リーファトロジーの哲学 / Philosophy of Lifatology


Confessions of an Ex Philosopher

Confessions of an Ex Philosopher

To begin with, I have yet to ask the author for the translation permission as the article was written anonymously. If any request arises to retract this translation by the author or anyone concerned, I hereby promise that I will do so as immediately as possible.



I would like to be sincerely grateful to the author for sharing their precious expericence in an brutely specific yet wittily ironic manner, as well as to a friend of mine from England, who kindly helped me work on some of this article.



【Added on 22nd February 2021】I never thought this translation would be, retweeted on Twitter, viewd by this many people. On the other hand, I have gotten some advice on my mistakes in it. Thank you very much for kindly correcting me. Specifically, I have modified my translations for

 ①'my 2 year postdoctoral research post', 

 ②' Is sharing on Facebook the worst of your student essay’s hapless nonsense really enough of a gratification to balance the intellectual and emotional energy you are pouring onto them?'


By the way, some people told me the gender of 'I' could not be identified from the original  text itself. However, I believe it to be male judging from 'he' used in the following sentences.

'You know how you condescendingly tell young graduate students not to worry if they feel out of place, that everyone feels inadequate, that it’s just “imposter syndrome”? Time to rethink your strategy. Next time someone tells you how they fear being an imposter you better tell them: “It might be true. They exist. I have known one. He was a damn good imposter. So take a very long look into yourself and figure it out before it’s too late”'

Nonetheless, I obviously mistakenly translated 'partner' as 'girlfriend', so I here apologise to those who might have been offended.



 ②「フェイスブックで、生徒のエッセイに書かれた不運なたわごとの中でも、最悪なものを共有してそれに文句を言う、― そんなことをしても、生徒につぎ込んだ知的・情緒的エネルギーに釣り合うほどの満足感を得られるだろうか?」






・Source/ソース: <https://write.as/formerly-known-as-a-philosopher/confession-of-an-ex-philosopher>

・Author/作者: Anonymous/不明

This is going to be a series of scattered biographical thoughts and polemical remarks. I cannot muster anything more systematic. It pains me, because I don’t want to leave anything unsaid, or unclear. But hopefully the many separate strokes will somehow compose into a complete picture. As for why: it is both a therapeutic way to come to terms with my life and something that I feel I owe to people who have known me. Having said this, it isn’t going to make me any new friends. And possibly alienate some of the old ones. So be it.
 これから、本来バラバラなものを、一続きに書き記したいと思う。つまり、僕が人生で抱いた考えと、ひどく攻撃的な意見を。これ以上規則正しく、それらを「召集する」ことはできないと思う。書くことは辛い。なぜなら、何かを言い残したり、何かをぼんやりとした形で表したりしたくはないからだ。けれども、何度も別々に行ったり来たりすることで、どうにか全体像が見えてこればうれしい。なぜ書くか。 書くことは、一方で自らの人生と折り合いをつける治療法であるし、他方で僕を知る人に対して、僕がなすべきだろうことだからだ。その上で、こんなことをしても新しい友人などできはしないだろうと思う。むしろ、古い友人に疎まれるようになるかもしれない。それならそれで仕方がない。


I’ve been wanting to write this for so long. Expose it all. In a way, it is a (professional) suicide note. A goodbye from a part of me that will never come back. Perhaps more appropriately, it is a ritual, cathartic burning of a mask that has always stifled me. On the 1st of February 2020, the end of my 2-year postdoctoral research post marked the official conclusion of my academic career. I say official because the reality is that it has ended a long time ago.


The truth is that I have never enjoyed doing philosophy. Perhaps something approaching enjoyment could describe my disposition towards it around the last years of high school and the first couple of years my undergraduate education. I was seized, at the time, by the intoxicating thrill of debating Big Issues with friends, having just been given the vocabulary to do so, and by the excitement of discovering the wide conceptual space still waiting to be explored. But I soon realised that most of it had already been thoroughly mapped, by more capable conceptual cartographers than myself — perhaps centuries before. And what is still unknown — and is truly worth being discovered — required a far keener mind than I could ever hope to have. Dizzying new conceptual vistas gradually become labyrinthine, nausea-inducing, and soul-crushing. So, most of my “career” has been painfully marked by self-doubt, by the chronic anxiety of catching up and to read/to know more, and by more or less conscious (but always unflattering) comparisons with this or that brilliant colleague whose philosophical acumen I never would be able to match. I’m just not smart enough, or at the very least I don’t have a sufficient level of obsessive focus or burning passion (which is what takes the place of wits in many a thinker — for better or worse). Drawing a balance, philosophy has brought to me far more emotional pain than enlightenment, self-confidence, or even just pleasure. That is no way to live.


