Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Things that are finally over...

I promise, after this, I've only got one more post to do where I'm griping about my doctorate...

In happier news, it is at least over. I've just had the email from my internal examiner confirming that I have made the requested alterations to my thesis and am now free to deposit it in the university library's collection of theses, whereupon I will be eligible for graduation in July.


It's been over five years since I began the application process. I usually reckon that it's at about the five-year mark that my past decisions start to look unintelligible to me, the point where I start to ask 'Did I ever really think like that?'.

Weirdly, I can believe that I once thought my PhD would be important, because I'm in the habit by now of assuming I was stupid until quite recently. It took me about the first year or so of the PhD until I realised that it would make very little difference to anyone at all. Fortunately, a handful of months later I decided to try my hand at NaNoWriMo (because, y'know, that's the obvious thing to do in the middle of doctoral studies), and that rather answered my questions about where I was going with my life.

I don't want to say that there was no value to my doing a PhD. Not only has it given me space to practice my writing, but I had to grow up a lot - get a job, learn to budget, learn to actually stick to a budget etc. - to get this far. The job I got, as it happens, is about as good a day-job as I can imagine for a writer to have (I take notes on lectures for students with disabilities, which coincidentally means getting loads of free lectures about interesting things, which I can then stick in my books to sound clever).

And it's certainly true, too, that I had to push myself intellectually, occasionally. I had to become conversant in terms like 'graph-theoretic causal structuralism' and 'realist nomological thesis'. Unfortunately, becoming conversant in something kind of entails living in a world in which it's common and significant enough to converse about.

Doing a PhD messes with your brain; yesterday, I got very angry reading an article in New Scientist magazine in which a physicist claimed to have a particular new insight about the nature of consciousness. The physicist in question had either not read or not understood Thomas Nagel's seminal 1974 paper 'What Is it Like to Be a Bat?', and I got angry enough about this that my mood was spoiled for the next six hours or more. While it's true that anyone writing on consciousness without having read and understood Nagel is a fool, I rather feel that I've been the bigger fool in this instance... ¬.¬

Anyway, that is the essence of why I'm celebrating my PhD being over, rather than celebrating my becoming a doctor. I have the chance, finally, to restore my priorities to something resembling those of a reasonable human being with some connection to reality.

Okay, full disclosure, the reality my priorities are likely to connect to is Azeroth, but that's still a step up from graph-theoretic causal structuralism, take it from me.

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