Alert to how admin loves “collaboration” and “interdisciplinarity,” the DoD recently experimented with the idea of holding joint colloquia with the Department of Normalcy. Our first colloquium was to be a session on Meiji era European philosophy, but planning quickly foundered on the rocks of what to call the session.
Our Normal colleagues protested identifying any philosophy as “European,” saying such would be but trite “identity politics” and that the best philosophies cannot be contained within cultural markers. In return, DoD representatives were simply confused: Why not listen to the European philosopher first – after all, how the hell should we know whether European-ness matters in advance of encountering some? We might even need to ask that European some questions and hear some answers. Heck, we might even need to tarry in some heady uncertainty about ourselves before our questions even become good ones.
From there, the planning session went wholly off the rails – yea, verily, the trolley of “collaboration” wantonly mowed down entire villages of people just trying to get along. What if, the Normals asked, our colloquium attracted Europeans to philosophy for the wrong reasons, seducing them into thinking their identity might matter? Here again, deviant representatives were left wondering how the hell we would know if that’s a bad thing – after all, we’ve not yet settled on a set of right reasons for this, or indeed for all manner of human endeavors.
It swiftly emerged that relative to our colleagues in the Department of Normalcy, we here in the DoD operate at an overwhelming a priori deficit, an affliction that has us persistently prefacing remarks with how-the-hell-should-we-know formulations. We were game to keep trying our hand at this collaboration thing but, alas and alack, the Normal faculty departed the meeting as soon as the stale institutional cookies had all been eaten. We appear to be running at a deficit in those as well.