On Tuesday I went to Barnes for a philosophy lecture from which what I took away, mostly, was the impression that cogito ergo sum is assuming too much, and that we don’t know how we get mind from brain. So there’s the world of thought or ideas, and the material world; and some philosophers believe one exists and not the other, others think the first lot have it the wrong way round, some believe they both exist but don’t relate (which is the one I really don’t get. Unless the idea is that God was just bored and doodling matter in the margins. Most of the theories seem to have a God, possibly because they were first propounded such a long time ago. As an atheist with a lower case a I’m not against gods, even ones who are making it up as they go, but I’m not convinced that they’re a good first principle to work from) and some think there are both worlds but aren’t clear how they relate.
On the whole, generally, I tend not to think too hard about this sort of thing. Partly because I think it’s more or less insoluble, except in the sense of making up your own mind or (as I did at one point) drawing some tempting but equally fuzzy parallel between the relationship of brain and mind and the relationship of hardware and software; and partly because last time I thought too hard about it I had a dream that I believed I was Joan of Arc.
(I’m sure I told someone this on Tuesday night. It’s the sort of conversation you end up having when philosophy lectures are held in pubs. Still, they can only think I’m barmy. Or drunk. Or both. As, gentle reader, can you.)
Also, and not completely tangentially, my second MA assignment is in. This time I’ve swung right from one extreme to the other. Since I read almost no secondary material and didn’t put full enough quotes in number one, I’ve read a lot and quoted extensively in number two. Maybe too much.
I think I’ve mentioned before (if not here then on the Guardian book pages) that studying in English lit sometimes makes me feel like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole into an early David Lodge novel; so it was serendipitous or possibly Freudian or most likely both that I stumbled across this when looking for more tube line books and straight after my second assignment went in:
This one isn’t a novel. It’s a selection of essays. I think I’ve also said before that I have a casual relationship with books of essays. I enjoy them, but there are very, very few I want to own, so this is a library book.
What I like about Lodge is his sense of humour and his imagination. Someone undoubtedly should write a book entitled ‘Graham Greene, Frequent Flyer’, and ‘The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall of Kingsley Amis’ is a great title.
My favourite essay in this book though is the one about Terry Eagleton and Theory. Specifically, the way in which Theory has fallen out of favour in English Lit, but the observation (or agreement with T.E.) that academia can’t return to an innocent pre-theoretical state either.
It’s like a spotters guide to the particular rabbit hole I have recently fallen down, written by the person who first made me aware of that world.
The fact it makes me laugh as well can only be a bonus.