It’s the end of 1st week and the freshers are shaking with exhaustion and I’m figuring out how with a kind of kind curiosity how I’m going to do this term. My plan to work 9–6 each day is proving to be untenable because I actually need to work 9am–10pm in order to get everything done. This realisation deflated me and has left me doing rather less than either of these timings, unsurprisingly, and so things are beginning to mount up. An example of this is how on Wednesday evening I had spent the entire week thus far working on philosophy, not turning to Maths and following up lectures, so despite having until 2pm Thursday to hand the essay in I just said, I’m just going to stay here until this is done because that’s the least bad option. So I stayed in the library until 2(am), unusual for me but it worked out the best.

This doesn’t panic or upset me too much anymore. I feel like I’ve come to an acceptance that this degree can only be done sensibly with perfect organisation and motivation to follow through, as I’ve discussed before, and given that no-one can manage that, one is forced into stupid things like staying up to write essays. I’m just okay with it, I’m used to it at last, which is really nice. A bunch of English freshers were up in the library too; starting young I see. They were in their pajamas and it was amusing to see them all troop into the library at one point while a bunch of third years dressed up to go clubbing walked in the opposite direction.

Keeping busy with all this has drastically improved my mood. It’s a cliche but there is less time to think/ruminate. And I can enjoy the work when I actually do it, which I do when in Oxford rather than at home. There is still the issue of concentration though, and I would like to return to reading about what I wrote about in my last post to see if I can use mindfulness to improve my focus. An example of this is that yesterday I started reading some parts of Kant’s First Critique for Philosophy of Maths. Reading Kant is hard and I decided that I would rely on secondary texts and make notes from them rather than attempt to finetooth-comb Kant because there just isn’t time for that—this is another thing that has come with me being more okay with Oxford study, in that I’m way more realistic about what it is worth spending time doing—but unlike other Math/Phils I did actually read Kant, even if I wasn’t doing so with a super-careful eye.

Actually studying Kant, even if it’s just for one isolated essay, instead of just going to lots of lectures about him, excites me a great deal. It’s a simplified picture but in both ethics and epistemology/metaphysics Kant digs his heels in and attempts to answer the worldview of the Humeans and the Millians, whose thinking dominates modern outlooks. Naturalistic reduction of worthwhile human enquiry to the scientific and of if-you’re-really-honest ethics to making society one which most people are pretty happy with is how we tend to want to look at things and I feel the pull myself, but as always things are not this simple: the magic of Maths cannot be explained away in empirical terms, and utilitarian ethics are way too simple. Kant presents the first response in what is probably the second most influential philosophical work of all time, second only to Plato’s Republic. We have a priori non-analytic knowledge about the world. And, morality makes the same kind of demand on us practical rational problem solving does. Or so he wishes to claim. Figuring out whether this can work is really worth doing, if extremely difficult.

The romantic story is also pretty decent: Hume was famous for being very “good with the ladies”; Kant never left his hometown and his virginity. Science is popular and successful and glorious, and speculative philosophy and pure Maths are uncool and unwanted and dry.


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You’ve got to follow the story, the people, if you’re going to really understand the ideas, for philosophy is just the study of worldviews and people, not logical symbols, hold worldviews—whatever the analytic philosophers say.

Oh and the term “transcendental aesthetic”, a major idea of Kant’s, is up there with “propositional calculus” and “algebraic geometry” as being an incredibly cool name for an intellectual subject.

So, yeah, I’d quite like to be able to actually sit down and read things.

Something unrelated now is that as of this moment, for the next week, I’m taking an Internet detox. Since I don’t use social media this isn’t a big of a deal for me as it might be for some people, but I definitely want to wake myself up out of browsing. It’s stopping me from (non-academic) reading, it’s stopping me from sleeping, it’s stopping me from working. So I’m going to limit myself to e-mail and my RSS feeds, and I’m going to confine this to two hours a day tops—this is for cases when there is lots to read but it will probably take a lot less time than this. Obviously I will still use the Internet to make sure my servers are still up and to back up my files, but I have decided to cut out StarCraft, which is in the process of wrapping up a season anyway and since I’m looking forward to being placed higher than bronze at the beginning of the next one, I’m happy to step back. Exception is playing StarCraft with IRL friends, ofc. And I’m allowed to write blog posts because that doesn’t require opening up a web browser; web browsing is the basic thing here. A detox is a good way to figure out what parts of something all-consuming you actually value, and that’s my aim.

Time to head back the library and read some more Kant.