Delight Springs

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Looking on the bright side

I don't teach in summer, so it takes a good reason to get me out onto I-24 for the 50 minute commute from Nashville to Murfreesboro in July. Yesterday I had three.

First, an encouraging meeting with our Education Abroad staff. They're as excited as we are, my colleague and me, about our proposed 3-week course on the British Roots of American Philosophy. I'm ready to pack. Almost. Just need to sign on a few more enthusiastic travelers first.
Program Description
Program Name:     “American Philosophy in Britain”
Program Site(s):   Oxford University, Oxford U.K. and environs
Term to be offered: Summer 2014 (2015?)
Anticipated dates of the Program:     July 2014 (2015?)
Approximate duration (in weeks): 3
Proposed Course Title and Description: (Academic Content, briefly describe the academic content of your course):      “American Philosophy: British Roots” - American philosophy in general, Classic American Philosophy more particularly, and Pragmatism precisely (especially in the writings and the person of philosopher/psychologist William James) was heavily influenced by Darwin's theory of natural selection, John Locke's, David Hume's, and J.S. Mill's empiricism, and F.C.S. Schiller's pragmatic humanism. This course proposes to highlight their significance and contributions as the British “roots” of American thought, and also to explore some of the more salient “branches” of that thought amongst contemporaneous and subsequent philosophers in Britain including Oxford’s more prominent post-Shiller “enfant terrible” A.J. Ayer.
Additional rationale: I'm now completing the draft of a book I'm calling Philosophy Walks. It's about the interplay of walking, landscape, and ideas. The landscape of Darwin's, Locke's, Hume's, Mill's, & Schiller's Britain is the perfect backdrop for exploring pragmatism's genealogy. The course will be based at Oxford, possibly at Schiller’s Corpus Christi College or Locke’s Christ Church, or at the Merton College home of James’s and Schiller’s Oxford bete noire F.H. Bradley. In addition to exploring the immediate environs of Oxford and Oxfordshire, we will make day-trip excursions by train to Darwin’s Down House in Kent, to Cambridge (home of Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein), and possibly for an overnight to David Hume’s Edinburgh (also home of the famous Gifford Lectures and site of James’s 1901-1902 “Varieties of Religious Experience” lectures. Also possible, depending upon logistics and feasibility: trips to Anjou in France, where Hume wrote his Treatise of Human Nature, and to the site of John Locke’s exile in Holland. And back in Oxford we will attempt to connect with Professor Richard Dawkins, the world’s leading Darwinist.
 The good news is, you don't have to be enrolled and seeking a degree from MTSU to join us. Don't even have to be a student. So come on along!

Stopped by the department after our meeting. Oh, what they're doing to my old classroom. But it's going to be ok.

Then, recorded another fun session On the Record with Gina Logue. We talked happiness, mostly, and Gina asked about the Python wisdom of always looking on the bright side. She let me pitch the Study Abroad course too. It'll air soon, stay tuned.
‘MTSU On the Record’ delves into philosophy of happiness Host Gina Logue’s interview with Dr. Phil Oliver, an MTSU philosophy professor, is scheduled to air from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5, and from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, on WMOT-FM (89.5 and 
And finally, met my student at the library Starbucks to talk philosophy and his prospective career therein. A woman in line ahead of us couldn't help overhearing, and declaring,  you must be philosophers. She then regaled us with her story of meeting a famous philosopher of science on a web-dating site. She doesn't think things are going to work out between them, but apparently he talks like us.

First time I've ever closed a Starbucks, at 4 in the afternoon no less. But I think my student was reassured that his new major, and the philosophy in  his future, look so bright he'll have to wear shades.

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