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August 30, 2014



Hi Justin,

greetings from London. Lucky you to be able to project a musing gaze over the Hudson river, though I'm not sure how much sympathy would your writing from a Manhattan penthouse inspire amongst respectable brethren :)

On a serious note, if it's any consolation, in London they often offer you 'coffee or dessert' after dinner, instead of just the latter. And if you should ever decide to try to recapture the joys of childhood while here, I recommend the crêpes à l’orange at Brasserie Zédel in Piccadilly. (No pun intended with your serious collection of thoughts). With just the right amount of bitter-sweet aroma inside (which probably comes from the orange skin), they really are more intriguing than the usual bland (intoxicatingly sweet) dessert.

On an even more serious note, I know what you mean by having to deal with camouflaged attempts to change you, coming from people outside your field. Having recently agreed to write an article about my own PG programs at Regent's (the ones I manage), and done it, the response duly came asking me to redraft it into a generic guide for MBA students, which would not be too far off (as the MBA is one of those programs), if it were not for the jump from the particular to the general, which bothers me if it's outside a philosophical remit.
Mind you, the same practice can be encountered in philosophical circles too. I had a frustrating experience not so long ago when, having enquired about a certain conference on X philosopher and received assurances that it was not meant to be just for the small circle of specialists in X, I sent in a proposal about X in the context of the history of ideas. The response was that I should revise it to make it more technical and focused on X alone. Hence - a whole week of turmoil as to whether or not I should change my proposal or not. In the end I decided the change required would have been too drastic for me to be able to justify it to myself. If there was one thing I knew about my philosophical self that would be that I never was and never will be a technician, specialising in one theorist or school of thought.

And no, I don't think that language alone can bring us any closer to any meaning at all, but pondering on it might. Allowing ourselves to imagine what writing or saying something like this may have felt like at the end of the 14th century, for Chaucer himself or those who read him on their way to Canterbury, might cause a little thought or two in us, today:

Ye seken lond and see for your wynnynges,
As wise folk ye knowen all th'estaat
Of regnes; ye been fadres of tydynges
And tales, bothe of pees and of debaat.

You seek land and sea for your winnings,
As wise folk you know all the estate
Of kingdoms; you be fathers of tidings,
And tales, both of peace and of debate.

And I suspect that Heidegger would have been open to such 'roads' or 'pathways' of thought. My whole youth was built on the belief that he didn't mean to invest too much in his vocabulary, and that, as soon as one masters it, one should abandon or transcend it.

I particularly like the old way of saying goodbye in English -- God þē mid sīe, which means "God be with you"...

Best wishes from London,

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