Decomposition of Philosophy

I always watch in amazement at Graham’s Composition of Philosophy updates. First, he’s far more organized than I am, if only for the simple fact that he knows what he is working on in a given time period, let alone being able to time it. Plus, he’s got that focus to keep tabs on it since he starts up his Itunes and then times it by the amount of music played, which for me, would measure both my composition and my time for various distractions.

More importantly, though, of course, is the service it really does for up and coming philosophers who often told to degrade production as some form of selling-out.

But, second, that put me in a mind for listing my advice on how not to compose philosophy, which I’ll make an ongoing series investigating the modes, technologies, practices—in short, what Foucault called dispositifs—for the de-composition of philosophy. Feel free to add your own… First entry:

1.  I was going to be snarky and begin with “Have a family.” I had a son throughout my grad years and that certainly took a lot of time from studying and writing. And this would suggest that successful composers of philosophy (henceforward COPs, because, you know, these are the dominant order coming down on us de-composers. Or for short, “posers.”) do not have families, loved ones—in short, a life. Alas, COPs are sometimes known to have lives, though of course we know to put “lives” in quotation marks.

But there’s a lesson here for posers even if we can’t say “have a family”: have your excuses ready. The New York Times ran an article ran an article in May on successful posers of all sorts; these people make excuses ahead of time. So, step one: before entering grad school or taking that tenure track job, have a son or daughter. Or adopt one. The point is, this will be an ongoing excuse. Try it (I have!). You not only can have a ready-made excuse for any and all deadlines, but more importantly, you will actually produce sympathy in those to whom you give the excuse. In fact, they will remark, “I don’t know how you get anything done.” And for the poser sympathy is the ultimate goal, not diligent work. With a child—they’re available everywhere!—people will even suggest that any work you get done is somehow miraculous. This, of course, doubles, triples, and so on, with additional children. Though studies show the sympathy effect lessens after five. The seventh doesn’t even count.

Except if you’re a woman in the profession. Then none of them do.