Wednesday, July 28, 2004

But, Happily, I Am Not in the Slough of Despond

Somebody needs to write a Pilgrim's Progress of the Graduate Student. I am currently struggling to find a pass through the Mountains of Frustration. I've been working on reorganizing the early chapters of my thesis. Part of what I've done is to break off parts of Chapter One (on Universal Reason as essential to Malebranche's system) and Chapter Two (on the historical structure of Malebranche's system - there's a cosmic narrative, and what answer you give to some philosophical questions will depend on what part of the narrative you're thinking about) to form a New Chapter Two (on Malebranche's use of the doctrine of the Trinity to guide his philosophical work, and what benefits he gets from this). But the New Chapter Two Word file has gone insane. It refuses to admit there are more than five pages - all the pages of the chapter are there, but it keeps trying to fit them all into five pages. I can't edit the file because if I click on a page, it puts me on another page, one of the ones it refused to show me before. I'll have to retype the entire chapter. *sigh* And I certainly won't manage to do so before I meet to discuss my progress for this month (Thursday); I feel like the student whose dog really did eat his homework. Meanwhile, other things are building up that need to get done this week. *double sigh*

On the other hand, Chapter One looks great; it proves everyone else wrong in a swift, economical, and (I think) devastating way, which is exactly what you want in an opening chapter of a philosophy thesis. (I'm exaggerating a bit, of course; but I do end up criticizing a great deal of contemporary Malebranche scholarship's pet projects; there's surprising little interest in the scholarship in anything distinctively Catholic, or even Christian, about this 17th century thinker who insisted that he only did philosophy that was distinctively Catholic. It's very heartening that this chapter is turning out so well. One of the difficulties of doing history of philosophy is that you're discouraged from talking about anything out of pure curiosity about the thinker being studied; you always have to justify your project philosophically in the face of whatever arbitrary and goofball and, occasionally, historically ill-informed notions your contemporaries have about the way philosophy should 'really' be done.) I've been intending to put up a section of that chapter here, on Malebranche's argument from infinity for the existence of God, but there's still some tweaking I want to do first. Also good: the other chapters will need less reorganization than these did; they just need a bit of development.

It's still frustrating to have wasted so many hours in trying to make that (fill in expletive here) Word file work properly, only to be defeated by the perverseness of evil software.

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