Academic

Der mentsch trakht un got lakht. (Translated: “Man plans, God laughs”). – Yiddish Proverb

My academic career was short and semi-sweet. I majored in Philosophy at UC Berkeley and fell in love with it. I figured that, since I loved it so much, I should go ahead and marry it—by going to graduate school, getting my Ph.D. and becoming a professor.

Things rarely go exactly the way you planned.

I (barely) managed to finish an MA from Stanford in the area of Philosophy of Language. I was admitted to USC’s Philosophy Ph.D. program. I did not finish my Ph.D. In part, it was because I lacked focus. Academia rewards specialization, and I was always becoming distracted by something new: linguistics, mathematics, computers, computer languages, psychology, perception, etc. Looking back on hindsight at my academic career, I was really too much of a dilettante to be successful in academia.

There were a couple of areas  of philosophy that I, quite accidentally, produced some semi-okay work in. In his later years, a philosopher named Ludwig Wittgenstein started writing very mysterious things about language, logic, and rule following. Much later, a philosopher named David Lewis wrote a book called “Conventions” which outlined the extent to which linguistic norms could be established through coordinated behavior of groups of individuals. I wrote a couple of promising papers where I connected some of the ideas of Wittgenstein with those of David Lewis (and threw in some ideas from a very misunderstood philosopher named Saul Kripke).

As I said, some of my work was promising. I don’t think, however, I would have been able to take my few promising ideas and turn them into a career in academia. I do not regret my decision to leave academica and start working in educational outreach. Still, I do occasionally miss getting into heated discussions regarding the norms of language use, as this was a topic that still continues to fascinate me.