Philosophy 101

Well, this week was the last lecture of what has been an amazing scholar year. So I came up with this little recount of what is like to be thrown in the pool of philosophy after lying on a dry rock under the sun for 25 years.

overthinking

Amazing illustration by Ruslan Khasanov

How do I begin to express in words how much I love philosophy? When I first signed up for this Master I was expecting to understand the stubbornness with which people around me held onto their worldview, I came here expecting to find proofs of why other people I disagreed with were wrong, I wanted to learn how to better defend my arguments of how things should be.

What I found left me speechless. I realized I was far off from being a part of any solution to the problems of society, I was infected with the disease I so badly wanted to eradicate.

Engaging with my classmates and professors, the smartest people I had ever met in my life, was like the punch in the face I needed to wake up from my delusion. Sure, my point of view was valuable, but it was useless if I couldn’t listen, if I couldn’t draw connections between our different outtakes on reality, if I couldn’t synthesize our alternative experiences in the world. I learned to be humble with my opinions, even if I’ve been reading and cultivating myself in any topic for weeks, or months, or years. That humbleness and disconcert might at first give you a sense of despair, the feeling of being completely ignorant, but the benefits end up surpassing that unfounded fear. Because there is so much more to learn once you give up on your “right” opinion.

I learned there is no such thing as universal truths, despite my previous blind loyalty to modern science as the overarching source of knowledge. I learned to consider that any story and account of facts, scientific, philosophical or historical, is impregnated with undesired influences from what is happening in its surroundings. I learned that the end results of any intellectual inquiry carry with it the watermarks of where and when it was conducted. And despite our frustrations, our attachment to this ideal of absolute facts, the best we can do is justify our beliefs as inferences to the best explanation we have at hand. There is no limit to how much one can open his or her mind, once you’ve gotten rid of all your assumptions, of all the things that you’re so sure that you know, that is when the real conversation starts.

This is all hard for me to express in a blog post, but after a year of countless lectures on great thinkers (not all of which I agreed with), after more than the compulsory amount of colloquia about the amazing research people are conducting right now in what is now my field, and after philosophising with my classmates along, let’s admit it, more than a couple of beers at the Bolwerk, my brain has completely exploded. I’m still trying to put together the pieces, and I know that when I’m finished, that shit’s gonna look and function entirely different.

If we hold a conversation in the future, just know that I am completely done taking anything for granted, and I will push you and everyone around me to do the same.

In this incessant search for the meaning of existence and its purpose, in this tenacious goal we hold on to understand what the fuck is that we are doing in this world, philosophy really brings you to your knees, it hits you with a thousand Newtons of force and makes you feel like a tiny, tiny little ant walking clueless in the immensity of the Universe.

I am completely in love, and though I have to accept sometimes it raises in me a bit of anxiety, to know that I will never ever be capable of finding the ultimate answer to explain this mess we call life makes it much more exciting to get out of bed every morning and explore it with the curiosity of a 6-year-old.

To philosophy, cheers. 🍺

Perspective

The evolution of my perspective is my favorite part of growing up. When I realize that I am able to analyze problems or situations from which yesterday I did not have that much information. My brain starts making connections and finding patterns increasingly sophisticated, and I rediscover things I didn’t know I  didn’t entirely understand.

And it is something that has no cost, it doesn’t go away, it doesn’t stay static, it just is, and it defines me. It defines how I construct my reality, it makes the world more complex and intriguing, filling it with more adventures and enigmas to solve. And it is mine, just mine, nobody can entirely get it, and nobody can see the world through it, it is all that I am and all that no one else is.

And it evolves, one day at a time, with each article I read, each interaction I have with another person, each lecture I attend to, each unexpected feeling. And then I think if this is how it is at 25, how will it be at 30? at 60? And then time stops being a burden, is my ally and is essential for the experience. And then growing up is no longer scary, and becomes utterly exciting.

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Tales From a Former Yuppie

I’ve been wanting to write about how good I feel lately, I just haven’t been that inspired. For some reason, it’s easier to write when I am sad, maybe cause it’s a desperate call for attention. And when I’m happy I’m in no need of attention, or not as much, anyway. But God, it’s a beautiful day, it’s sunny and I’m sitting next to a lake. You should see this place, everything’s still so green, ducks seem to be having a blast in the water. There was a dog a few minutes away just staring at me. I’ve come to realize how much I miss my dog Johnny. I’m pretty sure he misses me too. But he cannot tell anyone, he can only bark at the garbage truck. I hope he’s having his regular walks and bones after the Sunday’s barbecues and an overall good time at our patio.