Yes, yes, I know: philosophy produces (or indeed, is) the corrosive questioning of one’s unreflective beliefs and the never-ending process of revision of one’s conceptual coordinates. “One cannot but philosophise”. I know all that spiel. But when all there is to it is crippling self-doubt, anxiety, frustration and — eventually — bitter resentment, something has gone wrong. A life spent second-guessing anything you write and anything you say, judging it against some unattainable standard of “valuable” or “insightful” isn’t really worth living, especially when you realise that vast parts of the whole enterprise are moot to being (訳者注: beginの間違いだと思われます) with, and they amount to a ritual repetition of form — a kind of conceptual Zen garden that produces dread instead of inner peace. Perhaps there’s stronger people than me out there, able to weather the storm of self-doubt and eventually reach a plateau of clarity. Well, that ain’t me.


Sellars’ apple comes to mind. I gave up on the apple, I never reached the core. There might be no return to innocence, but perhaps there can be a path towards, if not happiness, at least peace. Good old boring and dumb peace. There’s clearly something of a sophomoric nihilism at work here (not even my nihilism is particularly refined!). Let me give it a more respectable veneer by quoting this passage of Ligotti’s The Spectacles in the Drawer which I always cherished:
 セラーズの林檎が頭に浮かぶ。僕は林檎をあきらめた。僕は、核心に至ることはなかった。昔のようなイノセンス(無知・無邪気・無罪)への回帰はあり得ないのかもしれない。だけど、もしかすると、前へ進む道ならあるかもしれない。幸せと言わないまでも、平和ならあるかもしれない。古き良き、退屈でふざけたあの平和だ。明らかに、こんな書き方は生意気なニヒリズムだ(この僕のニヒリズムですら、たいしたものではない!)。リゴティの『The Spectacle in the Drawer (引き出しの中の見世物)』から一節引いて、僕の言いたいことに、皆が尊敬できるような見せかけを与えよう。僕は、この一節をいつも心に秘めてきた。


“But the secrets of such a book are not perpetual. Once they are known, they become relegated to a lesser sphere, which is that of the knower. Having lost the prestige they once enjoyed, these former secrets now function as tools in the excavation of still deeper ones which, in turn, will suffer the same corrosive fate. And this is the fate of all the secrets of the universe. Eventually the seeker of a recondite knowledge may conclude — either through insight or sheer exhaustion — that this ruthless process is never-ending, that the mortification of one misery after another has no terminus beyond that of the seeker’s own extinction.”


Philosophy has always been a very personal affair. Well, not always. When it stopped being a personal affair, it also stopped being enjoyable. It became a performance. I realize that many of you are able to seamlessly weave personal involvement and academic performance together. For me, that’s always been impossible. I’m too slow, my thoughts too dim, and too prone to distraction to focus on one single problem. And when I do, I am unable to crystallize my involvement with such a problem to intelligible and coherent terms. And even if I manage that, I can at best produce a competent list of platitudes. When the inexpressible (not because mystical, but because too close to the bone for me to articulate onto the field of discourse) project of shaping (edifying, in both senses of the term) my own individuality — what I thought philosophy was about — became the public performance of puzzle-solving, that’s when I developed a rejection of philosophy. I’ve always held dear the Plotinian motto “never stop carving your own statue”, but I eventually realised that I wasn’t carving my own statue, I was carving a statue, meant for public exposure, and designed in order to meet public criteria of beauty rather than to represent my inner self. Do you know how many times I wrote a Facebook comment or a blogpost (or formulated a question in my mind during some talk) only to delete it because: “nah, that’s too dumb, I’d make a fool of myself”. Well I’ve had enough.


