After a very good night sleep (“night” is a mental state that, today, ended at about 12:30 in the afternoon) I read my first post. I don’t have any idea what it is about. So let’s give it another try.
First, when I wrote that first piece I was actually listening to Rachmaninoff’s Vespers. Right now I’m listening to this:
Perhaps Ellington’s most worked-over piece and definitely a jewel in 20th century music. Special attention is to be paid to Mahalia Jackson’s intervetion; religious verses which she wrote herself ex profeso for BB&B.
So about this blog: as a product of insomnia it is a way of venting anything I have in mind at any particular moment. But I also want it to be somewhat coherent, so this post is an attempt at explaining what anyone coming here should expect to read.
First of all: the title. I’m a big fan of Umberto Eco’s work. I’ve read all his novels, re-read some of them from time to time (especially Baudolino and Foucault’s Pendulum) and above all I’ve loved every piece he wrote on semiotics, politics, pop-culture… he touched almost all topics imaginable. A book which is now impossible to get (because it’s out of print) is Lector in Fabula, meaning “The reader in the story”, which is a way of saying “Speaking of the reader…” when a reader suddenly appears. The book is about the role the reader plays in giving meaning to a literary work (and thus the English title of an abriged version of the work: The Role of the Reader, Indiana U. Press, 1979).
As for the name of this blog: “once upon a time I wanted to prepend ‘Dr.’ to my name”. I wanted to do math; now I do math. In the eight years that have ellapsed since I finished my undergraduate studies and now that I’m just waiting to finally become a bloody Doctor, many things have changed, especially my views of an academic carrer: it doesn’t sound that much exciting anymore. There are A HUGE LOAD of blogs, articles and books you can read about that particular topic so let’s glaze over it. So the Doctor in the story of my life (whatever that means) is finally arriving and instead of having a parade with a marching band I have a big bag of crisps, a six-pack of beer and several (some bad, some good) news to deliver him.
I firmly belive now that Grad-Students play one of the biggest roles in giving Academic Research meaning. Consider this: you’ve got a lot of people producing and storing (mostly useless) knowledge (pace biologists, engineers and the lot; though “useful” most of what you do needs a good implementation to actually work “out there”). At some point this knowledge has to be passed on, otherwise it made no sense producing it in the first place. Hence the scientific/academic journals and books, congress memoirs, etc. Those are written (mostly) for specialists; the General Public has little idea (and interest) in such things. A Masters or Ph.D. student, on the other hand, has an obligation of reading a substantial (but by any means large) part of that literature in order to produce some more of the same. Without the certainty that there will always be Mathematicians, Philosophers, Biologists, Sociologist, LitCrits and the lot of academics, producing this awsome amount of knowledge (alledgelly, all of it relevant to the subject matter) makes little sense. The production of knowledge presupposes that there will always be need for more of it. Teaching all this specialised and highly-technical knowledge to the General Public is a daunting task; most of them will understand mostly nothing of it. NOT BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT SMART ENOUGH, mind you, but because understanding the relevant concepts, ideas and methods of all that amount of knowledge TAKES A LOT OF BLOODY TIME (hence the fossils on Grad School). Including cutting-edge research into Primary, Secondary or Higher Education is thus very unlikely. The solution: training people that will become the new specialists in the field, thus securing the continuity of it. Q.E.D.: Grad Students perpetuate Academia. Of course, a lot of considerations are absent and this is not the whole story, but I am sure the argument stands. And hence the title of this blog.
So I’m a “Mexican Mathematician and Aspiring Philosopher”. Naturally I’m interested in the philosophy of mathematics; I’m also interested in hermeneutics and its possible interaction with semiotics; so you’ll probably find stuff about those topics in here. Also stuff about mathematics, whether it is a nice theorem or an interesting concept. My “area of expertise” is differential geometry, which studies geometric “figures” (in a very broad sense) using differential calculus; I’m also very interested in logic but not as a foundational issue… so I’ll very likely write about that also.
I consider myself a rational person (save when I’m hungry or haven’t had my morning cup of coffee) and I dislike ideologies, in the sense of a set of ideas that pretend to be all-encompassing and all-explaining (racism, postmodern feminism, marxism, etc); I consider myself to be “in a middle lane” of sorts; a lot of people (especially subscribers to any of the above ideologies, or any other for that matter) consider this to be a clear lack of conviction; I think not. It requires, in my opinion, the conviction that rational arguments trump conspiratory elucidations (“the inherent different of races”, “patriarchy”, “the burgoise oligarchy”, etc) against which there is no rational defense precisely because they aspire to be all-explaining… anyway, I’ll probably write a lot about that, having in mind that “one must not work out a definitive, concluded system, like a piece of architecture, but a sort of mobile system […]” (Eco, “In praise of Saint Thomas”, in “Travels in Hyperreality”, Harcourt, 1986).
As any other person there are authors, musicians, artists and lots of other people I admire a lot; also I have pet-peeves, favourite books, films, stories, etc. They’ll parade through here as well. Especially jazz, choral music and the poetics of the popular Mexican song, a topic very close to my heart. I also like films.
And that’s about it, save the Latin motto “Quid non intellegit aut tasceat aut discat”: that which you don’t understand either be silent of or find out about. So as Mahalia Jackson finishes singing her praises to the Lord Above I must go back to my math. And hopefully I will get a proper sleep tonight. Cheers!