I’ve been having a hard time focusing on my readings and my work, but I’m pretty sure I’ll catch up by the time of the exams, which is just a couple of weeks away. I don’t really feel worried, or pressured. Not today. It’s a sunny Sunday and I’m listening to The Shins.

It’s one of those “it’s all going to be alright” moments. Though I feel so sad about the news, especially about the war in Syria. It’s just so fucked up how the media outlets will just blatantly lie about the role of the U.S. and U.K. and Russia in the conflict and their intentions. It makes me really sad to witness so much suffering for the sake of money and power. I think Heidegger was right in some ways, we’re born in the world and get raised with this idea that we have to possess material stuff, that what we possess makes us better, stronger, worthy. And we take the resources of the Earth, up to the point of depleting them, we step on each other, and it all unfolds so quickly without us taking a breath and just stop and think how stupid it really is. I wonder if these huge guys in politics and world banks and military feel so compelled by nature and just so complete when they sit in front of a lake.

I don’t think it’s our fate to be in a permanent state of conflict for the sake of getting resources, though. I don’t think it’s our fate. I’m positive there’s a better way humanity can move forward. And to be here on the other side of the planet, trying to figure out how we can do it, makes me feel so happy.

I remember how frustrated I used to be… getting up to work every day, sitting at a desk, holding meetings with people who were just thinking of what they were going to do when they were off the office. To get home so tired and just lay on the couch and think of doing something different, something important, meaningful. And God, to be pushed to read philosophy and write your thoughts, this whole pushing someone to think by himself. Teachers are really amazing people, they really engage which each one of us and feel so excited when we participate. I like to believe they expect us to do something important. And I love the fact that my classmates are all so crazy to be studying a Philosophy master in the 21st century. Everything’s evolving and I’m starting to feel cozy and surrounded with great people with good intentions. To remember how much I really wanted to have this, and now I have it. I’m so grateful.

I’m completely broke. I really am, I’m counting every cent at the market, picking the cheaper bread. The fancy days of buying expensive dinner and all-inclusive hotels in Cancun are completely over. I haven’t had a fancy dinner in two months now, but I don’t really need them. Once I disposed of all luxury for the sake of being here I realized how much I don’t need it. Feeling grateful for your life in front of a lake while you write a blog post is completely free of charge.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to stop a war, to raise consciousness about anything, to save any lives, to save the planet. It sounds delusional, to be honest. But to want it so hard that you set the gears and every piece of your life towards it, just to know that you’re actively pursuing this one goal, is enough to make me feel so happy. It’s either that or the shot of Vitamin D I just got from sitting here under the sun.

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Me vs Me

I lied. I do not have anything useful for today’s post, it’s all nonsense again. I set myself this goal to write an essay on Interplanetary Travel using Heidegger’s Philosophical framework today and I had a huge cup of coffee at 9 PM to get started. Guess what? My brain was a little bit indisposed, so I figured “Why don’t we watch a couple of Gilmore Girls episodes on Netflix?” You know, to sort of give the brain a little bit of a rest before the hard work ahead.

4 Episodes man, that means a total of zero words written today. God, it’s been a funky, funky week. There’s a lot of assignments to do by the end of this month, and I just feel like my brain is being fed millions of concepts and ideas every day with all these readings and I wonder if it’s just going to explode at any moment, just blow away half of this little town, hit markets and houses and dogs and old ladies on motorcycles in the bike lane.

The last episode I watched was about Rory, who had just entered a new, more demanding school. She studied one week for a test, stayed up the whole night before, going through her notes and trying to memorize everything. She fell asleep without setting her alarm so she was late for the test and the teacher wouldn’t let her take it. She then goes into this emotional breakdown in the classroom and starts yelling at everyone.

Well, I haven’t yelled at anyone yet, but I’ve sure had some breakdowns going on inside my brain. There’s just something wrong with me that keeps telling me I’m such a loser. My brain is just trying to convince me that nobody likes me, it makes me feel really awkward and self-conscious about everything I say, wear and do. I had a coffee stain on my shirt and I swore everyone was looking at me and thinking how disgusting I was. What am I, six? Do I know anything about washing machines? I know what you’re thinking, I know it’s just a lie. I’m making it up, it’s all up here in my head, but it feels so real. It makes it a little harder to focus on studying or reading, it turns every single situation into a nightmare.

