In the Moominhouse

Just a quick post this, to round off the year. I’m busy at the moment trying to get a book chapter finished by the first of January. It is about Moomins, flat ontology, Levinas, and other important matters of the day; and if it is taking longer than I had hoped, it is partly because I’m finding some rich philosophical seams to mine. Anyway, the deadline is looming, and it would be good not to start 2014 with a missed deadline, so at the moment I’m holed up with the cat and a pot of coffee,  ploughing through ]Totality and Infinity, Moominland Midwinter and other great philosophical classics. 

But the thing I wanted to write about on this blog was something different: the question of co-operation in the academic world. Recently I’ve been putting the finishing touches to another book, and have dropped a few lines to fellow academics and scholars asking for help on this and that — references, hard-to-source images to use in the book, that kind of thing — and I have been struck again and again by the way that, despite all the rhetoric of competition and so forth, the world of scholarship is one that is often marked by generosity, mutual assistance, and overwhelming friendliness.

There are those who dream of universities running like slick machines, or like businesses (because we all know that businesses are the ideal model for virtually any institution whatsoever). But my preferred utopian image of academia would be as a kind of global Moominhouse in which various oddballs and eccentrics — some antisocial, some downright weird, some personable, but all of them managing to get on more or less well — have the space to pursue their interests, for their own benefit and for the benefit of others — even if they are threatened by the passing comets of government policy, the midsummer floods of rampant managerialism and so on. Now I come to think of it, I’m sure I’ve spotted a few hemulens wandering the corridors of my university, not to mention the occasional flustered fillyjonk and a couple of muskrat philosophers…

Anyway, I must get back to finishing the chapter. Have a very happy end of 2013, and here’s to 2014.

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