Responding to a listener request, here's the text of the inspirational speech from the end of episode #14, so you can have it tattooed or mounted or embroidered or perhaps written in frosting on a birthday cake. I have rendered it in BOLD MAGENTA #3 (C031C7) for your pleasure:
What you see before you, i.e. me, is, admittedly, very awesomely partially examined, but I was not always this way.
I used to try to stretch myself to conform to codes of conduct and ideals of being foreign to my nature, like I tried not to swear at all for a bit when I was about 12 until I became very embarrassed about my saying “Gosh!” really loudly when punched in gym class.
I used to use my girlfriends in college exclusively as a sounding board for my hideous self-reflections, externalizing every little notion to cross my brain in an attempt to make myself an external clump of the world to pick at like a carrion-hungry buzzard.
Why, one time I was caught midway between a watering hole and a big, juicy steak, and being unable to decide between them, just stood there contemplating the choice until I starved to death.
So I can confidently say that while the unexamined life may not be worth living, the constantly, strenuously, annoyingly examined life sucks!
But now, but now, I can read and watch things that are dumb and not feel bad about it. I can put myself out there without being so self-conscious about how I can’t actually fit all the caveats I would ideally like to into everything I say. I can, much like the Ramones, create explosive idiotic songs that are not meant to expose the entirety of my psyche, but only to repeat and elaborate a trope in a way that will resonate with, and hence extend, a mere tiny slice my emotional life.
For I am partially examined, dammit, with enough reflection for me to know the foolishness that is me without so much reflection so as to be unduly bothered by that.
But you, you sad sack sitting out there with Being and Nothingness under your pillow. You objects of a voyeuristic God that not only sees right through your soul but commands that you do the same. You people that constantly need to talk talk talk talk talk through all of your problems. I know you don’t like it. I know it’s hard. But there is hope.
I stand before you today as living proof that if you fail to try hard enough, you might just succeed. You too can have a partially examined life, with only some of your experiences spoiled by excessive reflection and omnipresent irony, with relationships that are only partially built on a narcissistic desire to expand your echo chamber, with some expectations undefined and some options not considered.
When you hear about, e.g. someone living under a bridge, you don’t have to imagine yourself what it would be like to live under such a bridge, and decide for a second that it would be cool, but then decide, no, of course it would not be. When you hear a new band that your friend likes, you don’t have to go and listen to everything that band has ever recorded and really wade into the music up to your eyeballs until you have an “insider’s view” and only THEN dismiss them as actually pretty shitty. When you read a book, you can just read it, without stopping to write down your own philosophical musings inspired by the sentence you were just reading but in fact only tangentially related to it. When someone calls you untalented, you can just say “screw off” instead of asking follow up questions about WHY the person thinks you’re untalented and, when you don’t get clear enough answers, make up a lot of answers yourself and then dwell on them for months afterward.
No, I say, there is hope. By just mostly giving up and not worrying about it out of sheer disgust with yourself, you can, like me, slowly become a more nearly tolerable person to be around who doesn’t drive himself absolutely batshit for no reason. With just a touch of philosophy (and just a touch, now!) and some good old fashioned elbow grease or some other meaningless cliché that you don’t think about enough to edit out of your inspirational speech, you too can, like me, have the partially examined life.
Dan B says
Listening to you guys talk with what seems to be irreverent humor toward philosophy is kind of amusing to me. It seems as though you guys seem to view studying philosophy as a kind of pathology engaged in by people with some sort of obsessive compulsive or narcissistic personality disorders. You have reached the epiphany that the over-examined life is the cause of much distress. This is a reoccurring theme in some of your posts. I agree that over-examining the minutia of life without being able to “let it go” and enjoy it is in a way a kind of philosophy of life or maladaptive personality trait that can lead to unhappiness. Realizing this and finding a better balance may be an important step in becoming a philosopher for some people. I can see how coming to this realization might lead to improved social functioning.
