Adventures in Applied Actor-Network Theory

The first step is to admit you have a problem, right?

Well, I have a problem with computers or, more specifically, with broadband Internet service: my capacity to wallow in distraction seems almost boundless. I can sit for hours, hopping from site to site, tracking this blog and that, contributing to that discussion thread or the other, reading news stories – including satirical ones – and playing games.

My goodness, I can waste whole days playing games, especially if it’s one of the new ones, rich in story and human interest and short on gun-play. (Gone Home is brilliant, by the way.)

But, out in the real world, there is much to be done! I have classes to teach and students to advise! I have books to read and papers to write! I have a marriage to keep vibrant and children to raise up into freedom and dignity and friendships to cultivate! I have music to play and instruments to practice and bands to organize and gigs to book and dances to, um, dance! I have a household to keep and finances to manage!

And that’s on a slow day!

I am 46 years old, and really have only so many hours left in my life. Can I really afford to fritter away so many of them on a computer, doing nothing much?

No, really, I can’t.

So, what ought I to do?

Continue reading

From the Archive: Confessions of a Former Objectivist, part four

This is the last of my old posts on Objectivism, from February 19, 2007.

****

Confessions of a Former Objectivist, part four

I think that I am more or less done writing about my misspent youth, for now. I may have more to add at some point in the future.

I did want to add that I occasionally come across a student whom I suspect of being an Objectivist, or at least an Objectivist sympathizer. The signs are not hard to spot. Continue reading

From the Archive: Confessions of a Former Objectivist, part three

This one was first posted to A Skeptic’s Creed on February 16, 2007.

****

Confessions of a Former Objectivist, part three

On second thought, it may be that the paper I wrote about Objectivism during my last semester in college is best left in obscurity.

Part of the problem is that I just can’t help reading the paper as the work of a student. I keep wanting to grade it, to comment on it, to correct it, to steer it in a better direction by sheer force of will. I am haunted by what the paper might have become in more capable hands than those of my twenty-one-year-old self.

(I experience this sort of thing a lot when reading students’ work. They have no idea what an agony it can be, always wanting their work to be the best it can be, but always seeing how it could have been better.) Continue reading

From the Archive: Confessions of a Former Objectivist, part two

Continuing the deep dive, a post from February 14, 2007.

Note that I never did post any text from the paper I wrote in my senior year at Miami. I dug it out and read it over and, as I should have anticipated, it wasn’t very good as writing.

I do remember the experience of writing it as something of a catharsis, though.

****

Confessions of a Former Objectivist, part two

In the wake of my experience with Objectivism, I came to mistrust all claims to certainty. This was reinforced by my continuing study of philosophy, through which I gained a growing understanding of the richness and ambiguity of human experience and the elusiveness of knowledge.

Through many years of disorientation and bafflement, I gradually came to be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. By recasting myself as an environmental philosopher, using the intellectual resources of the philosophical tradition to grapple with complex issues of knowledge and value in environmental ethics and policy, I was slowly able to open up a practical domain in which I could make some (tentative) assertions and hold some (tentative) convictions. Continue reading

From the Archive: Confessions of a Former Objectivist, part one

This week I’m going to dig much deeper into the archive, back to a blog I maintained for a few years called A Skeptic’s Creed, of which the tag-line was “splashing around in the acid-bath of doubt.”

This entry is from February 13, 2007.

An interesting connection – or is it a near miss? – has come to light since I first posted it. I mention an Objectivist club I founded in my first year in college . . . at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

If memory serves, I started that club in Spring 1987 and abandoned it at some point in the ’87-’88 academic year . . . just before Paul Ryan arrived at Miami for his undergraduate studies and the beginning of his own complicated relationship with Rand’s writings.

(For those who don’t know or don’t remember, Ryan serves in the U.S. House of Representatives and was Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 presidential election. I cannot claim ever to have met him, at Miami or since.)

****

Confessions of a Former Objectivist, part one

I owe a debt that I do not often acknowledge openly. At least some of what I have become as a philosopher, as a citizen, and, for that matter, as a human being can be traced back to a two-year period during which I was devoted to the writings and the thought of Ayn Rand.

That’s right, I was an Objectivist.

In fact, reading Ayn Rand’s books – nearly all of them, if you can believe it – was the reason I first decided to study philosophy. It was not, however, the reason I continued to study philosophy.

Let me start at the beginning. Continue reading