Friday, February 12, 2010

Mutual exclusivity of reading and graduate study?

I think I may only be able to read one philosophical text in my life. I still don't know which one it should be.

Obviously I distinguish between a) reading and b) passing my eyes over all the words, perhaps in conjunction with an authoritative statement from someone who has succeeded in reading (a teacher, a commentator). I have had occasion to "read" many works in the latter sense. The more I read in this way (i.e. the longer I remain a grad student and thereby submit to the necessity of having read many books in a certain time without regard to the pace of development of my own understanding), the more discouraged and cynical I become.

Every semester I renew my resolve to pay no attention to the requirements of my classes, and every semester this resolve dissipates in the face of an imposed sense of responsibility.

This makes me wonder whether I should be in school. My pace of understanding certainly isn't matched to what the syllabi demand. I haven't entirely given up on finding room in the graduate program for actual learning (I do have some marvelous evenings in the library these days, and ktl is going a long way), but I do sometimes wonder whether there wouldn't be just as much room for it outside the magical "academic community."

On the other hand, perhaps the tedious acquisition of basic facility with and superficial recognition of the themes of a large set of standard texts really is a necessary part of learning philosophy, and I should just stop complaining and get back to work.