Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Comics

"A Valentine's Story." By Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator, with a credit to his GF, the Ambivalent Psychbot, for the idea. (Click to make it big.)

19 comments:

S. Colbert said...

That bear's a fucknut. I should say "Dr. Bear," right? I always say bears suck, in any form or on any committee...

Anonymous said...

Nah, dawg. Your shit's weak.

Sisyphus said...

So, is the bear a continental or an analytic philosopher?

I'm thinking the walruses are analytic philosophers.

Something about the tusks.

Anonymous said...

When addressing a member of some faculty for the first time, do people typically say "Dr. Bear" or "Prof. Bear"? My experience has been that at very good schools "Prof." is preferred, but at lesser institutions "Dr." is.

My guess is that at good schools the Ph.D. is a given, and "Prof." separates the regular faculty from the lecturers and adjuncts, whereas at lesser institutions everyone is a "professor", but only the Ph.D.s get to be called "Dr.". (this may be changing with credential inflation)

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Sisyphus --

I don't think it's small tusks that analytic philosophers are compensating for when they're going on and on about how their style of philosophy is "hard", while other kinds of philosophy are "soft". (And don't get me started on the need for "rigor" to get really penetrating insights and seminal ideas.)

Anonymous said...

At one point I believe the NYTimes manual of style suggested the use of Prof. Bear for all professors regardless of doctoral status. The idea was that while most prof's are dr's, most dr's are not prof's. Thus, prof is a more exalted title.

a prof with no life said...

I don't know that there are any established rules on the subject, but according to tradition at least, the title "professor" is reserved for anyone who teaches courses at the college or university level but is not a graduate student. Such a person, whether or not s/he is a Ph.D., is a professor in virtue of his/her capacity to teach. The title "doctor," in contrast, only applies to those who have a doctoral degree (which is etymologically peculiar considering that "doctor" literally means "teacher"). In my experience, it is completely acceptable for students to refer to a non-Ph.D. lecturer or adjunct instructor as "professor," though non-Ph.D. faculty may be reticent to refer to themselves as "professor" unless that is their actual title (e.g., at a community college).

Mr. Bear (I'm assuming it's male from the clothing) is very clearly a Ph.D., as evidenced by the monocle. Regular readers of the Sunday comics will notice that the monocle is recurring signifier which obviously denotes professional authority of a certain sort. And as I've always just assumed that the STBJD is not applying for community college jobs, it seems likely that the "authority" in question is the possession of an earned doctorate, coupled with tenure or a tenure-track position.

If Mr. Bear is like most of my colleagues, he probably prefers to be called "Professor Bear" if he prefers to be called anything at all. This may or may not be true outside the academic setting; I have found that many colleagues seldom refer to themselves as "Doctor" for fear of sounding pretentious or, more likely, being confused with an M.D.

[Side-bar: lawyers receive the degree of Juris Doctor - Doctor of Law - but do not refer to themselves as doctors and, as far as I know, never have. Doctors of medicine, in fact, are almost always referred to as "doctors" in the U.S. and Canada, as opposed to the more appropriate "physicians." In my view, people who don't or can't teach have no business assuming a title that literally means "doctor."]

I think we can also assume that none of the characters in the Sunday Comics are continental philosophers given the paucity of continental philosophers in the U.S. and the fact that STBJD is very likely an analytic philosopher of some sort applying for jobs in a mostly analytic market. My guess is that continental philosophers would be represented by another, less common species, such as emus or rhinoceroses. They should be, anyway, as they are rare and exotic in the Anglo-American philosophical milieu. (One might also keep an eye out for French cigarette dangling from lip or maybe a beret). Also, many continental philosophers are religious (in the sense of being clergypeople) - so perhaps Professor Emu, SJ, could be signified by means of a Roman collar or something.

If the different species denote anything, ahem, SPECIFIC, my guess is that they denote areas of specialization or maybe even philosophical sensibilities. The walrus is stereotypically regarded as a fat, inert animal with limited mobility. Thus the walrus would probably be a rationalist rather than an empiricist (since rationalists don't need to get around and observe the world as much in order to philosophize). The walrus may also suggest the more speculative disciplines of metaphysics and epistemology.

Professor Bear strikes me as a logician. Bears are ferocious and like to chop things up into little bits with tooth and claw - just like the prof who taught me symbolic and modal logic at Penn!!
Perhaps Professor Bear has a secondary AOS in history of analytic as well.

The cat, with its more refined motor skills and extremely keen eyesight, is more given to empiricism and, by extension, to philosophical sub-disciplines that require (at least in principle) a greater engagement with "the real world." Hence Professor Cat is most likely an ethicist or a political philosopher. (The presence of a red cross, were it to appear in the Comics, might denote a speciality in bioethics.)