It wasn’t all that bad this week, I had some pretty good solid conversations with a couple of people just yesterday. I got to know the details of my roommate’s graphic design projects and a lot about her family. I met a local guy who’s into Mexican cholos and culture and I think he’s up for being a really good friend. I also met a Tekno DJ. It’s beyond my understanding that people keep being so nice to me and yet I feel so bad with myself. Maybe it’s just the shitty diet, the hours I’m not sleeping, maybe too much beer?

What am I doing? I should be working out regularly, trying to avoid carbohydrates, drinking red wine instead of beer, drinking plenty of water! Avoiding processed foods, getting a job. I need a little bit of settling, wouldn’t be bad at all. I know it’s going to be okay, eventually. But days pass by so quickly, it’s been 5 weeks already, and my philosophy reading seems to be a bit slow. There are so many drinks and gatherings going on around me, I never listen to the alarm, I can’t come up with a schedule, I’m all over the fucking place. I need a slap in the face from someone. Or a long-lasting hug. Someone to tell me it’s fine. “Keep going, you’re doing fine.” Instead is just me and my brain, having this inner dialogue, these long crappy discussions about my personality and my social anxiety and insecurities.

– They hate me.
– No, they don’t, it’s okay.
– Who would want to be my friend I can’t even properly comb my hair.
– Nobody gives a shit about your hair.
– Do I really think I can drive any positive change in the world? I must be delusional.

I sometimes talk to myself out loud. And I really, really, really miss my dog. Don’t mind me, it’s 3 in the morning, I’ll get it together tomorrow morning.

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A better thought on people (and myself)

I’m totally ashamed by my last post. What an asshole to think I’d be able to reduce my social interactions in the last month in a 3-paragraph post and a shitty picture of my room. I’m writing this post (a really long one) to make it up for that last one.

Heres’ the deal. Every time I make a new friend, it kinda tells me a little bit more about myself, and it feels like I’m in need of that right now. Before I came here, I had a pretty solid image of who I was, or thought I was. And now, between the days without eating, excessive drinking, late night studying and constant exposure to everybody’s existentialist ideas, that image is starting to slowly fade away. Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. I don’t think so, to be honest. I’m not done creating myself. It’d be very stupid to think you can stop reinventing yourself at 25. I sometimes feel that’s what Donald Trump did, but whatever.

So, even though I should be writing an essay about the SCOT methodology (sociologists’ mumbo-jumbo, pay no attention) I will actually devote some time to divide my latest social interactions in two main groups and I will explain how that has taught me something about my self.

Group #1. The guys I see every day, every time. The people I live with. The majority of them are german and are studying something related to art. (that is, visual or plastic arts). They’re much more visually creative than me, and they’ve managed to build up a pretty colorful and alternative house. Their paintings and drawings are everywhere! And should I mention we live in what used to be a night club? That means there’s literally a bar next to the living room. And we take it a little bit serious. Beer is one of the house commodities, so we have to make sure there’s always beer in the house. We have a system, which of course includes dish soap, oil, napkins, etcetera, I’m still trying to get my head around it. These guys are part of the underground art scene of my current town, they help organize the best underground electronic/hardcore/techno parties, and contrary to my previous belief, German people are actually super friendly. Though it would be fair to mention that sometimes they forget I don’t speak German and I cannot understand a word when they’re speaking to each other. To be honest, I feel sort of like a loser. I do. I get home so late from being at the Uni all day and I’ll go straight to my room to keep reading while they’re watching German Talk Shows or just plain drinking and having a good time. They must think I’m a nerd, and I’m starting to realize I might be one. It doesn’t feel that bad when you realize it’s the only way to achieve the kind of life you want to achieve, but sometimes I’ll forget about it, come home, and feel like the loser. On one hand is nice to have some distraction at home and realize party is just outside my room’s door.

