PhD Update 2

It’s been a few months since I posted an update (see previous) on my PhD project.

As it stands today, my funding runs out on the 31st of July – which is functionally my deadline, even though technically I have until the 31st of October. Hoping I’ll be able to get an extension to make sure everything is up to the kind of standard I want to be held to. We’ll see about that in due time – I certainly have good cause for an extension (though I can’t really talk about that here).

I have five chapters at advanced draft stage, one with a very rough mostly complete draft, and one that doesn’t yet exist in any meaningful way. The current word count is 43676, which seems low, given that the maximum limit is 80000. However, the chapter that is partially drafted still needs approx. 2000 words, and the non-existent chapter will be around 7500. The introduction and conclusion altogether will be around 10000 as well, so the final word count for the first draft will be about 65000 – which gives me a healthy ceiling for editing and clarifying things.

I had the somewhat regretful realisation that I am not likely to go to any more conferences during my PhD. The only one I am considering still is the meeting of the Australasian Association of Philosophy in July. But then, given my tight deadlines, that’s looking like a bad idea – I certainly wouldn’t have much time to prepare a new paper.

With that realisation comes the more worrying one, that from August, I might no longer ever have an academic job of any sort. I don’t yet know how I feel about that. On the one hand, I’ve been working towards that for about ten years; on the other, it’s not like I didn’t know that there isn’t really a job market any more. More on that as the situation develops.

In more positive news, a group of which I was one of the founding members, the Friends of Mary Astell, held its first meeting at the recent APA Eastern meeting in Philadelphia. It was heartening to see so much interest in Astell’s philosophy. Incidentally, she’ll be the focus of the yet-nonexistent chapter, and I look forward to immersing myself in her ideas for a while. She was great.

Restarting the Machine

The new year is upon us. And while I’m not quite back to full operational speed, I started to get back to work after taking a bit of a break over Christmas and the New Year.

It’s funny how quickly the brain gears stop functioning exactly right after a few days of actively avoiding responsibility. Monday was the first day I’d attempted to do work – I barely managed to read half of a journal article before capitulating to my wandering mind. By Wednesday I was able to focus well enough to spend a few hours reading for work. I’m hoping that by the end of next week I’ll be able to turn the tap and have words flow out of it as they normally would.

My supervisor is expecting some decent progress on the current chapter I’m writing by the end of next week, so the machine has to start functioning.

I’m writing on John Norris and Nicolas Malebranche right now, on the way in which they fuse Cartesianism with Augustinianism. As with the rest of my thesis, the focus is on the Cartesian theory of emotion. I can’t say much more, but the chapter is forming nicely – just slowly.

One thing that helped with bringing my focus back is the very successful first meeting of the Friends of Mary Astell. A new scholarly society dedicated to the promotion of scholarship on Astell that I was invited to co-found by my colleagues Michaela Manson and Allauren Forbes. Our first meeting was a tremendous success, even if I could only attend via Skype. We have some big plans forming for this year. Plans which I will reveal in due time.


The writer Warren Ellis uses a codename system to talk about his ongoing projects that aren’t ready to be discussed in public yet. I think I might try to do something similar. Maybe I’ll discuss it further in another post, once I’ve thought of some cool codenames for the few things I’m doing that aren’t strictly academic.

Status: 75% operational
Reading: Pessoa’s Book of Discquiet, Ackworth’s The Philosophy of John Norris of Bemerton; next, Tokarczuk’s Books of Jakob (in Polish)

Books I’d read in 2019

Putting this list together, I was somewhat surprised by how few books I managed to finish this year. I’m going to blame my PhD for it.

I’m somewhat pleased that just under 50% of the books I’d read for fun were written by women (12/26). There are two books I’d started to read but haven’t quite managed to finish in time. The first is Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet, which I’m slowly burning through. I find that after getting stuck into it, I can’t get myself to read more than a few pages at a time – I tend to get lost in them and go back to re-read. That’s okay. The other is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, which I’m rather engrossed in, but I just don’t think I’ll finish before midnight tomorrow. That’s okay too.

As far as books for work go, I haven’t read very many from start to finish. This is unfortunate, because usually I’m more than interested in what I’m reading – but I have a huge range of sources to deal with, so I’m reading bits and pieces depending on what I need to write about. So while there are only 11 books on the list, I’d read bits and pieces of many. Not to mention countless journal articles. I think next year I’d like to keep track of the smaller things I read, just to have a clearer picture of my reading habits. I’m also 90% through a half-dozen books that I intend to finish when I find the time to.

Looking back on my reading, the absolute standouts for me were Hustvedt’s Blazing World and What I Loved, Stax’s Swimming Through the Darkness and Ryu Murakami’s In the Miso Soup.