Back to the monocle: perhaps the author of the Comics is subtly suggesting that SCs suffer from a kind of myopia or one-sided vision! If that's the case I heartily agree, though I myself try as much as possible to avoid monocles in favor of bifocals (i.e., I try to be a bit more open-minded when serving on an SC while at the same time acknowledging my human fallibility).

marchette said...

yeah, it's a shame--prof. bhaer was a totally cool guy, cool enough that i didn't mind his getting the totally hot jo march. (of course, in the book he is cool but not hot, whereas in the film he is gabriel byrne).

but this bear is not a nice bear. he looks like eric von stroheim in la grand illusion. berwick von stroheim.

the question why a third party's hatred of the thing you love can lead you to love it less yourself is a very vexing one.

be strong,stbjd: the bad bear is not an accurate arbiter of which things are worthy of your love.

Sisyphus said...

"I don't think it's small tusks that analytic philosophers are compensating for..." etc.

HAH!!!!! Love. It.


a prof with no life,

I'm glad to see that once STBJD publishes the comics in a complete volume you will be ready and waiting to produce some scholarly articles on it.

"an ethicist or a political philosopher."

Anyone willing to enlighten a lit. person as to what is a political philosopher?

And where would Kant fit? Is he continental? (he lived on the continent) I think our entire phil department is Kantian where I am.

They all wear those powdered periwigs, you know (instead of monocles).

will philosophize for food said...

Thanks "prof with no life," that made my day--

prof with no life said...

Sisyphus:

"'I don't think it's small tusks that analytic philosophers are compensating for...' etc.

HAH!!!!! Love. It."

I second that motion! Good turn PGS, old man!

"I'm glad to see that once STBJD publishes the comics in a complete volume you will be ready and waiting to produce some scholarly articles on it."

Ready and waiting? As it happens I have already written several articles on the subject, one of which has already been roundly rejected by Nous. Figures.

"Anyone willing to enlighten a lit. person as to what is a political philosopher?"

A philosopher who works on issues pertaining to politics - e.g., justice, rights, authority, the legitimacy of states, political obligations, etc. Most, but not all, of the early modern philosophers were also political philosophers - think Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau on social contract theory, for example. The same is true of certain ancient and medieval philosophers (like Aristotle and Aquinas). Then there's folks like J.S. Mill ("On Liberty"), Marx (of course), Sartre, Habermas, Rawls, Nozick, Foucault, etc. etc.

"And where would Kant fit? Is he continental? (he lived on the continent) I think our entire phil department is Kantian where I am."

Funny thing is, SOME analytic philosophers regard Kant as the last "real philosopher" prior to the twentieth century. The story is that Kant was followed by a century's worth of hacks like Hegel, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx, etc., none of whom had anything interesting or worthwhile to say. Then Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, etc. came in and saved philosophy. The people who were still prattling on about Hegel and Marx and Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were mostly in France and Germany (though, interestingly, many of the early "analytic" philosophers were based in Vienna) - hence the "continental" monicre.

Some people who do continental philosophy prefer the term "post-Kantian philosophy" - the understanding being that Kant represents some kind of historic "fork in the road" that divided philosophy into (what would become) the analytic and continental camps. Factor in American pragmatism and Eastern philosophy and the whole picture becomes very confusing and pretty dumb.

"They all wear those powdered periwigs, you know (instead of monocles)."

Yes, my guess is that the periwig could rival the monocle as an appropriate signifier for "tenured philosopher of the analytic persuasion." The problem is that if Dr. Bear dons a periwig he might be mistaken for Elton John, a Rev War re-enacter, or an English barrister. We wouldn't want that.

The question is... when STBJD finally achieves the vaunted Grail, will he, too, don the monocle? I would be very disappointed if he did. Something about wanting the next generation to do better than the one before it (namely, mine).

Prof. J. said...

Funny thing is, SOME analytic philosophers regard Kant as the last "real philosopher" prior to the twentieth century.

Hm. Surely all analytic philosophers count Mill and Frege as 'real'.

Kant might be the last philosopher claimed by both 'analytic' and 'Continental' philosophy today. (Maybe Brentano?)

Anonymous said...

Sisyphus,

If I can add to prof with no life's comments on analytic vs. continental philosophy, the whole picture really is idiotic, in the snese that it bares almost no relation to any actual historical facts. A prof with no life's done an admirable job of offering a potted history that's semi-familiar to almost all analytic philosophers, and an admirable job of showing how silly it is.

The problem with the story starts with what happens after Kant. 19thC Europe is best known to philosophers now for the figures prof with no life mentions: the German idealists, culminating with Hegel; Kierkegaard; Marx; Nietzsche. The problem with this story is that Hegelian Idealism was dead in Germany by the middle of the 19thC, and most of the people WE think of as following Hegel were almost totally irrelevant to philosophy AT THE TIME. I.e., when Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were writing, they were completely marginalized, and all the big dogs of the day ignored them completely.