I’d be lying if I said that this doesn’t scare me at all. Somewhat paradoxically, academia made me dumber, by ripening an intellectual passion I loved to engage with into a rotten performance act I had to dread, and that I hurried to wash out of my mind (impossible ambition) when clocking out. Until the clocking out became the norm. Now I honestly do not have insightful opinions about anything — not rarefied philosophical problems nor products nor popular culture nor current events. I cannot decode the layers of anti-establishment propaganda in Liu Cixin’s work any more than I am able to unpack the nuances of Brandom’s logical expressivism. I do not have any critical reading of Terrence Malik’s most recent movie any more than I have an original interpretation of the political meaning of Deleuze’s ‘virtual’. I do not understand the racial subtext of Kendrick Lamar’s music any more than I understand the philosophical implications of Homotopy Type Theory. I just don’t. Believe me, I tried — but I can at best skim the surface of stuff, and perhaps dimly discern that there’s something to excavate there, but I am unequipped with the necessary tools (or patience, or both) to reach it. And the painful (and inevitably frustrating) process of trying to have a deep — or at the very least original — opinion about anything at all has made me fucking miserable. Turns out I am kind of dumb and I’m really OK with it now. Also because, to be honest, I don’t believe anymore that the fate of humankind hangs on any of these philosophical puzzles. An Aesopian defence mechanism? Perhaps. My pettiness knows no bounds.
 このことを全く恐れていないと言えば、嘘になるだろう。やや逆説的なことだが、アカデミアは僕を昔よりも馬鹿にしてしまった。僕が愛した知的情熱は熟し切り、腐ったパフォーマンスに化してしまった。僕はそのパフォーマンスを恐れた。そして、研究室から帰る際に、急いでそれを自らの頭から追い出そうとした(不可能な野望だ)。そして、哲学について考えないのが当たり前のことになった。今となっては心からわかる。僕は何事に関しても、洞察に満ちた意見など持ち合わせてはいない。純粋な哲学的問題に対しても、何か商品に対しても、大衆文化に対しても、時事に対しても。僕は劉慈欣のSF作品における反体制プロパガンダの含みも脱コード化できないし、ブランドンのlogical expressivism(論理的表現主義)のニュアンスも本質まで理解できない。テレンス・マリックの最新の映画について、批判的に文献を読むわけでもないし、ドゥルーズの「バーチャル」の政治的意味についてのもともとの解釈も知らない。ケンドリック・ラマーの音楽の人種的背景も理解していないし、ホモトピー型理論が哲学的に何をほのめかすのかもわからない。ただ、「できない」だけだ。信じてほしい。僕は努力した。けれども、精々、物事の表面を掬い取ることしかできない。あるいは、時には、「何かそこには掘り出すものがある」とぼんやりと理解できるかもしれない。けれども、そこに至るまでに必要な道具(あるいは忍耐、あるいはその両方)が僕には欠けている。そして、何事に対しても深い(あるいは少なくとも自分なりの)意見を持つのは、骨が折れる(そして、必然的に苛立つ)ことだ。そうする度に、僕はクソ惨めな思いをしてきた。自分が馬鹿の側の人間だとわかり、本当に今はもうそれに対して何も思わない。正直なところ、こんな哲学的な問いは人類の運命には重要ではないと、昔と違って思うようになったこともあるだろう。エソピアンの防衛システムが何だっていうんだ?もしかすると、僕は底知れぬほど、不寛容でつまらない人間なのかもしれない。


Growing up, I’ve had many teachers remarking how “smart” I was — including my philosophy teacher in high school, single-handedly responsible for pushing me towards an academic career. I guess that one of the most important things I’ve learnt in my 15 odd years in academia is the ability to recognise who and what a smart person is — that ain’t me. The chance to meet and to talk with some outstandingly smart men and women has certainly been cause of self-doubt and insecurities, but honestly it has now matured into a precious awareness, a discernment I carry with me in my everyday life. That of being able to tell apart philosophical posers from individuals with genuine critical acumen is a skill I treasure.


