Wednesday, 27 October 2010

On Knowing Otherwise

Tim Morton has a post on the epistemological shock of encountering Object Oriented Ontology here. I have made similar points about my own encounter with OOO just over a year ago (indeed several of my posts seem to descend into this kind of self-reflection and navel-gazing), but it's interesting to see those points being made by someone else. The sense of looking at past philosophers in a new manner and thinking philosophy otherwise than one has before is particularly intense.

For many people there is a quite reasonable uncertainty about how far OOO (and SR) can be developed, but for those of us who are working with it there is a very real excitement and optimism about the possibilities and payoff. Time, as always, will tell, but this doesn't alter the fact that I am still enjoying the echoes of my own eureka moment.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Grim Times

Well the attack on Middlesex Philosophy will soon seem like a very minor event in the face of the forthcoming massive governmental cuts in Higher Education in the UK. Cuts are likely to be about £4.2 Billion, with that manifesting as a 79% reduction in the teaching grant. It is difficult to speculate on precisely how this will work out in reality. Indeed, I find it particularly difficult to think and write about. However, there is a clear agenda to specifically target Arts and Humanities subjects, plus a move towards more of a 'free market' model, where universities can and will have to dramatically raise their fees in order to survive. The exact details will appear in the next couple of weeks, with university Vice Chancellors then having to look carefully at their emergency plans and make some difficult decisions. One can probably expect many courses and departments to close, plus an indeterminate number of universities to perish.

This is a massive trauma to Higher Education in the UK, likely to (re)create a two tier system where a university education is only a live option for the children of the rich. In the current language of 'impact' - the much debated term in research assessment reviews of late - the effects are likely to be immense, distorting the opportunities of generations to come, reducing the nation's cultural capital and resources, and economically undermining all of those industries that are largely reliant upon HE (publishing obviously springs most easily to mind). Grim times.

The only upside would seem to be a large increase in the number of independent academics with time on their hands to do the research that they have always wanted to.

[Addendum: a good summary of some of the issues, with comments, can be found here.]