I am not sure what happened to you guys at University of Texas that led you to develop such a negative view of so-called “academic philosophy,” but I am interested. From what it sounds like, you guys seem to focus on the arrogant personalities of various philosophers and possible groupthink going on. I agree that many philosophers do have a kind of “know-it-all” elitist attitude that from the outside seems grandiose and narcissistic. However, this kind of silly puffed up ego is common in a lot of educated people or people that view themselves as having a higher social status–doctors, lawyers, professors, politicians (not necessarily educated), CEOs, etc. It may have just been the culture or dynamics of your department that led you to develop this unfavorable view of philosophy. It is puzzling to me to hear you guys discuss philosophy in this way, as though you were disillusioned with it and finally wised up that it was all a waste of time or perhaps just a strange kind of geeky pastime. I would love to have the time study and discuss philosophy in the way you guys were able to do. I would view that as a dream come true and be feel grateful and fortunate for the opportunity. Although, I am not sure I would view it as something that would lead to Definite Answers. Perhaps I am misunderstanding you. However, I am glad you guys have found an outlet for your love/hate relationship with philosophy. I don’t necessarily agree with your philosophy of philosophy, but it is interesting and amusing.
This speech is timeless and now Dan’s reply is too.
Seth Paskin says
Dan, just so you know, we decided to respond to you ‘on the air’ in our latest cast, recorded Sunday night. Release date is dependent on editing energy, but it should be out soon.
Dan B says
Oh, cool. Great. Thanks for the response. I look forward to it. I didn’t mean to sound heavy-handed or anything like that. I think you guys are doing a good job with discussing some of the philosophical ideas. Obviously, you guys like discussing philosophy and I appreciate that. I am just curious about what happened, since all three of you seemed to draw similar conclusions about academic philosophy at the same place. That was sort of aside from your theme about a “partially examined” life. I haven’t listened to all of the podcasts yet though, so sorry if I missed it. I try to listen to them when I am going on long drives.
Seth Paskin says
I wouldn’t want to read too much into the fact that we happen to have gone to UT and happen to be where we are now – I’m sure every graduate program has plenty of people like us. Lots of people don’t make it through a PhD program and you could probably find a group of folks from every school in our situation. That being said, we certainly haven’t gone into details about the politics in the department when we were there, prospects in the job market, how much more competitive our colleagues were, etc.
What makes us different and, to me, the key thing is that (motivated by Mark) we’ve come back together to do this podcast. It’s about what is happening with/to/around us now and not what happened in the past. Although of course we were projected out of that into our possibilities…:)
thank you for your super thoughtful and caring color choice as well as posting-truly a funny ‘speech’
Dan B says
I just listened to the podcast about Donto. Thanks for clarifying your feelings about academic philosophy Seth. That makes sense. I think picked up that perception that you guys were responding to personalities from that one podcast where Wes was sort of ranting about Dan Dennett, calling him an asshole and wanting to kick his ass, and from something else someone said. I know you guys were joking, but I thought I was picking up some resentment.
I am still trying to get your meaning behind the “partially examined life,” and that is where I interpreted it as “Don’t over-analyze Life.” Then I imagined the obsessive personality from that.
Yea, I wrote that, like this, in the middle of the night. I had not heard Mark speaking it; I just read it on the website and it went along with some things I had seen on here earlier. I’m a bit of an insomniac. It brought out a good response though. No, I am not taking it too seriously. You guys seem like you are just having a good time and being playful.
I do think philosophy is pretty central to our lives and thinking though. After studying philosophy for a while, I love it and find the material very interesting, but I have never found a philosopher that I really latched on to for long or agreed with completely. There are philosophers that I admire though, and many are able to articulate new ideas well. I think a lot of the ideas are repeated in different language and use metaphors that push and pull you in various directions to achieve a similar result, which is a more open mind. If I get too locked down into an idea, I can usually find another philosopher that will pull me out of it. After a while you get better at doing it on your own. I am probably not making any sense. I am going back to bed. Thanks guys. Take it easy.
This is a real gem. Thank you for transcribing it!
When I heard this I thought it was amazing. Then I found it here to read! Even better!
Mark Linsenmayer says