Wednesday 22 April 2009

Philosophy as a kind of window

I was asked a few weeks ago by the omnipresent Nina Power to write a short review of the two new McDowell collections for the Philosophers Magazine by ‘about April 20th’. So having – perhaps? – missed that deadline, I must take find time over the next few days, outside salary-man working hours, to draft the text, starting this evening.

There are times when locking myself in my study is very attractive, especially if the notional alternative is a series of administrative meetings on campus. But we’ve just had 10 days of delightful weather in Cumbria coinciding with public holidays and I’ve been able to stay a couple of nights (in Sawrey) in the National Park, to get out for decent some walks, evening runs on the Scar and a couple of proper cycle rides (not merely on a folding bike). Against that notional alternative, an evening in in the study seems claustrophobic.

How to avoid that feeling? At its best, reading philosophy is a kind of window. One isn’t blocked by the obligation to read an article from a kind of social encounter. Rather, the text is an opening into a debate, into a social group with which one identifies. Often I can see it that way. But tonight, the attraction of an evening cycle ride is overridden only by an obligation to Nina to start to write the pesky review.