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Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Matthew Davidson


Betting money wouldn't help you much. I've got none. If the currency ever changes to philosophy books, though, I'm a rich man.

It's good that you've identified the cause as time management. It's easy to take these things personally and see them as some sort of indication of one's abilities, when they almost never are (and aren't in your case, I'm quite sure). A decent part of philosophy involves lots of people telling you that you've got it wrong.

Have fun. Tally-ho and such.




You are entirely too kind to me. I don't take this grade personally (well, not too much). When I was an undergrad the first time round, I definitely would have taken it personally. And I'm okay with being told I'm wrong; I pretty much assume the vast majority of philosophical thoughts I have will be dead ends. Now I focus not so much on absolute grade values, but rather on how much I learn, i.e., on the process and progress.

It doesn't help, though, that this comes at a time when I'm not feeling particularly confident re: philosophy. I find myself thinking that everyone else is too clever by half and that I'm just kind of a bump on a log, plodding along through stuff.

I have a theory re: what I call "not showing well". At the cat shelter, there are always cats that would make wonderful pets, but, for whatever reason, they don't show well during adoption hours. Similarly, I feel like I don't show well because I don't come up with impressive questions and sweeping commentary. I sometimes wonder if I focus too much on the details, which never seem as impressive as big picture thoughts. I've got no philosophical bling bling.

Well, that was a fair amount of self pity for someone who said she doesn't take this personally!

Thanks for the moral support!


Matthew Davidson


Professors (especially yours) can see through all the (I never thought I'd use this term) "bling bling" and spot sharp students. It doesn't take much to show that one is sharp--a good question in a writing assignment or the like will do it. I always felt inadequate as an undergraduate as well, whatever grade I got. But I look back and realize that as far as caring about my work goes, I really did have a good attitude. Whether or not there was much in the way of talent, I don't know. I know that I was very philosophically green. But I did learn to work hard then, and that has been helpful. Grad school is when you really learn to think deeply; there's a tremendous amount of growth that takes place if one works hard. I'd keep in mind that your professors are much better at spotting talent than you are--you see people performing in class, and they see through this, and they see your writing as well.

One of the most valuable lessons Dean learned from his advisor--Chisholm--was how to be careful in reasoning. Style will get you only so far.

Anyway, don't worry about that stuff. You're in London. Go work on making one of the stone-faced guards crack up.



Hi Matt,

Thanks again for the encouragement. I will keep all of that in mind.

I expect to see some of those guards tomorrow, when we go to the Tower of London. I'll see what I can do about making them laugh.


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