On Uncertainty of a Personal-Professional Nature
Sabbatical Journal, Helsinki
I don't know what to work on next. I am finally resisting all the habits I have to write on more of the same thing. I'm faced with a non philosophical problem--how do I stop doing what has become automatic for me and reconstruct my philosophical interests? Can I find the courage to be an 'amateur' again? It is harder than I thought to fail to answer people when they ask what I am working on.
Part of the issue is how to "live" in a space of uncertainty for a while. If you're like me, there is a tendency to indulge such a space--a nether world, a morass, a waiting room, whatever you want to call it--only for a brief while. And then one thinks of a way to escape! But if the choice of path is to be significant (e.g. a direction for one's work which might take years, or perhaps a commitment to learn another language, or get grounded in some factual subject matter) then one must choose carefully. This means, I think, that one must linger in the morass as long as possible; an uncomfortable prospect with uncertain results. Yesterday, I had the chance to sit and have a beer with Jakko Hintikka and I asked him if he had ever changed directions or reconsidered, in a fundamental way, what he was working on. (He is 80+ years old, so I thought perhaps he had.) He had not. Things grew out of and developed from his earliest ideas--with, of course, offshoots and side interests, many of them, along the way. But no major turnabouts. Then again, he is a logician, so perhaps that is relevant!