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Jan. 26th, 2011

 Today was a reasonably productive day given it started with too little sleep. I decided late last night that I didn't want to haul the textbook I teach over to campus, so I read the reading and did a preliminary Powerpoint for that class. It's a reading I've never taught before so it took me about three hours to feel like I had mastered it. (Or mastered it well enough to teach, in any event.) So it was after 3 AM before I got to bed. Which normally wouldn't be a huge deal - I teach afternoons so can sleep in needed. But I forgot to reset my alarm clock, which mean I ended up waking up just four hours later. Still, I've had less productive days on more sleep.

I taught today on arguments, how to analyze them and basic vocabulary and logical allacies, that kind of thing. It's always an odd meeting. Logic fascinates me, but I have a mathematician's mind and a mathematician's training so I think I see idiosyncracies that even undergrad philosophy students might miss. Teaching it as a means to an end becomes almost a necessary evil, and the only way I know around that is to devote more time to the subject than I want to (and give the students more details than they need). Still, we had some good discussions about the limits of different forms, specifically problems going along with induction. It's really the best I could have hoped for. Tomorrow I do the Cave Allegory, which I'm really looking forward to.

I also had a long talk with Dave this afternoon on Nietzsche of all things. I am a medievalist myself, with an increasingly interest in the ancients, so I know next to nothing about Nietzsche - really, just the "God is dead" quote and maybe 3-4 different theories on what that means. But I always wanted to learn more of Nietzsche because he seems to be talking about the tragedy of God's death. Or rather, of the death of a naive, ritualistic faith in the face of profound evil. I mentioned Elie Wiesel's quote:

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.

Which has always touched me profoundly. What do we say to the people who have lost (temporarily or permanently) their ability to see God? Whose faith has in a sense been blocked out by their pain? I know people like that; at times I am one of those people, and certainly used to be more than I am today. Nietzsche seems to have something to say about that. But he's also part of a tradition I know very little about, and have next to no time for yet more research topics. So for the moment he is stuck on the "someday" list.

I also had a brief (<10 mins) conversation with a professor about a research topic I've been interested in lately: basically, whether Augustine's idea that evil is the absence of something is compatible with Aristotle's doctrine of the mean. He was encouraging, which I find encouraging. And of course did the other normal stuff - graded my class's groupwork, sat in on a lecture on Augustine and inordinate desires, read half an article for my reading list, picked up the laundry.

Guss I should finish that article. What I really want to do is veg out for a bit with Narnia (half way through The Magician's Nephew, having read LWW over Christmas) but I shall be a good little scholar for a while longer.

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