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Sunday, 3 August 2014

Poetry and Philosophy

Relax. This blog post will not be as pretentious as its title implies. I will not discuss philosophy or poetry very much. What I will do is talk a little bit about how they both pertain to my life.

When I talk of 'philosophy' I am not talking about navel-gazing, contemplating the heavens or musing on one's place in the world; I am talking about the hardcore academic subject I spent five years studying before becoming a poet. And whilst this academic subject purports to study some of the most interesting things humankind could hope to turns its mind to, the reality is that academic philosophy, at least in its Ango-American 'analytic' guise, is a quagmire of pedantry and endlessly tiresome epicycles of futile argumentation about issues that, in a very deep sense that is nonetheless almost impossible to articulate, are profoundly unimportant (some branches of ethics aside). And I might add that philosophy postgrads, with a few honourable exceptions, are generally some of the most boring people one could ever hope to meet.

At any rate, such was my experience of the subject. After getting a 1st class degree from UCL (for which I sacrificed any kind of social life beyond the first year), I spent two years as a postgraduate at Oxford University, where I was nearly paralysed with crippling bouts of Imposter Syndrome (which still occasionally afflicts me as a poet). But I passed my degree, and can now put 'Oxon' after my name should I ever so desire, although I can't for the life of me think of a point at which doing so would be necessary or even helpful.

Why do I mention this? Well, I am currently undertaking a second MA, this time in Education Studies and Creative Writing. What I am finding is that, despite the disdain expressed above, my studies in philosophy have been helpful. Whilst I came to find the subject itself profoundly uninteresting, I am enjoying bringing the academic skills I acquired through studying it to bear on a subject I do find genuinely interesting and important. The careful, methodical construction of an argument can be extremely satisfying, and I am enjoying once again using pretentious words like 'adumbrate', and 'pertaining to'. What I don't miss are those silly little backwards E's and those upside-down A's (anyone familiar with logic will know what I'm on about), and people who think arguing about the meaning of words, or rigorously defining every word before using it (which, believe me, many philosophy students do during every conversation, academic or otherwise), constitutes the best use of one's time.

Of course all this is largely a matter of personal taste. I suppose that, when it comes down to it, the issues beloved of academic philosophers are, objectively, neither more nor less important than those enjoyed by any other academic. And all academics are probably tiresomely nerdy about their chosen fields of study. I would anticipate that someone might object to me by saying that poems about yabbing, or missing one's bottom, or not exactly profound. One might even be tempted to view such items as unworthy of someone with my academic qualifications. Such is the view of my parents, which I have written about here. I try not to see things that way.

So what is the point of this blog post? I'm not sure really. I am not writing in the Philosophical Review. I'm not sure if it really needs a point.