I had the privilege to meet Siri Hustvedt and have dinner with her (and others) at the International Margaret Cavendish Society conference in Trondheim. She’s an incredibly warm, erudite, and funny woman. She was kind about how starstruck I was meeting her, and she came to see my paper. She signed my copy of Blazing World too.

Mike Stax’s book was a bit of an impulse purchase that I’d regretted in the moment after I bought it, and it took me a while to get to it. I think it sat on my bedside table for a solid two years. Once I got to it though, I could hardly put it down. It focuses on the story of a promising young LA musician who suffered a mental break during a spiritual journey to India, went from having a skyrocketing career in music to homelessness in his old age. Likely, it was a result of untreated schizophrenia and drug use, but then, there are too many gaps in the story to really know what happened.

I have a bit of a solid reading stack waiting for me next year. I’m particularly looking forward to Bolaño’s 2666, Mo Yan’s Life and Death are Wearing Me Out, Catton’s The Luminaries, and Tokarczuk’s Books of Jakob (in Polish, because it’s my only way of not forgetting the language). Now that I’ve written this out, I see they’re all pretty thick, so might be a slow burn kind of year.

Anyhow, without any further ado, here are the books I’d read this year.

For fun:
1. George Martin – A Game if Thrones
2. Sarah Bakewell – At the Existentialist Cafe
3. Haruki Murakami – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
4. Italo Calvino – Invisible Cities
5. Thomas Piketty – Capital in the 21st Century
6. Guy de Maupassant – the Best Short Stories
7. Italo Calvino – Mr Palomar
8. Judith Butler – Precarious Lives: The Powers of Mourning and Violence
9. Sophie Wahnich – In Defence of the Terror: Liberty or Death in the French Revolution
10. Esther Leslie – Walter Benjamin
11. Mark Fisher – Capitalist Realism
12. Siri Hustvedt- The Blazing World
13. Olga Tokarczuk – Podróż Ludzi Księgi
14. Adam Mickiewicz – Pan Tadeusz
15. Fyodor Dostoyevsky- the Brothers Karamazov
16. Angela Davis – Women, Race & Class
17. Bhaskar Sunkara (ed) – the ABCs of Socialism
18. Siri Hustvedt – What I Loved
19. Mike Stax – Swim Through The Darkness
20. Otessa Moshfegh – Homesick for Another World
21. Doris Lessing – the Grass is Singing
22. William Gibson – Neuromancer
23. Stanisław Lem – Solaris
24. Arundathi Roy – the Ministry of Utmost Happiness
25. Mary Norris – Between you and me: confessions of a comma queen
26. Ryu Murakami – In the Miso Soup

For work:
1. Margaret Cavendish – Philosophical and Physical Opinions
2. Margaret Cavendish – Poems, and Fancies
3. David Cunning – Margaret Cavendish
4. Walter Charleton – Natural History of the Passions
5. Walter Charleton – the Ephesian Matron
6. Emily Booth – ‘A Subtle and Mysterious Machine’: the Medical World of Walter Charleston (1619-1707)
7. Laura Linkler – Lucretian Thought in Late Stuart Engletian Thought in Late Stuart England
8. R.W. Sharpless – Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics
9. John Norris – The Theory and Regulation of Love
10. W.J. Mander – The Philosophy of John Norris
11. Inger Mewburn, Katherine Firth, and Shaun Lehmann- How to fix your academic writing trouble

Conference Time

I’ve been very quiet on the blog over the last two weeks because I’ve been busy with a few conferences. I gave talks at the Australasian Seminar for Early Modern Philosophy (ASEMP) and the Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy (ASCP) conferences.

I’m lucky enough to have been able to go to these conferences pretty regularly (well, there have only been two ASEMP meetings so far…), and I consider both to be pretty central parts of my calendar.

ASEMP is a very productive conference for me because it draws the attention of many scholars of early modern philosophy who are able to give me really good feedback on my work, and who are very supportive of my project overall.

My talk was titled Margaret Cavendish and the Cartesian Passions. Despite some rather frustrating technical issues with my slides – I managed to crash the computer I was projecting them from – the talk was well received. I got some good discussion at the end, and nobody pointed out any obvious problems with my ideas which is always a plus.

The highlight of the conference, as it is with every conference I go to, is seeing all of my philosophy friends who live far away (being a historian of philosophy in my department is lonely business in terms of having other historians to talk to). I’m fortunate that my supervisor has introduced me to a number of her colleagues and collaborators, who are all super supportive of my work, and having the ability to meet and hang out with so many philosophers whose work I admire is super fun every time.