Group #2: My classmates. They are VERY smart, and I’m still a little bit afraid of speaking my mind, not only at class. They have such different backgrounds and some of them will refer, multiple times during a discussion, to books they’ve read in their life and I’m just trying to deal with the fact that I’m the worst and less disciplined reader of the whole class. My thoughts and opinions are not garbage though, and these things we’re discussing in a “sociological approach to science” class, I don’t agree with it. They have this theory(?) or programme that says all scientific knowledge is just a social construct. And just is the word here, because I don’t mind wrapping my head around the idea that there are some social components that can influence some of the interpretation of the scientific evidence, but, and I’ve said this to them many, many times: a physical law, is a physical law. And I’ve been engaging in a lot of discussions with friends, who are, of course, sociologists. I will not address every point of our discussion, I believe that deserves a post on its own, but my point now is they must see me as this square-head, narrow-minded engineer. I just explained to them the Pi tattoo is in my arm because I truly believe math is the language of the universe (shout out to Galileo). And I want a second tattoo of the cosmological model of the origin of the universe, Lambda Cold Dark Matter, which of course is the scientific approach to explain the universe and its origin with Physics. I’m not narrow-minded, I just think you should accept scientific knowledge as the objective truth of what can be observed in nature.

And this last thing going on in my mind has really started to make me wonder if I’m in the right master programme. I wonder if all of this parts from the idea that science is a social construct. The impact has been that strong. And I think that, after all, I’m not interested in staying in the lab, or computing complex theories as theoretical physicists do. I’m also not interested in designing rocket ships, I just want people to take science as their source of objective knowledge to draw public policies with it. Going to a philosophy/sociology inclined programme seemed like the right way to go. Who knows if I’m in the right place, but I’m holding my ground.

Scientific Knowledge = Objective Truth of Observable Universe =
Foundation for Global Policies  

Do you have a better idea of who I am because of this post? I kinda have. We’re making some progress. I hope the words for my assignment will come to my mind as fast as the words for this post did. Thank you for reading through my nonsense, next time I’ll come up with something substantial and useful.

Update: I obviously changed my mind. But this post is not going anywhere, it’s a cute reminder of where I come from and I’m not ashamed of that.

On people

This week I’ve been having the opportunity to know my roomies better.  I was afraid of them because they all seem so much cooler than me and I felt like the Mexican idiot who came to study philosophy of technology. But they turned out to be really nice people, each of them has a unique personality I like. I always forget people don’t really give a shit about your life, they mind their own business. And everybody here wants to get along, why wouldn’t we? It’d be really annoying to be in the class, or live with, or party with someone you don’t like.

So I’ve been trying to be friends with the people I’ve met in the Uni as well, I still run into some new people every once in a while. They’re all young and are either studying or just recently graduated. Everybody has a different story of why they’re here, and we like to talk each other about it. You’re in a meeting and you realise that guy from Indonesia knows how to play guitar and starts singing a cool Indonesian song, and the Finnish couple gets out a salty liquorice to drink, and the Italian girl gets the red wine.

And then there are classes. And the people who go with me to classes. We’re a group of 26 people, we want to be philosophers of science and technology. I’m not the only engineer, as a matter of fact, most of us have engineering backgrounds. People with philosophy background tend to participate more in class. They’re very smart. And I’ve been a little afraid of talking because I’m afraid, as I always am, that everyone will think I’m an idiot. But I’ve been reading a lot as well. Trying to remind myself to not have fear in class and just expose my ideas to get valuable feedback I guess.

I guess, okay! I’m out.

Day 1 on Enschede

The trip was, well – exhausting. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this tired in my life. I managed to stay awake the whole day with the jet lag so I could sleep all night in this new time zone.

The only part of the city I got to know was the road from my house to the university, which is 20 min away, bus or bike. Well, I don’t have a bike yet, turns out I’m too short for the bike I was going to buy so I need to keep looking for one that suits me, probably in the Hobbit store. I also lost my OV-chipkaart card for taking the bus after the first use, which means I need to a) find it, b) buy a new one c) pay the bus rides in cash. I’m still rooting for plan A but I’m not the best finding things when I haven’t slept for 36 hours.

My room is really tiny. But, really, really tiny. I do have a shower inside my room which is cool, but there’s a clog in the piping we need to fix. There’s a bunk bed I need to disassemble and get rid of because the mattress is literally a foot from the roof. Something about sleeping with the roof on my nose doesn’t sound very appealing, so until I can disassemble that thing and get it out of the room I’m sleeping in a borrowed sleeping bag on the floor. I haven’t really talked to all my roomies because besides the fact that I’m very shy and awkward and this is all too overwhelming to me and I want to run away and hide in my room every time someone talks to me, well, I haven’t had much time.

Thanks to the Universe Lore lives in the same city. She made dinner for me and lent me her OV-chipkaart so I could come back home. I really need to sleep. Tomorrow’s the introductory day at the University. Let’s hope my brain works better in the morning and everything changes to a positive discourse. Until then.