The continent in the second half of the 19thC was dominated by a bunch of materialists, positivists, and Neo-Kantians who no one's ever heard of now. And that's too bad, because after the turn of the 20thC, their students divided into two broad factions:

(1)phenomenologically- and heurmaneutically-oriented philosophers like Husserl and Heidegger (who did a lot to bring interest in Kierkegaard and Nietzsche into mainstream academic philosophy); and

(2) math-, logic-, and natural science-oriented philosophers such as the Logical Positivists of the Vienna Circle, (who also developed interests in logicians such as Frege and Russell, and the philosophy-savant Wittgenstein.)

I take two lessons away from this:

First, analytic philosophers lack the historical understanding of PRECISELY the historical period that could actually explain what the differences between analytic and continental philosophy are. So when we use those terms, we really don't mean anything other than "Yay!" (= analytic) and "Boo!" (= continental).

Second, the distinction between analytic and continental philosophy is a product of the late 19th and early 20thCs. So any talk of whether Kant is an analytic or continental philosopher really doesn't make any sense at all. (It's like asking whether Chrsitopher Columbus was a Democrat or Republican.) But like most important historical figures, Kant's been important for both traditions.

Now, the real point here is that if anyone actually worked on this stuff, they'd be a leper on the job market. . . .

Inquiring Mind said...

Christopher Columbus was a Republican swine!

(Sorry. Actually, I concur with everything Anon 8:16 said, including the bit that recognizes my remark as idiotic.)

Sisyphus said...

"Ready and waiting? As it happens I have already written several articles on the subject, one of which has already been roundly rejected by Nous. Figures."

Prof with no life, the value of your scholarship will go up as soon as the text you're working on comes out in a Complete Edition. Just hang tight.

Hmm --- over in lit. departments we'd say that Hobbes, Locke Rousseau et al are Enlightenment, not early modern (well, maybe I'm wrong there --- I usually think EM stops with Jacobean drama).

"The story is that Kant was followed by a century's worth of hacks like Hegel, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx, etc., none of whom had anything interesting or worthwhile to say."

Rock on! I follow Hack Philosophy. Screw the continental-analytic divide! Over here in lit. we just call it all Theory. And stir in a lot of Derrida and some certain sociological theorists.

"Now, the real point here is that if anyone actually worked on this stuff, they'd be a leper on the job market. . . ."

Anon 8:16, what "this stuff" are you talking about specifically? all the names dropped so far, no one in philosophy works with? Or am I misunderstanding you? You don't _all_ try to translate sentences into mathematical formulas over in the phil depts, do you?

Anon 8:16 said...

Sisyphus,

Anon 8:18 here. Specifically the period of the history of philosophy most relevant for understanding the differences between analytic and cont'l philosophy--late 19thC philosophy--is completely ignored by almost all analytic philosophers, even historians of philosophy in the analytic tradition. With the exception of two or three figures (Frege, maybe Peirce), it's not taught, there are no conferences for it, there are no specialty journals for it, editors for the relevant non-specialty journals would have a hard time knowing who could referee papers about it. It's a black hole in what we study and what we know.

Above all else, there are NO JOBS in it. So there's absolutely zero incentive for a grad student to wade into this historical period. It would be suicidal.

Anonymous said...

anon 816:

Except that one of the most well known philosopers in America--Michael Friedman--has written a book on all that.

Anonymous said...

8:40,

8:16 here again. Yeah, the Freidman book? But seriously, it's a very thin book. That's not a knock against it, because it's a good little book. It makes a start at trying to pinpoint where some of the philosophical action is. But it doesn't give much in the way of detailed philosophical analysis to back up many of the claims it makes. And it only makes any claims at all, really, for three out of the the dozens of relevant figures.

Again, this isn't a knock against Friedman or his book. The guy's work on Kant and Carnap shows that he knows what serious historical-philosophical scholarship looks like way better than almost anyone else out there. And the Cassirer-Heidegger-Carnap book is a good little entry into the issues I'm talking about. How the hell else would I have heard of this stuff, if it weren't for that book?

But that's all it is. A little entry point. It begins--and only begins--to identify what the real questions are in thinking about the importance of that period. It doesn't come close to offering a detailed and systematic account of what the real questions are, let alone come close to answering any of them. 159 pp. to explain all of philosophy from 1860 to 1935? No chance, nor (I think it's safe to say) would Friedman want to claim that's what the book was supposed to do.

And besides, one slim book doesn't change the fact that there are no specialty journals or conferences, and no jobs in the JFP, for the history of that period.

8:40 said...

8:16,

Everything you say is true. I was just pointing out, (mostly to your other interlocutor), that if s/he's interesting in finding out more about this, its not a complete black hole. There is a pretty good (if short) book on the subject. And its hardly written by a marginal figure. MF is probably the most influential historian of philosophy in the english speaking world.