[Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a listener submission by Adam Arnold, graduate student at the University of Warwick. You too can be a guest blogger.]
I once thought this habit of mind was simply due to lack of self-esteem and insecurity (this is exactly the kind of place I would add a footnote about the difference between a lack of self-esteem and insecurity with a plethora of juicy names). I would always think, “I am not intelligent enough to think of these things myself (self-esteem) and everyone knows it (insecurity).”
However, I no longer think this. I now tend to think (hopefully not in mauvaise foi, or bad faith) that this is simply the way my mind works. Or even how all our minds work.
Lately, I have been reading about George Herbert Mead’s intersubjective theory of the self. According to Mead, the self (or rather the “I” that is our self-consciousness) is an emergent property of reflection about what others think of us (as “me”s). What is implicit in this is that the mind is “essentially a social phenomenon.” What does it mean to say that the mind is a social phenomenon and what does this have to do with the issue at hand?
The ephemeral nature of the I promises that one is never all that one appears to be. Others can know only the me. Furthermore, you too can only know yourself as an object, as others know you. You are blind to your own I. The Delphic command to “Know thyself!” will in this sense always remain an open question. Self-knowledge comes against its permanent limit in the I. To this extent, one remains mysterious to oneself, and the capacity for creative innovation, that which will pro-duce from the unknown into being, belong to every human. (Miller, Mimesis and Reason)
Personally, I do it through philosophy. It is how I come to understand the world around me; as far as I know, it has nothing to do with lack of confidence nor with pretentiousness. It is simply the way my mind makes sense of things; it is the hermeneutic tool which I use to decode our shared Lebenswelt.
Therefore, the guys (and occasional gals) of PEL, if they are anything like me, will not be able to stop themselves from name-dropping because it is simply the way the mind functions. We cannot help but take the role of another when reflecting on what we think about something.
Bear in mind that this does not excuse name-dropping in a style that is intended to dominate or destroy a conversation, but only condones name-dropping in an attempt for clarity through connections to the history of philosophy.