Having now acquired sufficient critical distance from the world of academia I can tell you: most of what you do is supremely useless work. The overwhelming majority of your papers and your book reviews — invariably published in niche journals — will be read maybe by a dozen people. Conference attendees will sleep through your talks, and ask unrelated questions to score their own prestige points. You waste endless hours trying to be on top of your teaching load, preparing lectures for students who by and large don’t give a damn about your subject, and will do their best to get that passing grade with the minimum amount of effort necessary. Is sharing on Facebook the worst of your student essay’s hapless nonsense really enough of a gratification to balance the intellectual and emotional energy you are pouring onto them? The effect of all this work — a heavy workload that causes a range of psychological ills that go from mild anxiety to chronic stress and debilitating depression — is negligible at best. I’ve been there. I’ve published papers and books. Designed syllabuses. I’ve participated to and organised conferences. Completely useless work, the lot of it. If everything I’ve ever written in my career was to spontaneously combust right now, the world would not be any poorer because of it.
 今やアカデミアの世界から十分距離を取り、それに対して批判的になれるようになったので、次のことが言える。つまり、そこで取り組むことのほとんどが、この上なく無駄だということだ。(ニッチな機関紙に例外なく載せられることになる)論文も書評も、その想像できないほど大部分が、ほんの少しの人々に読まれればよいところだ。学術会議の参加者たちは他の参加者の講演中に眠っているし、他人から良く見られようと全く関係のない質問をする。担当している授業をうまく切り盛りしようと際限なく時間を無駄にし、講義の準備をする。講義者の専門など概して気にもかけず、最低限の努力で何とか留年を免れようとする生徒たちのために。こんなことに取り組んでも、どうやったって何にもならない。フェイスブックで、生徒のエッセイに書かれた不運なたわごとの中でも、最悪なものを共有してそれに文句を言う、― そんなことをしても、生徒につぎ込んだ知的・情緒的エネルギーに釣り合うほどの満足感を得られるだろうか?あまりにも取り組まなければならないことが多く、少々の不安から慢性的なストレス・気の弱るような鬱まで、様々な精神病に陥るのが関の山だ。僕は、そんな場所にこれまでいた。論文も本も出版してもらった。シラバスも作った。会議の催しにも参加してきた。その多くが、完全に無駄な作業だった。もしも、僕がこれまでのキャリアで書いてきたものが今自ら燃え尽きようとも、世界は全く悪くはならないだろう。


Of course, I’m a particularly egregious case of a shit academic, but I’m willing (and enough of an asshole) to bet that the vast majority of you are not improving “the profession” in any tangible way. Nor are you bettering society. You are not propelling forward the intellectual development of the human species. You’re wasting your life and energies droning away on projects that interest maybe a handful of people worldwide, and that very often have no intrinsic value, if not that of contributing to the reproduction of an abhorrent and rapacious system of academic publishing (fuck you Springer, fuck you Elsevier, I’ve spent years encouraging people to pirate your publications as often as possible), a scam in broad daylight we all seem to just shrug off — because hey, I’ve got to publish that paper for my tenure file/ REF submission, right?
 もちろん、僕はクソ研究者の中でも、特にひどい例だ。けれども、僕は心から、こうじゃないかと思っている(そして、馬鹿にはうんざりだ)。つまり、研究者の大多数が、自らの「職業」を明確な形でより高めていこうとはしていない。そして、社会をベターにもしていない。皆、人類という種の知的発展を推し進めてなどいない。研究者たちは、場合によっては世界中にほんの少しの人々しか興味が持たず、実にしばしば何の価値もその内に持たないプロジェクトについて、だらだらと話続け、自らの人生とエネルギーを無駄にしている。価値があるにしても、忌々しく足るを知らない学術出版というシステムの、再生産に寄与しているだけだろう(くたばれ、シュプリンガー。くたばれ、エルゼビア。もう何年も、欲しい出版物は海賊版サイトで探すように皆に言い続けてきた)。その詐欺システムを、僕らは白昼堂々と、ただ見過ごしているようだ。なぜなら、なぁ、僕はテニュア(米国での学術研究者の終身雇用契約)やREF(Research Excellence Framework: 英国での論文の審査基準)のために、論文を発表しないといけなかったんだから。


Why are you doing this to yourself? There is a life worth living somewhere out there for you, free from looming submission deadlines, piles of mind-numbing grading, Kafkian administrators, and awkward conference mingling. Sure, many other jobs will be as draining as yours — welcome to capitalism. But the point is: do not fool yourself into thinking that the “intellectual” part of your job somehow elevates it above the hundreds of thousands of bullshit jobs there are. In fact, the difference is that you can clock out of most bullshit jobs — and use your free time, as little as that might be, to do something you really crave — while all the academics I’ve known are compulsively working at all times, never really off the hook.


