The single best thing I have read on the EU and Brexit. -- Kristian Jensen (the Danish finance minister): "There are two kinds of European nations. There are small nations and there are countries that have not yet realised they are small nations.”
Goldberg-Conjecture. -- I fear it's going to take me two weeks of daily hour-long practice to be able to produce a half-decent version of the "Aria" of BWV 988. (Note to self: "Go for it; c'mon; you can do it!")
Speechless. -- CNN reports that 39,773 people died by guns in the U.S. in 2017. In 1999 the number was 28,874.
I know it isn't literally true, but ... -- Sometimes it feels like the people around me fall into two categories:
(1) Those for whom I can do no wrong. Whatever I do, and even if it is pretty stupid, they invariably find a way to gloss it in a positive way.
(2) Those for whom I can do no right. Whatever I do, and even if it is (intended as) kind and supportive, they always find a way of rendering it as inconsiderate and authoritarian.
The first (over-)use the "principle of charity", the second rely exclusively on the "principles of suspicion and malevolence."
It is odd to think that I have never managed to move anyone from the one into the other category -- even my protesting pubertarians remain (pretty) close to (1).
Humble request. -- If I ever again agree to edit a book with sixty contributors, please call an ambulance. -- Thank you.
As predicted ... -- The FPÖ (the far-right-wing party in the Austrian government) has now declared the CEU not welcome in Vienna. Invoking the old, medieval antisemitic topos of the "wandering Jew," the leader of the FPÖ, Heinz-Christian Strache, dismissed the CEU as a "Wanderuniversität."
Hermetic thought. -- "Austria today is an island of the blessed." (Kurz) -- "Blessed with a curse?"
Loss. -- On Monday I forgot my watch in the lecture hall, and when I rushed back to recover it this morning, it was gone. The two profs using the room after me saw the piece but failed to take it to the consierge. And now it has disappeared. It was a present from my wife in the midst of my medical nightmare four years ago. -- I hope the thief will enjoy its company as much as I did.
One of the (scary) perks of being a relativist. -- Is that you get to debate publicly with your contemporary philosophical luminaries. Paul Boghossian was the first (in London in 2007); Bas van Fraassen will be the second (in Vienna in May); Maria Baghramian will be the third (at the Joint Sessions next July); and Crispin Wright will be the fourth (in Budapest next October). -- If I am still not convinced after that barrage of arguments ... I fear I'll DIE A RELATIVIST.
Happy Hanukkah! -- חג אורים שמח
Tchau tchau São Paulo! -- Servus Wien!
Diary. -- Today I attended talks on:
Is there an Austrian tradition in philosophy? (The icing on the cake for me was the ensuing debate on the virtues of the sociology of knowledge);
The structure of experience in James and Husserl;
Modal logic from Aristotle to Lewis;
Wittgenstein on the arbitrariness of logic;
The role of geometry in the General Theory of Relativity;
Formal logic in Kant;
Meaning in Husserl;
Aquinas on epistemology;
Lambert and Kant; and
How we can save the world with the help of Bergson.
-- I feel a bit schizophrenic about these twelve hours. My mind keeps oscillating between two thoughts:
(1) Oh what fun!
(2) There must be an easier way to make a living.
The things you write about during a boring paper. -- I have had a hard time today explaining to my Brazilian friends why I am wearing bright green sneakers. The truth itself -- as so often -- is rather boring (and olfactory). My "alternative fact" at least regularly gets a laugh: "I have to take advantage of the fact that I am away from home: my wife and kids would never let me out the house like this!"
Prejudice. -- I did not expect the Brazilians to be such workaholics. Every day the conference starts at 9am, and ends after 9pm. At which point I fall into bed more dead than alive. No energy left for any partying. -- If only I had Frege's assertion sign.
Time travel. -- Thanks to the untiring marvelous efforts of Mario Ariel Gonzalez Porta, Sao Paulo features an incredible group of doctoral students specializing in German-language philosophy from Kant to the Vienna Circle. -- At times I feel teletransported back to the Berlin of the late nineteenth century; for instance when I hear twenty-year-olds passionately discussing the finer points of Trendelenburg or Zeller!
Rule-following in Brazil. -- When I arrived in Sao Paulo yesterday, the students kept calling me "Professor Kusch." I must have said a hundred times: "Please call me 'Martin'." Today they address me as "Professor Martin."
Three cheers for Newton Carneiro Affonso da Costa! -- Brazil is the only country in the world where the fans of paraconsistency outnumber all other logicians put together.
It takes all kinds to make an academic conference. -- I wonder what goes through academics' heads when, while giving a paper, they repeatedly warn their audience: "Sorry, this part of my paper is rather boring." -- Do they think that their audience will then forgive the boredom? Or see it as a price worth paying for all the wisdom that will come later? (If it comes ...) Or do they hope that their warnings will so lower expectations that the paper will seem interesting after all? -- My advice would be: Don't give the audience any ideas!
A sense of achievement. -- I love the glossy "certificates" you get in some countries for giving a talk at a conference. And yet, it's great to be able to quietly dispose of them before heading home. It's not as if my dean back home were to shout across the corridor: "Hey Kusch, get in here, and prove that you really presented a paper in Sao Paulo!"
Kusch's Simmel in Sao Paulo. -- My first-ever four-hour-long keynote coming up next week -- and on a continent I have not visited before: super-duper exciting!
How do Brazilians know whether a given neighborhood is safe? -- They check how many trees are on the street. The richer the neighborhood, the more trees. And the richer the neighborhood, the smaller the number of desperate people who might mug you. (I would have thought the opposite: the more trees, the more places to lie in wait.)
Considering how much I enjoyed talking about political philosophy at the CEU in Budapest (of all places!) yesterday ... -- ... I wonder whether I am in the wrong subfield of philosophy.