SUNY Oneonta

Department of Philosophy
160 Fitzelle Hall
SUNY Oneonta
Oneonta, NY 13820-4015

Phone: (607) 436-2456
Fax: (607) 436-2435



Philosophy & the Public Realm STUDENT PREFACE


In both the positive and pejorative sense, philosophy has been, perhaps, the most powerful impetus in my life thus far. My exploration began some three years ago when, as an eager—although unsuspicious—student, I read works whose titles carried the stamp of authors from whom I sought tutelage toward an avenue of personal growth (and with time and effort permitting, acceptance into their respective dialogic communities). Consequently, my induction into philosophical discourse, an attempt at Heidegger’s Being and Time, lured me, unwittingly and without active discretion, toward the total admission of his thought. Questioning the personal relevance of Heidegger’s ontological claims held a secondary stance with respect to the allure of his probing assessment of the self: a self which, although at first uncanny, I subsequently inwardly absorbed with full assurance. Heidegger thereupon became the solution, as I felt the need to establish a Weltanschauung, a world orientation.

Since the temptation of Heidegger’s disciplined thinking disclosed for me the proper path of my own personal expression, I submitted to the Oneonta Undergraduate Philosophy Conference of 2000 a paper on his treatment of aesthetics. It is a paper that represents earnest effort, but beyond that reveals, compared with my present person, a self-struggle of doubt and a fear of my own absurdity. When I read, in preparation of presenting, the finished work (reflecting, too, on an idea/disposition I had been assuming), I began to wonder whether I could actively accept, or decisively agree with, Heidegger’s philosophy, and what is perhaps even more, with the whole of my philosophical pursuit. It seemed, then, as if my work was all for naught: I, the unsuspecting student, embraced beliefs because of their veneration, not on account of my own volition. The conference, as I experienced it, bound three years of study within three days. Nonetheless, when I should have readied my speech, I sat, anxiously consumed by a newly felt sense of self-doubt. When I should have delivered my paper, I offered to the audience my reasons for not being able to do so. Though the emotional expression of my inability to furnish the assumed piece proved cathartic, I have learned, and wish to say decidedly, that I made a mistake, that I dishonored an obligation (that being the formal delivery of my written work).

Given now the means to suggest a few words of importance, I wish to submit that the significance of my internal questioning is not that of an admission of my dishonorable conduct, but rather stands behind my acceptance of self-doubt. In the acceptance of that doubt I saw, and remain to see now, the worth and weakness of philosophy and of myself. I’ve come to realize the accent of real possibility and expression: a sense of place both limited and boundless, but always steered by the will of one’s own decision. As such, I chose, and continue to choose mindfully, of myself and of the other, from what is both necessary and possible. Self-doubt delivered me unto an understanding of what is, fundamentally, most intrinsically mine: personal will.

I should say, accordingly, that it was the conference, under the influential vibrancy of all those involved, that exfoliated what could be called a sort of self-reckoning. No other occurrence, as I surmise the sum of my life’s experience, has ever forced an affect of such profundity. With that said, the struggle to make clear my inward-inquiry gives a definitive picture of those who have graciously given me their assistance and concern. So with this opportunity, I simply wish to offer my gratitude to the people of Oneonta and St. Mary’s, as they have extended petition and care toward myself and other students of our philosophical communities. For their compassion and reassurance, I wish to thank Dr. Douglas Shrader and Dr. Henry Rosemont, both professors whose brilliance and sincerity I honor. To Daniel Bristol, I express laughter in his humor and extend an embrace for his fellowship. With similar gratitude I volunteer my indebtedness to Morgan Brenner, Rachel Houchins and Kevin McGarry, all individuals of love and limitless possibility. To Alan Paskow, John Schroeder, Jackie Paskow and Anne Leblans, I owe a tremendous amount of responsibility and respect, by virtue of their friendship and instruction. Lastly I would like to thank everyone who, subtlety and uniquely, helped to make this year’s conference one of the most memorable and impacting moments of my life, and I am certain, that of others as well.

Iain Tucker Brown
St. Mary’s City, Maryland

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