Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Library people

How does one explain the joy of a day at the library? Not a day tracking down things one already knows about, let alone one double checking what you think you already know, but one where you have time to follow references where they lead, and references from there? That just sounds like what we all do nowadays with hyperlinks and internet searches, I suppose, but somehow it feels different in a setting like UCSD's Geisel library. I suppose it's a somewhat naive faith in the republic of letters, the community of peer review, but somehow I feel more like I'm getting to the unknown unknowns here.

Perhaps I can illustrate with some of my findings today. Reading a recent article by a young comparative philosopher who's part of a special discussion critiquing the Eurocentrism of the discipline of academic philosophy (so much for the republic of letters!) I've been asked to write a short comment on, I learned all sorts of fun things, including that the late 18th century Chinese novel 野叟曝言 narrated a Confucian hero's takeover of the world; it ends in the establishment of the most purely Confucian society of them all - in Europe!

I was also introduced to exciting ideas of one of this comparative philosopher's graduate school classmates, who's used Chinese traditions to suggest that philosophy might flourish if it moved from metaphors of conflict to those of play and the communities of aesthetic creativity and enjoyment. Following up one of her recent works (I'll have to wait until I'm back in NYC next week to actually read it, since UCSD doesn't have a copy of the book) I found it was in a book edited by one of my college classmates from undergraduate days, with whom I've long lost touch. Inhabiting these shelves, journals and databases are my people, known and unknown, forgotten and remembered.

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