A very small number of academics I’ve met over the years are both extremely competent thinkers and decent human beings. I’ve been lucky enough to have had excellent “mentors” through the years, whom I respected both professionally and as people — their quirks and all — as well as to meet a few “colleagues” that I now consider friends. But far too many academics are spoiled and self-important assholes, who behave in ways in that any other professional environment would have them either laughed out of the room or fired on the spot. I’ve smiled and nodded, and bit my tongue when treated like a shoe-shine boy. But dude, I really don’t give a shit that you’ve published 10 books on German Idealism with a prestigious university press — you’re still an asshole and in other circumstances I’d have told you in no uncertain terms where to shove that USB drive of yours (suspiciously specific, I know). Those are the high-profile academics who submit a paper you asked them months after the deadline without any kind of apology, who show up at a workshop delivering a months-old talk of theirs, who speak over junior colleagues because what could they possibly know. Of course, it is our fault. You treat someone like a rockstar and he or she will start acting like one.


Most of you however, academic underlabourers, I simply don’t understand. What drives you? With Facebook now being my main window on the academic community, not a day goes by without me smiling at some comment thread populated by eager 20-somethings grad students, tripping over themselves to voice their thought using as much edgy philosophical jargon as possible. Allow me to be a patronizing asshole. I used to be you: stressing over readings I have not yet done, compulsively watching/listening to YouTube philosophy videos when doing anything from walking to washing dishes because I needed to use all the time available to catch up with smarter people, obsessively downloading books I couldn’t possibly have time to read, talking to my therapist about managing my anxiety about a looming conference paper, being gripped by guilt whenever I tried to read anything non-philosophical… and so on. I wish you the best, but please keep a plan B open in your mind, cultivate other non-philosophical (or philosophy-adjacent) interests. Keep writing philosophy, keep chatting with fellow “artists” (or whatever your hipster Brooklyn or Berlin theory friends like to call themselves), keep reading science/maths papers you barely understand, go ahead. But for the love of god, every now and then do something else. Perhaps you’ll find something you enjoy more.


Of course, it is easier to address younger people here. I realise that if you’ve already invested five, ten, or fifteen years of your life into teaching by now you feel like it’s not so easy to drop everything and start something new. Or you might have family or economic constraints — stressing as it is, your academic employment might be your only source of income. I recognise that I was lucky enough to be in the position to give up before I had any sort of permanent employment, and to have an extremely supportive partner who didn't go “...a fucking BOAT??” when I exposed to her my plan B. But remember that it’s possible, at any time. It might take some sacrifice, but the pay-out might be worth it.


You know how you condescendingly tell young graduate students not to worry if they feel out of place, that everyone feels inadequate, that it’s just “imposter syndrome”? Time to rethink your strategy. Next time someone tells you how they fear being an imposter you better tell them: “It might be true. They exist. I have known one. He was a damn good imposter. So take a very long look into yourself and figure it out before it’s too late”. We exist. We are among you. I have two MAs and a PhD. I have been awarded two relatively prestigious (and well-paid) postdocs. I have studied or worked in five different universities in four different European countries. I have published over fifteen between articles, book chapters, and reviews — and two books. I have given conference talks. I have organised workshops and a three-days conference. I have interacted with dozens of professional philosophers (and perhaps — humblebrag, I know — the highlight of my career was receiving a glowing reader report from Lord Brandom himself). But very rarely have I really believed in any of this. In many cases I was exceedingly bored and just going through the motions — while being worried that someone might finally find out that I’m just an imposter. But I go through the motions pretty well. If there’s one thing I do really well is to pretend to know what I am doing. If it walks like a philosopher and writes like a philosopher it’s gotta be a philosopher, right? At first, I will admit, the fear was that of being exposed as an intellectual fraud. Later, it simply boiled down to: “if they find out I don’t give a shit anymore they’ll pull my funding”. Pretty despicable? Perhaps.


In the last couple of years, I’ve slowly let the mask slip. For the first time I have declined invites to go give talks, to be interviewed, to write book chapters, to be a peer-reviewer, to teach online courses, and generally done as little as humanly possible to keep the pretence going. Indulge me, and listen to an anecdote: some 3 or 4 years ago I was talking with a friend, a good guy, an enthusiastic graduate student in my department at the time. I honestly don’t remember what the topic was, some philosophical/interpretive puzzle. After a few minutes of conversation, I got bored and slipped, and went “oh well whatever, it’s not like I give a fuck either way”. His expression, a mix of puzzlement, amusement, and surprise, not quite knowing if I was joking (that’s hilarious!) or being serious (what?), definitely cracked something inside me. In the blink of an eye, I saw the vast distance separating him and me. I realised that I just didn’t belong in his world, and in fact that I was taking up the space (and the money) that could have been better used by someone else.


