On Shipwrecks

I sometimes liken studying humanities at Newcastle to engaging the ocean beaches here. In the beginning of your studies you learn to swim, avoid riptides, and maybe start to body surf a bit in the waves. More advanced students eventually learn to make surfboards with wood lying about and some become quite acrobatic. Later even boats can be made and whole crews join massive research vessels that take off to sail the ocean blue. However, it seems to me that advanced studies in philosophy are something more akin to scuba diving. We study those ships that sink, interrogating their integrity under extreme conditions. Our task includes the various disciplines that surf and sail, maybe even sublating them to draw on Hegel's terminology. However, our aim is to look beneath the waves. It might be called an interest in substance, but probably best to leave it vague given how many ways we've come to think of being since Aristotle first identified metaphysics as such.


To some surfers it's hard to tell what we're doing, as we're invisible below the water. To others who care to peak, it seems rather odd that we might be interested in such de(con)struction. Still the passion for scuba is so strong that I've even known some of my colleagues to sink old ships intentionally and wait for the coral to grow. It's messy at first, but soon, whole new ecosystems develop. New schools of fish come to swim and eek out an existence (new sharks too). I've come to think that some of the new things we're doing in philosophy at Newcastle require some sinking and settling. But there's a reef waiting for us if our wreck catches those age old ocean currents.