Friday, 26 August 2011

Philosopher Party Personalities

Welcome back, everyone, to a new academic year.

Last night I attended the first, unofficial grad student party of the school year with my Philosopher. For those of you who might be attending a philosopher-gathering in the coming school year, here are some interesting philosophers to look out for:

1.  The Guru
The Guru is a philosopher who has been in the department for a while. This philosopher knows all of the professors, is friends with the staff (and, thus, knows all of the department gossip), and has much advice for incoming grad students/new professors. You will usually find the guru camped out in a corner somewhere, happy to let people come to her/him. The Guru is usually fun to talk to—even for non-philosophers. All it takes are a few questions to get the Guru talking—and they love talking.

2. The Rooster
The Rooster can be either female or male (despite the obvious fact that a real rooster is a male chicken), and they can be either a new or old member of the department. What makes this person a Rooster is the obvious strutting and showing off that this person feels like they have to do to get accepted and/or admired by all of the other philosophers. If the Rooster is new they feel like they need to show off to the other philosophers, and if they are a seasoned department veteran they are usually trying to express their dominance in the department to all of the new philosophers.  This usually just turns all of the other philosophers off, because they know what the Rooster is up to. The Rooster will even be a bit more rooster-ish if they drink a bit. Avoid the Rooster, as they are ready to bluster.

3. The Lurking Drinker
The Lurking Drinker (LD) is probably someone who has been around the department long enough to handle drinking a lot at department functions without embarrassing themselves. The LD often lurks from philosopher-huddle to philosopher-huddle, throwing out a few comments here or there but mostly listening to everything. Later, the LD will use the information they have garnered at philosopher functions to their advantage, even though they appear very drunk to the common observer. Be very careful what you say around the LD.

4. The Event Specialist
The Event Specialist (ES) is not only a confident philosopher, but a stellar entertainer (in a hostess/host sense). From day one, the ES will start organizing events and somehow manage to wrangle all of the other philosophers—even the most elusive ones—to attend. The ES is usually a very fun person to be around, and they know how to talk to non-philosophers. I’ve found that I enjoy talking to the ES the most at philosopher events.

5. The Eager Agreer
The Eager Agreer (EA) is not a very fun person to talk to—from a non-philosopher perspective. EAs are purposely vague about the tenants of their philosophical beliefs. They are good at feeding the Guru and the Rooster and pretending that they wholeheartedly agree with whatever one of these philosophers says, but the EA holds her/his ideas very close. The EA does not usually talk to non-philosophers very much, not because they are snobby but because they are just more closeted persons.

6. The Tantalizer
There is at least one Tantalizer in every group of philosophers. The Tantalizer usually breezes into the party late, slapping high-fives and/or shaking hands boisterously. You might think, when a Tantalizer arrives, “Golly, this person is going to liven up the party.” Unfortunately, the Tantalizer only stays long enough to get into one or two very surface-level, “how was your summer break” conversations before breezing off dramatically to another party somewhere or disappearing for several hours in the backyard with a bottle of wine and then leaving.

Whether you’re a philosopher’s friend, family member, or partner, attending philosopher events can be loads of fun if you know what kinds of philosophers to expect. Be careful not to drink too much alcohol (it’s easy to do when you’re nervous), as I have seen this go very badly for non-philosophers.  Here are some safe (predictable, but safe) questions to ask philosophers at these events:
1. Which classes are you taking?
2. What year are you in the program (for grads)?
3. Where are you from originally? (Academia brings people from all over the world together)
4. Did you read any interesting books over the summer?

Good luck.

~The Philosiologist (back from a vacation and a hectic August at the office)

You can follow me on twitter (@philosiologist), friend me on facebook (Philosiologist Qed), or add me to your more intimate circles on Google+ (Philosiologist Qed). You can also send me an email (left sidebar). I am working through sets of your questions from long ago (I love answering questions/giving advice), which I abandoned earlier for several reasons—the biggest one being a terrible test that begins with the letter G and ends with the letter E (with the letter R in the middle). Now that this nonsense is over and the philosophers are back in town, I am very excited to write more generalizations about all of you.


  1. I love you, Katie.

  2. There's also the self-deprecating Eeyore, who, when asked about their work, will complain that they've gotten nothing done (despite having attended several conferences in the past semester), that their views are hopelessly muddled (although they are considered one of the brightest in the department), and, like the EA, be dodgy about the particulars of these views. This is a backhanded way of insulting everyone else's work and obtaining praise/sympathy. And, given the fact that most everyone at the party is drinking in part to submerge their own personal inadequacies, it's also pretty damn depressing.

  3. That's what I wanted to read:). But more in this direction is welcome!

  4. Philosiologist's Philosopher = Eager Agreer


  5. @ everyone: I used the word tenant when I should have used tenet.

    @Anon 1:27: Actually, my philosopher is probably more of a Guru. He does hide his philosophical beliefs from his students, but he lets the facade slip a bit around his peers (and he fits the rest of the description about the guru best).

  6. I agree about the Eeyore. That can be a rough conversation, for philosophers and non-philosophers alike.

    There is also the Contrarian who will disagree no matter what you say (philosophical or otherwise) but never put forth a positive argument of his/her own.

    This was a fun post! Keep 'em coming.

  7. I have one to add to the mix--the obfuscator. Usually a mid-career to senior and often emeritus faculty member who walks around asking a seemingly innocuous question that sits on a knife's edge as s/he waits to see which side to take after your response. Now the obfuscator claims (falsely) not to know exactly what they think on the topic when in reality they have cemented (if not outdated...a good example is nearly any new development in queer theory) views.

    The enjoyment for them is to watch you, watch them try and trick you into believing what they say in order to bushwhack you later, usually much, much later like during your dissertation defense.

  8. Well first I congratulate you on your studies is you're pretty prepared. On the other hand I'm the Guru hehe