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Class Notes - March 30th

Pictures of field trip online


Anne: image of going to cemetery, is talking to dead friends…like reading…a kind of time travel. Company keeping with people who have been in the world and still have something to say.


PhD Octopus

How is the college characterized?

Isabel: the college made people jump through hoops because Harvard had all the big name profs so BM had to create ridiculous standards to make our profs worthwhile. I was very upset with him. It overlooks any value that might come from studying for a PhD. Basically says we should just present them to anyone who takes the time to complete the course work. The point for me is that it is different. I thought he was blowing over all of that and says that it suppresses creativity and individuality. I see his point, but I don’t think it was completely ridiculous. We might have handled it incorrectly…but what is the problem with that.

Anne: He took a particular incident and then enlarged it. What is the larger incident?

Julia: Concerned with the titled and not the learning or the capabilities of the teaching are.

Anne: We mistake the certification for the worth of the person themselves.

Weezy: Drawing on the James family view towards education, unsurprising that education would be criticized. Main issue was that the development of the individual through the work they do, both needs to be standardized and a lack of degree implies a lack if intelligence or dedication to the subject.

Anne: James children did not have an academic education like we have. They never had the kind of institutionalized experience we have had. James came to Harvard through the back door. He was the cheerleader for Individuality and spontaneity. Colleges had simply become title-giving machines.

Weezy: The value of spontaneity is clear with all the James. They’ve all been risk takers and tried new things. Took paths that had not been followed before. Actions lead to other actions. Spontaneity was valued. Abundantly clear that the ability to change ones intellectual course is incredibly difficult and ultimately damaging.

Anne: We will do a little Stein in a few weeks. The Dr. monopoly is a sham, a bobble, a dodge, etc. How did you respond?

Isabel: Political correctness? Seems so the need to include people who cant meet the standards.

Weezy: Statement about institutions that is true: There is an expected amount time and process, which everyone is expected to follow. There are ways to navigate the system, but ultimately the institution and the professors that oversee your work determine your level of success. Any deviation that interrupts the process is generally different to navigate and frowned upon by departments or professors. Individuality is seen as deviant and inconvenient.

Anne: Spontaneity and creativity and individuality has is been enhanced or squelched?

Katherine: Squelched. We have made this commitment to study and we don’t choose our curriculum or how we want to study about it. It is chosen for us. We loose time.

Ariel: In Anne’s other class, we tried to create our own curriculum. The response was chaotic. Anything I could have been learning or contributing, was blah…there were no standards, goals, or structure. You come to school to learn the skills required. You will learn other things, they will say to do it this way, u don’t have to forever, just while you are at school. Structure is important

Weezy: When you have to do that I find it is more and more difficult once those standards no longer apply. The impending ability to be an individual it is hard to break the habits.

Alex: Divisional requirements: I end of taking a lot of new classes. I found I would like to change my major. But some classes I would rather read something else rather than the forced. Both sides.

Julia: As a double major. Each department is a filter that selects out various things that don’t fill in the mold. Have a plan and now I don’t fit in it because I did my own thing. But the English department has no claim and yet I find myself thinking only about literature.

Weezy: Finished a major without ever declaring one. Issues with things needing to be proved, discussed, approved, planned. There is a standardized method of approval. The only way I could complete the course of study I wanted was by virtue of individual professors that allow me to do what I want. If your interested, do it anyway, but it is a case by case situation. I realize it is difficult/impossible for there to be an institution that does that.

Anne: Every institution betrays the beliefs they are founded on. We have had a varsity of experiences. It may not encourage spontaneity, but there is space for it.

Ariel: larger issue as one of pragmatism Thoughts should have a purpose. There values are based on the goal value. I am here because I would like to fit in a mold in the real world if I would like to function in it.

Weezy: Why not create a new mold?

Ariel: It is a lot harder than we think.