ASCP was a very productive conference for different reasons, that I can’t say too much about. The ASCP is a very pluralistic group, and while ostentatiously their focus is continental philosophy, the term itself is rather meaningless these days. And while the conference prioritises and draws a great number of researchers whose work is informed by 20th and 21st century European philosophy, they also attract a good number of scholars working in non-European traditions and in the history of philosophy.

My talk here was titled, Walter Charleton and the Cartesian Passions. I had a very good audience, and this time no technical issues. The discussion afterward was very productive and opened up some possibilities for collaboration, which I hope end up happening. For now, I can’t say much.

These two conferences were a bit bitter-sweet for me. I currently have just over seven months of funding left. After that, it’s hard to say when I’ll be able to speak anywhere else. I guess that’s some motivation to keep hustling.

Guest Post: Basic Readings on Capitalism

Guest post from William Hebblewhite:

Capitalism is a word we hear a lot about these days. It’s an all pervasive social form; an economic system which represents the highest order of individual freedom; an historical abnormality. It is often difficult to have a real, true sense about what capitalism is, where it came from, what it represents and what the future holds or capitalism. I am under no illusion that I can offer any answers to these questions. Luckily for me, there has been a myriad of writers across the ideological spectrum who have attempted to answer them for me. Here I list some of my favourites, and ones which I believe really showcase the vast vista that is capitalism, and the subtly and multivalent definitions that can arise from that one word.

The list is separated into disciplinary categories: History, Philosophy and Economics. I do not mean to purposefully exclude other disciplines, such as sociology, anthropology or political science, but I believe most of the work done in those disciplines can easily be folded into the others. For instance, David Harvey, one of the world’s foremost critics and commentator on Capitalism is a trained geographer. His interpretation of what capitalism is, and what is does to the world is uniquely informed by this geographical perspective. However, much of Harvey’s work can be broadly construed as philosophical and economic. Another case is that of the work of Milton Friedman and Frederick Hayek, who were economists by training, while their work also fits into the category of philosophy – particularly when they start speaking about “freedom” and its relation to capitalism. What I mean to be saying by these examples is that my categorisation is not to be taken too seriously, but rather that it provides an easy way for new readers to the subject to engage in those questions and topics that are of most interest to them.

Lastly, this is not a comprehensive list, and I do not suggest it is. This just represents a small window to the wide world of academic work on capitalism. There are wonderful authors which I have not listed with wonderful pieces on capitalism. There are also authors who I have not listed, merely because I have not discovered them yet. If you know of other works, or authors you think should be listed do leave a comment. With that being said, let us dive straight into my selections.

History:

Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Origins of Capitalism: A Longer View (2002, Verso), and Liberty and Property (2012, Verso)
Robert Brenner,  Merchants and Revolution (1993, Princeton University Press – Available on Verso)
T.H. Ashton and C.H.E. Philpin (eds.), The Brenner Debate (1985, Cambridge University Press)
Charlie Post, The American Road to Capitalism (2012, Haymarket Books)
Leo Panitch & Sam Gidins, The Making of Global Capitalism (2012, Verso)
Michel Beaud, A History of Capitalism (2001, Monthly Review Press)
David McNally, Monsters of the Market: Zombies and Global Capitalism (2011, Brill)
Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 (1963, Princeton University Press)

Economics

Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-first Century (2014, Belknap Press), The Economics of Inequality (2015, Harvard University Press)
Anthony Atkinson, Inequality: What Must Be Done (2015, Harvard University Press)
Milton Friedman, Freedom and Capitalism (1962, University of Chicago Press)
Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (2012, Routledge)
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776, available via the Liberty Fund)
Karl Marx, Das Kapital Volume 1 (1867, available via Marxists.org)
David Harvey,  A Companion to Marx’s Capital (2010, Verso)
Steve Horwitz, Microfoundations and Macroeconomics: An Austrian Perspective (2000, Routledge), and Monetary Economics, Free Banking, and Economic Order (2019, Routledge)

Philosophy

David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism (2010, Oxford University Press)
Louis Althusser, On The Reproduction of Capital (2014, Verso)
Yann Moulier Boutang, Cognitive Capitalism (2011, Polity)
Edward Younkins, Capitalism and Commerce (2001, Lexington Books)
G.A Cohen, Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality (1995, Cambridge University Press)
Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia (2013, Basic Books)
Jason Brennan, Why Not Capitalism?  (2014, Routledge) and Markets Without Limits (2015, Routledge)
Nancy Fraser & Rahael Jaeggi, Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory (2018, Polity Press)
Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism (2009, Zero Books)


William Hebblewhite received his PhD in philosophy from Macquarie University. His research is focused on areas of contemporary European philosophy and political philosophy. In particular, he is interested in equality, and the relations of equality that exist in economic, social, moral and political spheres. He tweets @Whebblewhite.


