This blog post is being written in the five minute study breaks I’m giving myself as I study today (as I try to get to grips with whether or not non-analytic a priori knowledge exists).
I honestly find studying really difficult. It’s not that I find it completely boring, it’s just that I find it difficult to be motivated about concepts and pieces of information when it’s all so abstract and my learning it has no real purpose or meaning.
I’d really just rather not.
As this ‘rather not-ness’ has been compounded this week by now being over half way through term, and the excitement of the other things that are happening, it’s started to peek through and become more of a problem. This was most evident in the following unfortunate exchange that happened in my supervision (a one-on-one hour with an academic) this week, in response to being asked a question:
‘I just don’t know’
‘I think you do know, I’m trying to draw the answer out of you’
‘nope, I still don’t know’
‘You’ve got to at least go along with the process’
‘I’m not so sure that I want to go along with the process’
‘Well welcome to ****ing philosophy!’
This was all said in a bemused and good-natured manner, made better by the fact that my supervisor is a robustly-built Scottish man, but it does still very clearly show my failure to be the ideal philosophy student!
In the midst of my ‘rather not-ness’ I’ve been trying to remind myself of the fact that I get to. I recently wrote about the gratitude of the ten Boom sisters for fleas (The Hiding Place – Corrie ten Boom). It seems that my ‘flea-equivalent’ is currently just the entire process of studying (help me). But whereas the opportunity to spend quality time with fleas is not a privileged one, the opportunity to study where I do most definitely is.
And so I’m trying to remind myself that I get to.
I get to study in an amazing university. I get to study a subject that I wouldn’t be able to comprehend (even less than now) if I didn’t have supervisors helping me out. I get to do so many incredible things because of where I’m placed, because of the other people that are also here and because of the opportunities that come with being this privileged.
As part of this, I’m trying to treat everyday as a day for a fresh encounter with God. And that means not separating my study from the category of ‘times I encounter God.’ And it also means accepting my responsibility for the attitude I have. It turns out that I am very reluctant to do this because I’d sooner blame my reluctance on reliabilist epistemology than admit to the unpleasantness of my own stubbornness and resentful nature. But that’s not exactly a good reason for not accepting responsibility for my attitude.
So this is a sort of statement of my resolve. A resolve to choose an attitude towards working and studying that is less one of petulance and more one of cheerfulness.
I think there’s a truth in the idea that pretence leads up to the real thing – that sometimes the way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. I think it’s part of the principle that governs the Lord’s prayer starting with ‘Our Father‘. When we pray those words we are putting ourselves in the place of the Son of God. We are, as C.S. Lewis puts it, ‘dressing up as Christ’, with the hope that the practice of approaching the Father like the Son may help us actually become more like Him.
If you’re reading this and know me in real life, I advise shoving this webpage in my face the next time I do anything that shows contempt for philosophy. But if you can, let it be a polite shove that comes with a hug, because I’m fragile and still can’t tell you whether or not non-analytic a priori knowledge exists.