biographical / Non-fiction

Suck on that, Kierkegaard!

A message to fellow philosophy majors–past, future and present–particularly ones from programs which are historically and/or Continentally focused such as my alma mater, the venerable North Park University in Chicago, Ill.

For those of you who don’t know or remember me, I’m a graduate of North Park’s philosophy program, who has gone on to a life outside the academy. After graduating in 2008, I swung by Northwestern for a masters degree in journalism, which is the one field with fewer job prospects than philosophy. But my philosophy past continues to haunt/help me to this day. For example:

Lately, my main source of income has been helping a well-established lawyer-turned-author-and-TED-speaker/Daily-Show-guest write a book on public policy. As the subject matter can be very dry, I was initially charged with collecting anecdotes and interviews with real world people, to make the book relatable and more interesting. As the book was coming together, the LTAATSDSG decided to go with stronger arguments than inductive ones based on only examples (which as we know isn’t the strongest way to make your case, but it’s totally acceptable in realms where logic doesn’t matter, i.e. politics). Thus we began looking for other ways of stating his case, and redefined what my role was in the research process. With a toss of his successful and wealthy hand, the LTAATSDSG sent me from his 43rd floor office (in the New York Times building in Midtown Manhattan) with the instructions to “look into the problems with this quest for uniformity in our laws/society. Comb the think tanks, the social thinkers, the Founding Fathers, the philosophers…” before he picking up his phone and telling someone to book him a ticket to Bermuda (seriously).

"Pale and relaxed, his features hung down as if lifeless" -Hotho's complimentary description of Hegel

Upon the advice of Dr. Clark (whose erudition on society and community is unrivaled–at least among people I feel comfortable emailing, but probably across the board), I pulled my copy of Hegel’s The Philosophy of Right down from the shelf on Wednesday evening. It was not only wonderfully relevant (Thank you, Dr. Clark), but also a revelation.

Just as Kant was awakened from his dogmatic slumbers by Hume, or Eureka streaking through town, it dawned on me: Hegel was useful in real life! Yes, my friends, the unthinkable had happened: I was reading/summarizing Hegel and getting paid for it! The hours of struggling in Brandel Library to read the Jerk of Jena, the Baffler of Berlin, the man who makes Heidegger look like Dan Brown, have turned into utility!

Sure, that’s not what it was about. And the hours wouldn’t have been in vain, even if I was never able to capitalize off ol’ GWFH. Still, if I can find cause for, in work, busting out the man who Adorno once pointed out can be impossible to understand, you never know when it’ll pay off to bust out the Critique of Pure Reason (If there’s any justification for ebooks at all, it’s so we can quote the Critique verbatim at a moment’s notice).

I just wanted you all to know that this has happened to someone (once). And while I haven’t presented my research to the boss-man–and he may fire me when I do–this buzz I’m feeling belongs to us all. Share in this victory, friends, for it is your victory also.


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