I’ve added the year of publication and publisher for all of the texts Will suggests. Where possible, it is that of a cheap paperback edition or a free pdf. Any inaccuracies in this regard are my responsibility – Maks.

EDC: Conference Edition

I’ve always found the #EDC trend pretty cool. I enjoy seeing the kinds of tools and stuff people from various walks of life bring with them as they go about their daily business. I also find setting out all of your stuff on the coffee table like I did above super satisfying. So please indulge me.

My EDC is probably boring, since I’m a very average office type guy; to do my job I need a desk and my laptop. But still, I’m going to be mostly working remotely for the next two weeks as I attend a couple super sweet conferences (First the Australasian Seminar for Early Modern Philosophy in Brisbane, then the Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy, in Melbourne). It’s as good an excuse as I’ll ever get to do one of these. So here are the contents of my backpack that I need to work from basically whenever.

Photo camera:
It’s a pretty aged Nikon Coolpix s7200 (I think). For most photos I can use my phone (iPhone SE) but sometimes a nice compact camera will do the job way better.

iPad and computer:
I use maxed out 2017 MacBook Air and an iPad mini 4. The laptop is my main machine and when it inevitably dies I’ll likely replace it with whatever model is current at the time. For software I rely on Word and EndNote for my research, IA Writer for anything not-research related, and then pretty standard stuff, like Chrome, Gmail, etc.

I use the iPad mainly to not carry my laptop around all day every day, and to do most of my reading on the road. When I’m home, I do most of my digital reading on the iPad – it’s not ideal for the task, but it’s much better than the laptop. I’d like to get one of the newer ones with pen support sometime soon, I think that’d fix a big part of the problem I have with my current setup.

Misc Electronics:
I carry around an Anker powerbank (5000 mAh), a micro USB cable and a lightning cable. I have a dual charger, so I can power up multiple devices at once. I also have a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35s (?), they’re awesome for blocking out just about every awful part of the world. I often have two lightning cables, since my powerbank can handle my phone and iPad at the same time, but I seem to have misplaced one of them. I also lug around the charger for my laptop. I keep all of this in a handy pouch I picked up at Muji – I think it was originally meant to be a toiletry bag.

Eyewear:
Sunnies and reading glasses. Can’t leave the house without them!

Stationery:
I have a small leather pen case in which I keep two fountain pens (one is Lamy, the other is Kaweco) and a mechanical pencil (0.5mm, HB) that I picked up in Japan. I write in Moleskine Cahier notebooks (see more here). I used to have several notebooks that I’d lug around everywhere, but I’ve switched to an everything notebook. I also have a whiteboard marker in my bag, just in case.

Meds:
Painkillers (usually paracetamol, always generic) and antihistamines (also generic). I got allergies and I get headaches. The allergies are also why I have some tissues in my bag.

Snacks:
At conferences it’s not unusual for me to be too busy to have lunch, or to just not have time to get a snack when I want one. So it’s pretty handy to keep something around.

Casual reading:
It’s weird to me that not everyone carries a book with them when they leave the house. What do you do when you have to wait a few minutes for someone? Or if you are waiting for the bus? Or if you just want to look intellectual while outside? On this trip I’m taking Ryu Murakami’s In The Miso Soup. Looking forward to it.

Misc:
I carry around a keep cup. I drink a lot of coffee, and single-use coffee cups are non-recycleable garbage. I also have a small combination pad lock, which comes in handy way more often than expected. Usually I use it for the bike station lockers at work, but it also comes with me when I travel.

 

 

Customising my notebooks

I’ve been a fan of Moleskine’s Cahier notebooks with the craft paper covers. I’d written about the joy of starting a new one previously here.

Recently I’d also become a bit interested in linocut prints. So it seemed natural for me to decorate the next batch of notebooks with a print.

I settled on a pretty simple traditional Japanese-style pattern. It came out pretty wonky because honestly, I have the drawing skills of a potato. But that’s okay.

One thing I hadn’t considered is that this would mean a LOT of cutting out. I find the process pretty cathartic, but still, it took ages. I think my cutting tools aren’t super good quality – I bought the cheapest ones they had, so they probably need to be sharpened. I’ll figure that out.

The final result is pretty lo-fi but looks very sweet overall.

A few lessons for next time:
– It would be cool if the print covered the whole cover, or was less clearly defined as a block.
– I need to use a hell of a lot of pressure to get the cut to print nicely.
– Make sure there isn’t too much or too little ink on the block (which I hope comes with practice, because I found it pretty hard to tell if it was alright).