Weezy: I would like to do that

Isabel: Standards are necessary for individuality and creativity. A degree is a signifier for the outside world for what we learned. It might not be possible to grant degrees that aren’t standardized because that is what a degree is.

Anne: James is issuing a challenge to that identity. It’s a different definition.

I like Ariel’s reminder that he is a pragmatist. If the worth or value of an idea is based on its consequences and actions, is it worth going through the competition. Should we think about ways to push back?

Katherine: No, because pragmatically if you want to do ok you must do your coursework. You have to sacrifice your spontaneity. You have a very small space to push back in and by that time you are just exhausted.

Marina: I think I‘ve been squelched. They all have specific paths. They are all taking the same path and at the end of it they are all the same.

Alex: But what about electives?

Marina: But it is such a small college that it doesn’t work like that, only a certain number of classes.

Isabel: Why is that bad? We are all getting the same degree?

Marina: I wan to be an individual.

Julia: We all need that foundation to do anything new with it.

Anne: You need to take tennis lesions to be a good player. You need a base.

Ariel: In order to be a good writer you need to read a lit. You have to have the skill and the experience

Weezy: You also need to know what has been done to do something new.

Julia: But the option is choose the things You need/want to know is a good thing.

Weezy: I may not know what every history major may know, but I know much more about others on specific topics.

Anne: It is a message about the certification thing. Small places are particularly susceptible to wanting a validation of their certification. Should we be weary of what certification signifies? Like the stories of Henry James. We can’t always know what is happening. They don’t always mean what we take them to say. That’s the claim, we don’t have to buy it.

Katerine: They ask what your major is, you say History, they say what are you going to do with that. What??!! We have to do something, so here I am choosing something. I’m not going to sit in a carrel my whole life.

Weezy That’s not what I’m going to do.

Anne: 7% of BM students go one to PhD. There is a misunderstanding that we are training the new professorial team. If I were rewriting it now then I would write about that gap.  Summer before you came to college you were offered an advisor from an alumni. You could pick based on specific identifiers and then have a conversation with them about the relation between education and life. Most of us are not able to advise about careers other than professor because that is what I known what you need to do.

Isabel: It would be amazing but, there is a different in coming to BM and majoring in English than those that go to a state school and major in hotel management.

Anne: But the point is that 95% of you are not on the PhD track, but that is what you are being prepared for.


Varieties of religious experience

Anne: My question was: These two essays were written about the same time…what overlaps did u see about them? William James is a man who is suspicious of institutions and what they do to individuals. He doesn’t talk about religion the way we think about religion as an institutionalized structure. For him, it is not about institutional structures but about individual experiences.

Jessica: Not so much about belief but about structure. Once you subscribed to it you were a pigeon.

Katherine: Mainly I liked specific lines. 761: Knowledge of the thing is not the thing itself. It wrapped it all around to the Portrait of a lady. Our whole discussion about how it is a portrait, but not the lady. We are not actually Isabele. I was thinking of religion and also God. You can have all these different interpretations and sciences of religions, but they are never actually the living experience.

Anne: So the thing itself is religious experience, the feeling of oneness with the world. Philosophy is studying the thing itself.

Marina: pg 504. It kind of implied that even though the religions are so different, in the end they are the same and there is not much individuality when you come down to it. I thought that was interesting. That such different religions couldn’t be indistinguishable in our lives.

Anne: opposed to religious wars. Wars that had been fought over religious differences were wrong. Would like to minimize the difference between the religions so they do not fight. It is filled with occult experiences. He spent his whole life trying to see if religious experiences were actually real. Always searching for evidence that those varieties of experience had happened. His insistence that science can attend to the un-seeable. Reality lies in the individual itself.

Julia: 769- Interesting way to talk for a scientist. An interesting way to talk about subjective experience.

Anne: Attention to the egotistical and the subjection. Insisting on all the time that it obliterated individual experience. The claim is that the material world we see is part of a much larger world that we cannot see.

