We here in the DoD, ever catholic in our source material, recently stumbled upon a bit of despair delivered from that redoubtable correspondent, A Philosopher Elsewhere. Alas, he did not write to us, but we were nonetheless struck by his gift for pithy agony. To wit:
This shit makes me want to retire. I already don't "go out" in the philosophy blog-o-sewer, and maybe I'll stop going to conferences too. Many of these people are not able enough to both do good philosophy and engage constantly in sanctimonious, and often quite nasty, moral police work. Many of them seem to be getting paid a lot to do mediocre scholarly work and spend 80% of their working hours on Facebook.
Aware that he did not solicit our opinion, we lack restraint and nonetheless offer it anyway.
While we are ignorant of just what “shit” provokes dreams of retirement in A Philosopher Elsewhere, we are awash in empathy, for we too regularly dream of retirement. Most often, our own dreams issue from a superabundance of desires to do more things than a typical mortal life can include – e.g., our current efforts to (finally!) read War and Peace are complicated by our having jobs that distract us. Alas, on especially bad days the campaign against Napolean has to go on entirely without us.
But sometimes, we too find ourselves seeking flight from our well-paid, generally rather cushy, and unusually stimulating employment because we too have encountered those enemies of all that is holy, These People. Like A Philosopher Elsewhere, we can even find These People making us reluctant to undertake paid travel to exciting locations to meet with peers and find out more things. These People are sometimes just that bad. However, we’re less confident that our These People is the same as the These People bedeviling A Philosopher Elsewhere. Indeed, we find ourselves mildly envious of his These People, as their lack of a puritan work ethic sounds rather appealing. And perhaps their extended time on Facebook has yielded more than usual quotient of adorable pet and baby pictures? At any rate, what we take from all of this is that maybe all people have their These People. And the real risk here is getting preoccupied by them.
The provocations to misanthropy are many and perhaps misanthropy can be its own form of sanctimony? Even mediocrity? Maybe we do have a bit of the puritan in us because we find misanthropy the too-easy option where other people are concerned. It’s just not hard enough to achieve to make us proud for feeling it. From what we can tell, the supply closet of human disagreements and follies is never empty, and if we’re so inclined, we can always pull out more reasons for alienation and dismay, dislike and disapprobation. But what’s the point, after all? This, at least, is what we try to ask ourselves when we find our own These People getting us down.