January 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The fog rolls in early

it’s quiet

what the fog brings in is muteness

a quiet that affects the day and brings the gray home

the world seems to sleep

under its weight

Post Semester Musings

•December 21, 2012 • 1 Comment

This past semester ended up being the worst one (grade wise). I worked very hard and failed. I tried to write like they wanted me to, and I still couldn’t do that. I turned in multiple drafts of the papers i made B’s on, rewrote one paper entirely, and yet I still couldn’t do what they wanted. I tell myself I should’ve turned in one more draft… And maybe I should’ve, but I didn’t. None of the other grad students turn in drafts and they get A’s. I turn in draft after draft, correction after correction and get B’s. The one paper I simply turned in without a draft netted me an A. It’s a confusing struggle in the middle of nowhere Texas.

I was accused of strange things this semester. I was told I was uncharitable to a philosopher I was critiquing. I’m not sure if it was because I was uncharitable, or if by simply critiquing this particular philosopher (after all, who am I to critique him) I am being uncharitable. Another professor insisted I do not set up my claims correctly. I don’t “establish” my claims. I don’t know how much more backstory and build up I can give to my claims. I’ve given up trying to make that guy happy.

I’ve failed here. In ways I still don’t understand. Philosophy is strange here. The people are strange here.

I’ve started applying to Ph.D. programs, but I don’t think I’ll get in. My professors in this department will probably make sure of that. I don’t know what I expected from philosophy. I didn’t expect what I’m getting here. Some can continue on in solitude, reading the people they love while trying to play the game. I don’t know if if my love of philosophy can survive such solitude. I need community, philosophy is community. Without it, philosophy is dead. I think Plato understood this. His dialogues are just that, dialogues. Dialogues presuppose a community of at least two people. These people talk to each other, and great things come out of those talks.

It does feel like I will be leaving philosophy behind. I don’t think I regret graduate school, but I am left disappointed. People tell me I don’t have to leave philosophy behind, I can always keep reading. They don’t understand. Philosophy is community, philosophy is people (much like Soylent Green). I can’t do this in a vacuum. I will keep this blog, but it will not be filled as often or with much. I will be focusing on making a future with my wife, getting us somewhat secure for our first child (whenever that is). I think that might be the harder path, the straight and narrow. I don’t know.

Philosophical Progress (The Proper Description)

•October 27, 2012 • 3 Comments

I had a conversation with my fellow grad students yesterday about philosophical progress. 

I put forward the unpopular claim that there is no such thing as philosophical progress. If anything like it exists, it does not entail a kind of “pushing forward” towards truth. Philosophical views come in and out of focus, some die and get resurrected, others are left on the wayside and abandoned. Nothing is laid to rest for good in philosophy. This is not progress in the sense we’re used to (the one that the sciences give us).

We then started speaking about descriptions. One of the grad students said, “surely there is a true description of a state of affairs, the right description. That seems to be what we’re aiming at.” Again, I’m weary of this claim. There are many different descriptions that can be given for the same event, there doesn’t seem to be any one that’s “better” than the other. That is, without a given use or context, it seems there is no objective “better” vlaue claim to be given. A description can be better or worse based on what kind of use you have in mind for the description. However, the bare use of “better” here without that context seems to be empty. By what criteria would we give to claim one description is objectively “better” than another? That a description is the proper one without a use? 

After pushing this forward (also unpopular), I was told that I think philosophy is empty. That if there is no proper description, there is not progress, then I think philosophy is meaningless. That philosophers are just chasing their tails. I told them this wasn’t the case. If I didn’t think philosophy was important in some way I wouldn’t be here, doing the work. As a matter of fact, I find that philosophy is only thing I care about as an academic discipline. 

There is a tension here. If there is no philosophical progress, if there is no proper description, then what is philosophy doing? This I know: it’s not going to explain anything. But that’s not helpful. I want to know what philosophy does do. That, I think, is mysterious. 

Heard on a song on tv

•October 13, 2012 • 1 Comment

“I don’t care whether I’m right or wrong, I just gotta be me”

The logical problems here are many. The most troubling thing is this: individuality takes on a higher value than morality. 

I may be a serial killer, but, you know, I just gotta be me! 

Lord have mercy.