Katherine: So much of it happen at a microscopic level that we cannot see.

Anne: What is real is what we experience internally. What about this notion that this larger world that we mostly don’t pay attention to is friendly to us? If you have a religious worldview you are gong to be happier. Has he given us any idea to believe this? The universe is friendly to us. I think it begins by saying there is a larger world that is invisible to us. The world that we need to study is invisible to us. But by the end he says that the larger world is friendly to us. Do you think it is?

Jessica: Its not necessarily unfriendly. It is sort of there and we create our own relationship to it. It is ambivalent in its power. It’s not going to actively kick you when you are down.

Anne God is a wholesale, not retail business. What does that mean?

Weezy: I have this image of Sam’s Club, where everything is in bulk. I’m chewing on it.

Anne: What is in bulk?

Julia: he plants a forest not a tree. He is responsible for the bigger things, but not the smaller day-to-day things. Hurricanes, not traffic lights, are more of his line of work.

Weezy If you are asking for a good grade on a paper that may not come, but in the end of the your life it will even out.

Ariel: It’s Passover. He tortured the salves and they weren’t in their lifetime flourishes, but overall in time he makes it up to you.

Anne: Overall it is flourishing, but not in individual time. It says let us think as scientists, but not let us limit the sphere that science allows us to think about.

Julia: I felt like that conflicts with what he says later in the essay. Parts of it sound retail.

Jessica: The god of wholesale is the god of science, but is that the god that James identifies with?

Anne: I think that there are some inconsistencies in this essay. And He would say that consistency is not an ideal of his. He does argue that if you believe in God there are points in your life that will be better. That seems retail to me. Last Paragraph:

Katherine: James is saying if you think that maybe you will go to heaven when you die, and then you are thinking when I die I am dead in the ground. The end game is worm food. So resignation is that at then end you will be dead, vs that in the end you will continue on. That is hopeful.

Isabel: Grey’s Anatomy: Terminal diagnosis: assisted suicide, one doctor who was in Iraq and let his best friend die because he was in pain and then the copter came to save them. The insistence of chance makes all the different between he is resigned to the fact that his wife is going to commit suicide or maybe she can be treated.

Anne: The fact that you don’t know that when you get out you are going to make it to your dorm. The unpredictability of the future should actually make us feel hopeful.

Isabel Disappointment does not exist in the existence of the hopefulness.

Ariel: It goes both ways.

Julia: Why is he convinced that it is good to be immortal? Isn’t it better to just think that you are gone than just be in hell?

Katherine: Theoretically there is a god that exists for each man and his ideals.

Anne: The argument is his instance that we cannot know all there is to know and that the world is chancy and unpredictable. The addition today is that that is a cheerful way to look at the world. The unpredictability is the keep to the hopefulness of the outcome. Not knowing what the outcome will be as a source of hope.

Ariel: It’s a really hard claim. It depends on the past experience, how you look at the world. Hope is a tricky concept. I would rather know for certain what will happen?

Katherine: What’s the point? Why would you bother living it?

Isabele: Flash-forward…everybody knows their futures and they go around trying to prove that it doesn’t have to happen that way.

Katherine: They have to make choices and they learn that their choices sometimes lead to the outcome when they expect that it will change it.

Isabel: Is a question of whether you believe in fate?

Anne: We should celebrate that we don’t know what will happen. It should make us hopeful that we will be surprised.

Julia: I like surprises. I find surprises all the time when I buy my horses.

Anne: James’ philosophy does not expect it to be a good surprise. We should be hopeful and optimistic that the world is unpredictable.

Katherine: We can dread the predictability of the people.

Weezy: But we can’t trust that people are predictable. That’s what makes good news.

I feel like it is more difficult to squelch optimism than pessimistic. It is better to be surprisingly disappointed because at one time you were positive.


Redefinition of our definition of religion. Take religion seriously, but he is redefining religion that has to do with the open endlessness of the world.



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