My Weekend at the Philosophy Conference

My Weekend at the Philosophy Conference
by Kate Farrington, 2nd year IDSVA student

Wrestling with Heidegger on my second year spring independent study was humbling to say the least. Nevertheless, my advisor encouraged me to submit an abstract of the paper to an upcoming philosophy conference on the west coast on the topic of “Place” hosted by the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition at San Francisco State University, September, 2013. I did. A month or so later, I got an email from the organizer who informed me that, although my paper wasn’t accepted (“too far a-field,” he said), I was invited to come and moderate a panel on “the non-places of art.” With a reasonable air ticket and a cheap Airbnb room, I set off to my first philosophy conference in the beautiful city of San Francisco.

The first moments were a little nerve-wracking – would I fit in? That feeling quickly dissipated, and the rest of the conference was amazing. The size was perfect: only 40 people or so. The papers were varied and interesting and challenging. I learned a lot. I learned that philosophy is practiced in very creative ways. Some presentations were casual and conversational, while others were highly technical. One person read a paper on Plato’s Republic in an outdoor amphitheatre, accompanied by a ‘gadfly’ collaborator who interrupted his delivery in strange and amusing ways, making me realize that Platonic thinking is not as simple and “ideal” as it appears at first glance. There was a reception in the art gallery, catered organic lunches, an artist’s talk, and an unforgettable concert of Holderlin’s poetry interpreted by six composers (one still living), accompanied by piano, and sung by a knock-your-socks-off vocalist. They had a farewell dinner at an Egyptian restaurant just like we have at IDSVA. The subjects spanned the gamut from ecology to mathematics to literature to urban planning to social activism to history to science. Stand out topics for me included object-oriented ethics (“objects make demands…and art objects make complex demands…”); intuitional mathematics (“memory… overturns the law of the excluded middle…”) eco-philosophy (philosophy is a journey in the woods in urban L.A.); architecture (“why is there a geographical/architectural blind spot between India and Mexico?”); and Kafka (“is there redemption in notopening that book?”) Not only was I able to engage with these complex ideas, but also I was able to participate and contribute.

I came away feeling that IDSVA is preparing us very well to work in philosophy. The hard work of reading Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Deleuze & Guattari, Foucault, Arendt, Schiller, Ranciere, Heidegger, Plato, Aristotle, and all the others gave me the foundation to more than hold my own in that forum. Some conference take-aways: 1. Philosophers really know how to put on conferences. 2. Keep on reading: not only 3rd critique, but 1st and 2nd as well. 3. More Deleuze, more Ranciere, more Heidegger, more Aristotle, more Plato… 4. Don’t be afraid of mathematics or logic. 5. Look for the work of current philosophers. 6. Be encouraged that there are many cool female philosophers out there. 7. Read outside the field. 8. Apply to more conferences…write more papers. 9. Write to share. Most importantly: 10. Keep seeing art! Philosophy needs people who know contemporary art! Next year’s conference topic is “Word and Image.” I’m submitting for sure.