Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Autocorrect: A Sailor's Perspective

For the most part, autocorrect is a useful tool for avoiding spelling mistakes. Sometimes, it feels more like a very subtle tool for censorship, and that really passes me off. Swearing is not always the last resort of the unskilled communicator. In the right hands, it can be a dam good way to express frustration or even righteous indignation. If I want to communicate my emotional state more than any semantic content, a good round of cursing just does the ducking trick. Unfortunately, autocorrect developers must keep in mind that parents will get upset if their computer teaches their kids to swear, so I understand the rationale. Still, I would appreciate being treated like an adult and having an effective "suggest offensive words" option. I've seen such options, but they work like add, and when I'm trying to send a quick message that contains a swear, I don't want to type out the entire word or phrase like an assume. In short, autocorrect, I don't want to live in your censored world. Next time you think I should avoid cursing, you can go duck yourself, and when you're done, just sock a great big bag of docks.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Correctly Valuing the Writing Process

There are no good writing days or bad writing days. There are only days where there is writing and days where there is no writing. Recently, my main professional ambition is to minimize the latter, preferably limiting them to weekends and the occasional holiday. The imperative originated in a concern to pick up the pace on my research and to meet a submission deadline on a promising call for papers. I'm glad to say that I made the deadline and decided to use the momentum to send out some projects that have been lying fallow for a couple of months. I went from having nothing significant in submission to having three articles in submission in the course of four days. Three submissions, four days.

Beyond those submissions, I started on another three projects, some now in draft, some still in extended abstract. Now that I have the back-burner projects out of the way, I can start some revision and further research on the current projects, and hopefully get those off sometime soon as well. The best part is that I can feel my arguments changing, heading into deeper theoretical concerns that shape debates rather than the debates themselves. I don't how all of that will come out, but the articles can't get rejected if they're not submitted. At this point, I have enough encouragement to keep going, which is the the most important part of any routine. With that, I should go read one more article before I collapse for the night.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Death of Socrates

Today, I told my students that while Socrates was not the first philosopher, he is the one who really set what would come to be called Western Philosophy in motion. I don't know exactly how accurate that view is since there were a number of odd mystery cults circulated in the Mediterranean, Pythagoras and his crew for instance. Nevertheless, there is something about the drama of the trial and death of Socrates that seemed to energize the philosophical project, such as it was at the time.

Even if created in retrospect, the narrative of a person dying for asking questions sends a powerful signal that there is something important about what he was doing. Remember that it's not quite right to say that Socrates died for his ideas. The early dialogues offer little in the way of a positive project, and what is there is usually attributed to Plato working out the early stages of his project. In the end, Socrates is executed because asking questions is dangerous. It undermines the structure of authority, erodes certainty in traditional values, and disrupts social routines.

Nevertheless, it's also the ability to question that grounds our capacity for self-understanding and rational thought. The death of Socrates marks a cultural awakening to sentience mirrored in the roots of other great world traditions, named and unnamed. All of us inherit those traditions, whether we recognize the lineage or not.