If I ever had a philosophical chat with you, chances are that I found that to be an agonizing experience. I was probably trying to navigate that exchange with only damage control in mind (“let’s say as little as possible and be as non-committal as possible, so he/she won’t realise I don’t have a fucking clue about this topic”), and doing my best to make it quick, swaying it to some other topic whenever possible. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t like you. Perhaps I did. I just hated how inadequate our conversation made me feel.


It should be no surprise by now that I always loathed conferences. What I hated even more is post-conference mingling. I have no interest whatsoever in hearing your opinions about Kant’s Transcendental Dialectic, I really don’t: after 6 hours of conference I want to do anything but talk about fucking philosophy. Also, since I’m confessing: I can probably count on one hand the times that I’ve listened to a complete conference paper form beginning to end. Even while I’m intently staring at you talking, I am likely thinking about what I can do when the conference is over. Or about groceries I need to buy. If I have a laptop open, I’m expertly pretending to type down notes while looking shit up online or — if the venue has no fucking WiFi (and there’s a special circle in Hell for conference organizers who don’t set up WiFi) — I am reorganizing my desktop folders. More than once I pretended to receive a phone call so that I could drift away from the eagerly chatting post-conference crowd, and then disappear back to the safety of my hotel room, thus avoiding the dreaded philosophical “drinks”.


“This person is depressed” – I hear you say. I honestly don’t think so. Neither does my therapist. There are a few concrete circumstances in my life that weigh on me, and are less than optimal — or at least are far from the ideal of a realised life I’ve always held. Including, of course, the feeling of having wasted 15 years of my life (and a substantial amount of money, both spent and not earned) pursuing an “academic career” I never truly wanted. Yes, that makes me very sad. But you would be mistaken in believing this to be the confession of yet another potentially brilliant thinker, tragically crippled by depression.


I’m not being flippant here — there’s people I sincerely admire and consider friends that truly belong to this group, and whose potentially profitable careers have been seriously hindered by their neurodiversity. In fact, years back I actually hoped to be clinically depressed (for that would’ve offered a neurological explanation for my lack of brilliance) or to have some other kind of psycho- or neuro- logical issue that could serve as either a justification for my lack of engagement, enjoyment, and focus or (and?) as a distinguishing trait, something to make me feel somehow special. How utterly pathetic is that? At least now I have the clarity to say: mine is not a psychological issue. I’m not depressed, I don’t have ADHD. I exercise regularly, and I play football with friends weekly. I’ve started playing guitar over the last year, something I’ve always wanted to do. I do house chores, I cook, I take care of my son’s school affairs and his afternoon activities. I cultivate some hobbies. I don’t exactly have a vibrant social life but I do have close friends whom I’m in touch with regularly. I even got directly involved local politics. This is not the profile of a depressed person. I’m as psychologically vanilla and neurotypical as they come. I’m just a lazy, spoiled son of a bitch — nothing more glamorous than this.


Do I occasionally find it all too much, and have a crying breakdown? Sure. But who doesn’t? In sum, after my disappearance (from the public scene, not existence, fear not) there will be no celebratory blogposts, no contrite Facebook statuses bemoaning the terrible loss for the wider intellectual community. That’s how it should be. There is nothing I leave behind, there is nothing I want to leave behind.


This does not mean that I now somehow hate intellectual labour. Don’t jump to the conclusion: “oh boy, Fabio has gone full anti-intellectualist. Is he gonna rant against vaccines next?”. Believe me, I loathe the “my university was the street” ignoramus as much as the pompous “I read the Logic before bed” philosophy nerd. Two things are at play here: 1) I am admitting I am not and I never was a scholar, and that desiring (first) and pretending (later) to be one has led me down a very painful road, wasting many years of my life; 2) I am expressing my puzzlement towards most of you philosophy people, knowing full well that a large part of you is as miserable as I was (although, perhaps, genuinely interested in what you do). My honest advice is: reconsider your life before it is too late. You can be happy, somehow. Reading Wimsatt before bed and sending dozens of doomed job applications is not gonna make you happy. Getting a shitty, under-paid and over-worked job, teaching uninterested students, and publishing a career worth of useless papers is not gonna make you happy. If you are not bettering humankind (and your paper on Heidegger’s reading of Kant’s imagination or free will and quantum indeterminacy sure as hell isn’t) why are you wasting your life on something as emotionally draining as a life in academia? Or well — to dial down my patronizing tone — at least that’s what I asked myself. I couldn’t find an answer. Can you?


