Welcome to Pam-mentations.
As I’ve been developing my site, I’ve struggled to decide tone and content. What is the ethos of my site? Well, it’s as eclectic as I am. And what you’ll find here are the kinds of topics shared around my dining room table. My husband Paul, a social and political philosopher, and I entertain a lot of guests and host various discussion groups. As highly social and community-oriented people, we have an open-door policy in our home. We also enjoy many impromptu discussions with people who drop-in throughout the day. And, always, our large, round dining room table is the centre of this activity.
I like to think that table is pretty special. Everyone is welcome. As are all topics of conversation. We eat, drink, agree, disagree, groan, sigh, roll our eyes … Even cry. And we each can grow every bit as red in the face from the passion of making a heated point as we do by keeling over in fits of laughter.
The following quote from David Hume sums up my outlook on life quite neatly, or at least what I’d like to emulate. My understanding is that apart from the rigorous hours dedicated to philosophy, Hume whole-heartedly enjoyed spending evenings with friends, playing games and laughing. Hume lived a balanced life.
“Man is a reasonable being; and as such, receives from science his proper food and nourishment: But so narrow are the bounds of human understanding, that little satisfaction can be hoped for in this particular, either from the extent or security of his acquisitions. Man is a sociable, no less than a reasonable being: But neither can he always enjoy company agreeable and amusing, or preserve the proper relish for them. Man is also an active being; and from that disposition, as well as from the various necessities of human life, must submit to business and occupation: But the mind requires some relaxation, and cannot always support its bent to care and industry. It seems, then, that nature has pointed out a mixed kind of life as most suitable to the human race, and secretly admonished them to allow none of these biasses to draw too much, so as to incapacitate them for other occupations and entertainments. Indulge your passion for science, says she, but let your science be human, and such as may have a direct reference to action and society. Abstruse thought and profound researches I prohibit, and will severely punish, by the pensive melancholy which they introduce, by the endless uncertainty in which they involve you, and by the cold reception which your pretended discoveries shall meet with, when communicated. Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.” (Section I, p 3 &4)
David Hume. Ed. Eric Steinberg. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Second Edition. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 1993. (First printed in 1748.)
Here’s a bit more in the way of introducing myself and what I’m up to:
I spent my formative years in a remote sawmill village in north central B.C., Canada. My path through life, like that of countless others, includes adversity. Let’s just say I know a time when a three-dollar jar of Cheese Whiz was decadent. And that was with two little kids in tow. Now I’ve acquired a taste for pecorino (sheep cheese). Some days I wash the pecorino down with red wine. Some days I just let the taste of wine linger. But I always feel a little of what I call survival guilt, having had some lucky breaks that so many good people I’ve known haven’t been afforded. I don’t think one ought to be crushed by guilt, but I think it’s good to stay anchored in humility. Remember those hard-knock days, for better and worse. Yes, I do mean this “and.” I’m not the only one to note that some of our most precious memories are made from the worst of times.
And here’s something more. It’s good to share your good fortune with another whenever you can. For both of you, because you’ll have the vicarious pleasure of watching her, too, discover something new and wonderful. Sometimes by sharing these experiences, tears of grief mingle with tears of joy, and regrets bear on new beginnings. I suppose that’s how we share our humanity.
And, cf Hume, we share our intellect as much as other aspects of our humanity. Our intellect is the use we make of that wetware capped by our thick skulls. We think. And we poop! We’re thinking, pooping things. And we’re probably more likely to poop alike than we are to think alike. So, given our broad range of experiences, poop is a good place to start when we’re searching for the things we have in common. Some of our experiences are in common with some people – giving birth, for example – but foreign to others. Some differences – like food traditions – unite us. Others – like which way to hang the toilet paper roll, or which side of a boiled egg is up – divide us. Some of this divisiveness is resolved by a joint effort to recognize those things we have in common, especially our conceptions of the good, health, friendships, security; ie. some conception of the good life on which we can agree. And from this common ground we endeavour to find a shared language to understand our differences. Here we can apply our intellect. As Hume says, “Let your science be human, and such as may have a direct reference to action and society.”
And here’s what I love about philosophy. The discipline affords a common place and methodology to facilitate this social and political endeavour. Philosophers recommend ways of thinking about the problems we encounter by sharing living together in the myriad ways we do so. As my husband Paul says, philosophy is the critical examination of the core concepts by which we navigate the world. And given that this planet is housing 7.5 billion people and counting, that’s an awful large number of navigators.
You’ll no doubt have the picture that I’ve spent most of my life navigating one kind of environment before diving headlong into another. So I add to my list of life experiences what it’s like to bridge a sharp class divide. As a working class woman who ventured gingerly into academia nearly ten years ago at the age of forty-four, I’m torn between two identities. Or, rather I’m at sometimes torn, other times suspended in the no-man’s land between the two, and at other times still perfectly comfortable in my various skins. If you scroll through my site, you’ll see these dynamics at play.
My life experience certainly informs my philosophy and affords me some opportunity to be a bridge between people with disparate life experiences. Perhaps readers with diverse backgrounds and experiences — no matter their creeds, politics, or occupations — will find my blog a virtual table around which she can get to know some else, someone perhaps worth knowing. And maybe she’ll walk away with something new to think about, or to think about in a new way. But that’s no accomplishment of mine. It’s just what we do for each other. Or, rather, what we can do for each other.
Caveat emptor: Since you’re at my table, you’ll find everything from the lighthearted to the inspirational to the theoretical to the emotionally heavy. Well, that’s just how conversations tend to go.
My disciplinary interest, for what it’s worth, is in social epistemology, the social dimension of our knowledge practices. And particularly in how we come by our beliefs. You’ll note this theme among my posts.
Finally, my aim is to keep most of my entries short and digestible, though I’ll post some longer entries as well. Developing a blog is a learning curve, and I’ll keep apprised of what works and what doesn’t. Like pretty much every else in life, it’s trial and error..
Note that some of my posts are a series. These I post sequentially, and number accordingly, 1.1., 1.2, 1.3 …2.1, 2.2, ….and so on.
All photos on this site are my own.
Unless I state otherwise, captions — to the best of my knowledge — are my own.
Thank you for visiting.