I went to post-dinner drinks after six hours in the library reading Michael Sandel's Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Before I talk about drinks, I want to talk about the book and my PhD. The Sandel book is a critique of John Rawls' A Theory of Justice, which is one of the most influential works of political philosophy in recent times (I say 'recent times' but it was published in the 1970s). I haven't read it, but I have a copy of it and I will probably get around to reading it at some point. Anyway, it started off really riveting. Rawls attempted to modify Kant's philosophy by stripping it of its 'Germanic obscurities' (I showed this passage to Dominic; he wasn't super amused!), namely, the notion of the transcendental self and the noumenal realm, etc. Sandel starts off the book discussing Mill versus Kant, then established Kantian liberalism as distinct from Mill's liberalism in that it is deontological while Mill is utilitarian. This is pretty obvious. Then he pretty much summarises Kant's transcendental philosophy, which reminded me of what I studied in Jurisprudence at the LSE. I was very pleased to note that I didn't not understand it! It means that a part of me retained whatever I learned 3, 4 years ago. It also reminded me of Dominic's sermon from Tuesday, so that was nice too. I think that the notion of the transcendental self is fascinating, but somehow, it doesn't seem intuitively obvious. I would expound on this but I am quite tired, so I will move on.
In the end, I started to get really sleepy reading the first part of the book. It was less interesting when he recounted Rawl's theory of justice and went into the minute details of the philosophical disagreements he had with Rawls. I get the picture generally, but some of the details were too dense and I found myself falling asleep. It wasn't even really useful to my PhD right now; I only read it because it was interesting. Still, I managed to finish the first part - 67 pages of sometimes dense philosophy - so I was quite pleased. Sandel also writes really well, almost on par with Dworkin; and since Dworkin occupies the top spot in my heart, that's really high praise.
The point of this is that I feel as if my PhD is turning into a political philosophy PhD and it's maybe more fitting in the philosophy department. Of course, I would rather have a PhD in law than in philosophy, so my mentioning this is really quite pointless. Save, that is, to say that I'm really happy to be reading all these things that I otherwise would probably not read because lazy, and hopefully, I manage to write something interesting over the next few days (except Sunday, when I will be doing something with Dominic).
Dominic was supposed to serve drinks at post-dinner drinks. After I turned up, he pretty much served only one person: me. HA HA HA. He got me a drink - a glass of port - and when I was done, I gave the glass to him, expecting him to refill it. It is so nice to exploit him, I think.
More interestingly, we had a brief discussion about religion and atheism and agnosticism and whether atheism makes sense or whatever. It was sparked by his saying that dancing is banned on Good Friday in his state, which to me was shocking. I said, 'How can the state impose its religious views on people who may not share it?' He said, 'Yeah but I don't think the Jews and Muslims will go out dancing anyway.' (This doesn't actually make sense in retrospect!) I said, 'What about the atheists?' He said, 'Atheists shouldn't have rights.'
...thanks a lot! That sparked off a semi-heated discussion about whether it makes sense to call oneself an atheist. He said that it's weird. I said that religious people are weird. He said, 'So you think that I'm weird?' I said, 'You think that I'm weird too!' He tried to say that people who call themselves agnostics are really atheists, in his usual fashion where he disclaims someone's claim and attempts to enforce his own view of what he thinks this person really thinks on this person (which I find oddly endearing), but obviously, as someone who knows better, I pointed out that the 'mens rea' is different. In the anxiety of the moment, I couldn't think of another word or term for 'mental state' and said 'mens rea'. It shouldn't surprise me anymore, considering I was talking to someone who wrote (and submitted) a summary of his philosophy essay (written in German) in Latin; but he didn't even pause to consider what 'mens rea' meant. I still cannot get used to the idea of someone knowing Latin that well.
He came over for a bit; to be precise, for 45 minutes. He wanted to go off at 10.30pm, but after we stopped kissing and sat on my bed, we started talking about things, and then it was 11pm. Amazing, right? He did this massively nerdy thing that he picked up from his friend (the German guy that I met a couple of days ago): he told me a good night proof. To be specific, he told me how this Greek mathematician (from 2000 years ago) proved that there are an infinite number of prime numbers.
I really liked that, when I was struggling to remember the word 'factors' and describing it, I remembered it before he did. Ha! (I said, 'You know, the one that's smaller than a multiple.') His good night proof was actually really interesting. I asked if he would do this every night; he said, 'No, that's too much work.'
He meant it was too much work in the sense that he would have to look for simple proofs; but then, 'You will improve!' he said optimistically.
Sure, maybe one day he will relate to me his entire research in one of these good night proofs and I will definitely get it. To this day, when asked (by him or others) what he does, all I can say is that it's related to black holes. And Einstein. And general relativity. And that he writes a lot of equations with weird symbols. Is that specific enough? No? Maybe one day I will get it.
I have not finished writing my reply to NEB but I am too tired right now. Going to bed!