While I honestly don’t give a shit about having “failed” in the eyes on academia, I do harbour some worries about my inner life. Will I become dumb all of a sudden? At the moment my interest in reading philosophy for my own personal enrichment is extremely low, although perhaps slowly coming back after a long period of complete philosophical abstinence. Indeed, I’ve already forgotten a lot of stuff I used to know — I wouldn’t be able to explain my own PhD thesis anymore. I am still looking for the way to keep my mind active with something that genuinely interests me, and towards which I have no scorn — that’s a tall order. I do sometimes feel the need to write something, but something that gets actually read (and appreciated) by people, not the usual dozens of theory geeks in my Twitter feed. Not because of narcissistic ambitions of fame, but simply because I would like to feel that my time and effort has some kind of real effect on the world.


I was once called, disparagingly I presume, a “natural-cultural elitist”. Which I suppose means that I don’t believe that everyone is endowed with the innate talent necessary to be an intellectual (hence the elitism). Well, yeah. Call it whatever you want — intelligence? critical acumen? insightfulness? — but only the most naïve of vulgar egalitarians can deny that some of us are just better suited to non-philosophical pursuits. Make no mistake, the line of separation does not fall along class, race or gender lines (do I need to say this?), but quite simply, some people are good at it, while others aren’t — I’m sure they’ll be good at something else. Hell, perhaps something far more urgent and socially useful than doing philosophy. Good engineers perhaps. In fact, those who take umbrage at this idea are the same ones who covertly fetishize their being “philosophers” as if having read Pierce or Agamben or Nagarjuna granted them an implicit entry ticket into the rarefied ranks of the cultural elite. Nope.


Today’s academia does a very poor job at telling apart those who deserve and those who don’t (also because today’s academia has no interest in doing so — they are both paying customers). Indeed I (the one who squatted within academia’s walls for 15 years) clearly do not have such a talent — and that is why I’m taking myself out of academia. But since I’m being brutally honest: I’ve known a lot of people with PhDs who, frankly, were competent practitioners at best, and who anyway do not — and likely never will — produce work that is of any broad interest or utility, as indirect as that might be.


I am 36, and my entire “professional” life was wasted on something I never really believed in (I put “professional” heavy scare quotes because I never had a real job in my life — save being a bartender and a pizza delivery guy in my 20s). I just went with the flow, as long as there was a current propelling me (i.e. as long as I got paid). I don’t have any particular talent. In the last ten to fifteen years, while nearly everyone else was going through experiences leading to this or that competence, skill, ability, or technical knowledge I was biding my time, writing bullshit papers, pretending academia was my dream job, that philosophy was my only interest, waiting for the Cushy Academic Job to fall on my lap (and playing videogames). My change of heart wasn’t produced by a sudden crisis of consciousness, a pang of guilt, the realization that I was parasitically gaming the academic system. No, I merely reached the limit of my ability to fake it. As hilariously naïve as this might sound: I somehow want to be happy. And giving talks on Badiou and structural realism or writing FB statuses with insightful political readings of the latest Marvel movie sure as hell does not make me happy.


Why do I have such an interest/morbose fascination for the literature on climate change and generally the imminent planetary collapse? Is it because my strong morals impose upon me to deeply care for all human beings on earth and their fate? No. Let’s be honest. It’s because if the world is really going to go to shit in a few decades, the fact that my life was wasted can quietly slide into the background, and I can resort to the ultimate psychological palliative strategy: “oh well, no matter how realized I might have been, the world was fucked anyway”. Pathetic, I know. Hi, have you met me?


