Professor, Professor

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I have four of them this semester as of this posting. I hope to have half that many soon, but that depends on the fates (read: Letters & Science advising and policy). Let me tell you a few things about them.

Daniel Boyarin is a gnome wizard. He’s not on ratemyprofessor, so I looked him up on Wikipedia. Turns out he’s a yarmulke-toting Talmud scholar, and holds Israeli citizenship to boot, so I was initially worried. I kept reading, however, and Wikipedia describes how all these insane Zionists hate him for not wanting to massacre Palestinians. I took an immediate liking to him and our first class reinforced my positive impression. He’s a slow talker, but when he speaks he speaks with all the wisdom of that other ponderous creature, Treebeard. Have I mentioned he has a beard? That’s part of why he invokes gnome wizards. He is also—as he himself described—a “crude thinker,” dismissing radical nominalism in a sentence by saying that great danes recognize chihuahuas. You know who else are crude? Gnome wizards. My body is ready for a genealogical treatment of “religion” in the Nitzschean/Foucauldian tradition.

Georgina Kleege, whom I’ve had before, seems to still be on top of her game. We’re doing personal essays in her workshop this semester, a form I’m unfamiliar with. It’ll be a nice learning experience. She had some wisdom to offer today on a Thomas-Farber-being-in-school-and-writing-have-nothing-to-do-with-each-other level: first, that if we are already “writers” at heart we have nothing to gain from the class and should learn more useful things in other classes; second, that if we are looking for a “fun capstone,” there are plenty of other classes that will be easier and more enjoyable. I felt both of her warnings cut me, but then I remembered that I’m mostly in it for the completion of my Creative Writing Minor. Collection is a thing.

John Searle is a character. He’s the first philosophy professor I’ve had to truly lecture, and while his delivery is very fun and funny and clear, his ideas are hilariously horrendous. Well. Okay, he mostly talked about how wrong Descartes was, and I’m down with that. But he also called every other philosopher ever a fop and described every development in modern western philosophy as a “disaster”—even stooping to diss my homeboy Hume and that other cool dude Ray Kurzweil. I knew I was going to drop Searle after one class. I mostly wanted to know what it was like to be in the aura of a truly pretentious self-important failure of an academic. Now I know, and knowing, in this case, was the whole battle. I won, and in three minutes when the adjustment period reopens I am dropping his class like Derpy Hooves drops anvils.

Herbert Dreyfus is like John Searle but less assertive, less self-centered, and less well-spoken. I unfortunately need to keep his class unless the fates are kind to me. The course materials are cool but I will fall asleep if I have to listen to the stumbling droning every two days at 3:30 p.m.. He also made some jabs at Kurzweil & co., but at least his were good-natured.

I would write some kind of conclusion, but I have to go edit my schedule. Cheers!

5 thoughts on “Professor, Professor

  1. My father had a class from Searle in 1967 or so: “I like him a lot. I don’t agree with practically anything he says, but that doesn’t matter, since he’s willing to defend it.”

    • Myself, I’ve got

      Culture of Medieval Rus with a great old Russian guy

      Biological something Sex Difference which fulfills a requirement, enthusiastic professor and a subject I don’t care about

      Kafka and World Literature, not sure about this one yet. I like Kafka and have barely read him, but maybe I’ll just, you know, read Kafka instead.

      Teach in Prison, student run, tutoring at a prison 1/week and listening to guest lecturers 1/week

      The Politics of Death: Sovereignty, The State, Utopia, and Undeath. Seminar with a great Russian anthropologist, 2 of us undergraduates and 6+ graduate students from several disciplines. Going to be my toughest and most interesting class by far.

    • To each his own… unfortunately, sharp and well-spoken as Searle is, he still rambles; his attacks on Kurzweil boil down to “what the fuck is ‘the Singularity?’ pfft”; he clearly has a stupid sense of entitlement; IDK… It was generally pretty lame.

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