PHILOSOPHER OR NOT

I studied philosophy from 1972 to 1981 in Australia and I taught as a part-time TA during the last 5 years of that period. All along, I felt constantly neglected, misperceived, ignored,  and reduced to silence, but I kept on because I loved philosophy and wanted an academic job to let me continue doing it. Then I took up the chance to go to Paris to study on a scholarship, and I was even more misperceived and silenced, as I was an anonymous foreigner with a horrible accent who spoke the language badly.

Despite all this I was happy to stay on in France, even after I dropped out of University after 4 years, when the scholarship ran out. I began teaching English, at first combining several part-time jobs, but after quite a long time I took on French nationality and joined the French National Education system.

From the beginning I was wildly lonely, especially intellectually, but I was constantly exposed to living philosophers, going to classes by Deleuze, Lyotard, Foucault, Michel Serres, seeing them on TV, hearing them on the radio, reading their books and their articles in the newspaper. Even after leaving academia I was thinking about philosophy most of the time. I considered that I was a “philosopher” even if I wasn’t enrolled in a philosophy degree or teaching it anymore.

However, after about 12 years of that, without having any academic philosophy contacts I began to consider myself to be an “ex-philosopher”, with considerable sadness at first, and then resignation. After nearly 10 years of thinking and feeling like that I “came back” to philosophy: first by means of listening to podcasted courses and reading philosophical blogs, then by starting a blog myself.(roughly 5 years ago). I began to think of myself as a philosopher-just-not-a-philosophy-teacher again, but I realised that this was a way to protect my feelings and to affirm myself despite a lack of “legitimacy”. Here I was silenced by just about everyone, not just in the academy, as I was in the wrong category (“English teacher”) to be a philosopher, and people would just tune out or actively silence me if I talked outside my category.

Yet at the same time I sympathised with my favorite philosopher, Paul Feyerabend, who taught philosophy all his life and was famous as a philosopher of science. Feyerabend often reiterated during the last decade of his life that he was not a “philosopher”, and one of his lasts texts is entitled NOT A PHILOSOPHER. He did not want to be perceived in terms of a category, that further he felt to be basically a socio-economic designation, and so refused the very title that I claimed, but for the same reasons.

So one some days I feel that I am not a philosopher, and probably never really was, and on other days I feel that all my life has been permeated by philosophy and that I would not be living where I am (in Nice, on the French Riviera) nor would I have met my wonderful wife and had my amazing and loveable children without my love for philosophy.

Amor fati: sometimes it is the sense of fatum that is predominant, sometimes the sense of amor. This is how far being silenced over something I love has driven me, and these are some of the ensung self-transformations that I have gone through.

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3 Responses to PHILOSOPHER OR NOT

  1. sorry there was a typing mistake before.
    I wonder how to understand your work. Seeing it from the point of view of an “anthropology of the moderns” are you a western modern working on the conceptual space that characterizes the moderns? Is what you are doing the equivalent of medieval religious commentary or perhaps Jewish or Islamic legal commentary? I mean that as far as I can see you are closely working within a specific tradition. In what is projected in this blog you don’t seem to be affected by people thinking the issues of life outside modern philosophy (or non-philosophy- I speak as an outsider to whom these distinctions seem more like different strands of the same religion). I do not see you commenting on “philosophers” that have a “funny:” relation with modernity but are coming from other cultures. That are “others”.
    I also have the sense that you realy like what you are doing that you enjoy it that you find it meaningful. And yet, can it be so closed? so constantly revolving around 3-4 philosophers, all of them being very closely culturally connected? Does this mean that the moderns have find the WAY in these few philosophers? Does it mean that a strong culture can be a closed world? Is it a personal choice based on our finite lifetimes (at least on earth, I have religious prejudices) ?
    Perhaps it is something I do not get.

    However putting on my chimeric semi-modern soul , I have the sense I am always looking at your back, that all of us leaving in the fringes or even further of the western moderns are looking your back, as if you are praying towards Paris (if I am alowed such an analogy)

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  2. terenceblake says:

    I too feel the limitation encircling me, as if I were confined to the circles of a philosophical hell. I certainly have no intention of describing the moderns, but if I am one, according to some description, so be it. I make myself many reproaches: I should talk more about real life situations, I should widen my reading, I should write more in French (because after all I live in France), I should vary the media I use to express myself, etc. I talk about what interests me, but I do not adulate any one particular philosopher. The SR do not discuss with the Laruellians, and both do not discuss with the Badiousians, and all three do not discuss with the Latourians, and so it goes. I am not sectarian, yet you tell me I am too limited, bowing towards Paris, yet I lived in Paris for 7 years and I quit it for the Sun and because the social stratifications and hierarchies are too strong. Everything I write is in part a critique of Paris and an affirmation of my choice to live on the edge of the Mediterranean. There is not just who I discuss, but what I say about them, and how I say it. I write like noone else I know, and I have changed how many of these bloggers who ignore me talk. If you criticise me for being provincial, what would you say about those others who have engaged in promotion, peer-promotion, or self-promotion?

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  3. No I do not criticize you for being provincial. Sorry if this comes out from my message. thank you for clarifying to me better your work

    Liked by 1 person

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