So what now? Do I have a plan? Until very recently, I honestly had no plan. I was seriously considering going back to bartend or help in a kitchen. Then a combination of things conspired to give me another idea. I’ve been translating philosophy (ITA-ENG and ENG-ITA) for many years now, and that is something I genuinely enjoy — and I’m pretty good at it. It allows me to maintain a (sufficiently detached) contact with the philosophical world, keeping my mind active, and I approach the act of translating itself as a puzzle, gratifying in its own right. I enjoy a well-crafted sentence. But that’s not enough. Neither economically, nor from the human standpoint. I need to get up from my desk, away from the laptop, and out in the world. So well, I invested all my savings and I bought a boat. An old wooden sailboat that used to belong to a dear great-uncle of mine. And I’m going to take people out on this boat, giving them a tour of the area I live in, feed them nice stuff, tell them about the places they see, and perhaps about my sad past as a failed philosopher. If all goes well, I’ll be doing that for about 4 months a year, and the rest of the year I’ll keep looking for books to translate (don’t stop writing monographs my friends!).


During the last few weeks I’ve been working on the boat, actual good old-fashioned hand-work, sanding the hull mostly. I’m not going to babble about some alleged authenticity of working with one’s hands, gripped by some kind of working-class romanticism (it’s hard work, and I probably wouldn’t do it for a living), but the feeling of seeing the result of my work is something that I sorely missed. Also, I finally don’t feel guilty of saying “I have to work this morning”, because the work in question is not “re-compiling a bibliography in accordance with Harvard style referencing standards”. Also, while working I’ve restarted listening to philosophy podcasts, so I guess that’s good?


In addition, I’m looking into another option — possibly the only way I’m willing to keep “doing philosophy” in a professional manner: I’m considering running philosophy workshops for children in the elementary and middle schools of my area. I am far more willing to try and make an impact on society — by means of my philosophical training — by planting a few questioning seeds into the minds of wondering kids than by writing pointless papers or giving lectures to 20somethings who are struggling with their hangover as they sit in class. Also, I kind of like kids. Not because I romanticize their innocence but quite simply because I wish I was like them.


I feel another anecdote coming: a few months back I was having lunch with some old-time friends, two couples. We (they, mostly) were talking about the usual 30-something crap: jobs, kids, what’s on Netflix, happier times… Anyway, my son was there. I had just bought him some kind of activity book, with cards, pencils and such. He had finished his meal and was lying on the floor behind me, humming to himself and playing. I turned around to look at him, and feeling my gaze he looked up to me, giving me a faint smile before refocusing his attention on his drawing. And I thought to myself: “you are happy playing your game and don’t give a shit about what we ‘grownups’ are talking about. You know what? Neither do I, really. I wish I could just play on the floor and be content like you”. But — of course — I cannot. I’d be bored soon.


But I digress. Does this general life-plan make me happy? Well, I’ll pick sailing, translating, and interacting with 8-year olds over teaching Sellars’s CDCM any day of the week.
 けれども、僕は脇道に逸れる。このよくある人生設計で、僕は幸せになれるのか?あぁ、僕は毎週休むことなく、セイリングをし、翻訳をし、セラーズの『Counterfactuals, Dispositions, and the Causal Modalities(条件法・傾向性・因果関係の様相)』を教え8歳の子供たちと触れ合おう。


I realise that this sounds somewhat confrontational. It’s not meant to. If you are happy, keep doing what you do (are you happy though?). It also offers a distorted image of me, as if I was now completely at peace with myself, enthusiastically striding along my new path, my head held high. I am not. Part of me is terrified about stepping out of the comfy confines of academia, all I'ever known for a long time. I'd be stupid not to be scared that I'll end up fucking up even more. I will be 40 in a few years and I have accomplished nothing significant in life. And I didn’t even spend my 20s in a haze of parties, travelling around, and making stupid mistakes. Nah, I was already boring back then. Why would you listen to my opinions about anything? You probably shouldn’t.


If this has somehow offended or upset you, that was not my intention. If you knew me personally and now you feel somehow betrayed, for you thought I was someone I’m not, I’m sorry. But I had enough of pretending. Some time ago some of my FB contacts shared some quote or something that said “Why does it always have to be ‘brutally honest’? Can’t we be ‘kindly honest’ for once?” Well, if I sounded brutal at times that’s because usually what we conceal is stuff that we fear might upset people, and because the very act of concealing it, in the long run, makes us angry and bitter.


I’d like that to stop.

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