It appears I haven’t posted in about a month. What’s up?
Well, a cluster of little things. There’s been painting the house, the kids starting school, me starting teaching, etc. I have been rewriting a paper on Nietzsche for the upcoming “Nietzsche on Mind and Nature” conference at Oxford, and arranging travel, etc. That’s next week. And I am working on a book on Spinoza’s philosophy, tentatively entitled God or Nature: Spinoza’s Radical Theology. It is a shift for me, moving from Nietzsche’s thrilling prose to the ever-cautious geometer (who encased his philosophy in an invincible iron maiden, as ol’ Fritz once wrote). I’m not sure readers of this blog will be as interested in periodic updates about the Spinoza project, but that’s probably going to happen from here on out, at least for the next few months.
A more interesting question looming in the back of my mind is along the lines of “What next?” I’ll keep reading Nz, but I don’t have a great urge to write a whole lot more about him. Same even more so for Spinoza, once this project is complete. I think that, bound up with the question, is a bit of soul searching about where I am and who I am. The fact is that I am in a backwater, so far as philosophy is concerned: my colleagues are delightful, and I like where I live and so on, but there’s no way to deny that I am “more than somewhat” removed from the action of contemporary academic philosophy. (The web helps to make up for that, but only to a very limited extent. Hallway conversations are where it’s it. Or that’s what I remember, anyway.) And, since I’ve been in such a spot for 15 years, it has had some effect on who I am as a philosopher. In short, I am turning slowly into a backwater sort of person, the geezer who shows up at a conference in bib overalls and with bits of straw in his hair and strangely opines, “But you’re all forgetting the question of Change! How can you do any of this without settling that first?” Then he stomps off, back to wherever he came from. And everyone goes back to discussing Dretske and closure principles of knowledge, or whatever.
I could probably buck against fate, but I think I’ll just go with it. The virtue of being in an inconspicuous place is that you’re free to pursue your (possibly weird) views of things without feeling compelled to relate it to what more conspicuous people are saying and doing. There’s some pleasure in that, though you have to give up the pleasures of belonging to some wider, professional, academic community, and make do with the delightful people around you, who take an interest in what you write just because, well, you’re you.
Yes, sounds like a rationalization to me too. But the other option — trying to stay conspicuous in and engaged with an intellectual community that seems awfully far away — sounds a bit like trying to be someone I’m not. What I truly revere in Nz and Emerson is that they didn’t let their untimeliness or Americanness (respectively) stop them from trying to express frankly what was on their minds. I certainly am no FWN or RWE, but, hell, I don’t have to be Lance Armstrong in order to enjoy cycling, either. So I’ll just do things my way, and everyone is perfectly within their rights to take no notice whatsoever. Just keep your eyes open for me — I’ll be the guy in the bib overalls.