Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Special Valentines' Day Post

I have a special entry today, for all you lovers of philosophers. First, I thought it might be fun to play a game I like to call “Poetry alterations in the name of parody.” Without further ado, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “To Harriet” (from “Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem”), altered [alterations in brackets].

[Imagine that this is a philosopher, speaking to Philosophy(n)].

“To [Philosophy]”

WHOSE is the [tenured university position] that, gleaming through the world,
   Wards off the poisonous arrow of its scorn?
       Whose is the warm and partial praise,
       Virtue's most sweet reward?

   Beneath whose [books] did my reviving soul
   Riper in truth and virtuous daring grow?
       Whose [syllogisms] have I gazed fondly on,
       And loved mankind the more?

   [Philosophy]! on thine:--thou wert my purer mind;
   Thou wert the inspiration of my song;
        Thine are these early wilding [articles in excellent journals],
        Though garlanded by me.

   Then press into thy breast this pledge of love;
   And know, though time may change and years may roll,
        Each [invited conference-lecture] gathered in my heart
        It consecrates to thine.

Now that I’ve butchered Shelley (shivering), I thought it might be fun to return to some of your questions. Remember that entry, way back in June, where I asked for questions from you to answer in a series of blog posts? Yeah, I never really got to all of them. Some of your questions were about relationships, either with philosophers or non-philosophers, so today seems like the sort of day where I should answer a few of them.

[Disclaimer: I am not an expert in love, but I am an expert in loving philosophers].

Do you have any thoughts on how a philosopher might present himself as to be more appealing qua philosopher to the opposite sex? (I'm guessing hint #1 would be "Stop using 'qua'!") I am most interested in a male philosopher appealing to females, but any thoughts on other permutations of the same issue would certainly be very interesting.


I’m having flashbacks of myself as a young teenager (awkwardly unattractive), reading all the books and articles I could find about making oneself attractive to a particular gender/subgroup of gender.

Very simply: there is not one universal way to make yourself more appealing to a group of people—no matter what gender or sexual orientation. Sure, you could go the physical route and try to win a date on your looks alone, but your looks will fade and your brilliant, philosophical mind will not.

Have you ever read J.S. & Harriet Mill’s On the Subjection of Women? In this text, the Mills say something to the effect of “Look, you can’t really understand a woman or womanhood until you understand all women—from different ethnicities, time periods, locations, at different occupations. The meager understanding that you have of women is based on your idea of who they are and what they should be.”

Now that my Mill-studying philosopher is cringing at my paraphrasing, in summation: Every woman is different. I can’t tell you how to attract a woman because each of us is attracted to different things.

If you want to attract a significant other, try to be in places where you will interact with all sorts of women. Join a book group. Be yourself. You will find that there are women out there who are not turned-off by philosophers, even if they use strange words and make us qualify every statement. Don’t spend your life trying to attract women—try to interact with and understand them. The rest will fall into place.

I was wondering what drew you to your philosopher. As a philosophy student, I often have a hard time connecting with people on a romantic level. And I've heard, from past romantic partners, that I'm often too logical and realistic, i.e., I'm not optimistic enough and I don't let myself fall in love as fast as they do. I know a lot of my colleagues feel the same as I do when it comes to a romantic relationship. So I just assume our philosophy training often gets in the way of having a romantic relationship, e.g., we over think things, or approach love very logically. Was your philosopher like this at first? If so, how did you stick it out?! Or are you exactly like your philosopher, to where it was not a problem? Hope this all made sense. I don't want to generalize that all philosophers are like this, but about 70% of my colleagues have discussed, and seem to have, the same problem. This is of course applied to dating a non-philosopher. I don't think we have ANY problems dating a philosopher :)

Short Answer.
I was attracted to the following qualities: his quick mind, his sense of humor, the ability he had to talk to anyone, his penchant for long and meaningful conversations, the amount of literature he had read, his blog, and (superficially) he was just the right height.

Long Answer.
My philosopher and I met in college, but we did not consider dating until a mutual friend convinced us that we would be a great match. He invited me to book club. After one night watching him at book club (and subsequent conversations in person and over email), I wanted to date him.

I am a practical person—pretty steady, though hot-headed about some things.  When my philosopher and I began dating, I was less practical and extremely shy. He is definitely more even-keeled and logical than me (it should be noted that he is an analytic philosopher). He was logical and careful from the beginning, but I always really liked it because I knew that he wouldn’t do anything irrational (he was a safe person).

One smart thing that my philosopher did was that he tried to be gentle with me (philosophically) at the beginning. It’s not that I couldn’t handle it or that I was less intelligent than him, but he wisely recognized that turning on the philosophy full force at the beginning—when I was not used to talking and reasoning in the same way, as I had not had his training—would make me defensive. He started with dropping in small moral dilemmas, and then worked up to harder stuff. I wouldn’t say that my philosopher was untrue to himself by “going slow” with philosophy, either.

One of the things my philosopher did (and still does, actually), is “test the waters” every so often with new bits of philosophy. He frequently asks me for permission before engaging me in philosophical discussion, and then we debrief at the end. These extra steps that he takes really keep me from feeling attacked, and they leave me with a better taste in my mouth about philosophy. This also works to my philosopher’s advantage, as if I feel better about philosophy, I will be more likely to “put up” with more philosophical discussions.

We spent almost our entire dating relationship over the phone, talking every night for hours. I took an advanced philosophy class to try and understand his life better (it was so hard!). He was a double-major in literature and philosophy, so he already had grounds for understanding me. The “secrets” to our relationship working were communication and understanding.

There really was no “sticking it out,” in the traditional sense. I’ve loved almost every minute with my philosopher. He is so easy to love.

I am definitely not a philosopher myself (my intro professor informed me, gently, that philosophy was not a major that I should ever consider).

I think the problem with philosophers finding dating partners and with non-philosophers who are unsuccessful at dating philosophers is often that you go looking for the wrong kind of person. Is it really so bad to date someone who isn’t as “exciting,” but who is a great conversational partner? The most successful philosopher-relationships I see are those between two intelligent people—usually in different disciplines.

Philosophers: There are many non-philosophers who would love to date you. Be gentle, but also be yourself. If you find that a potential partner “can’t handle” (in a reasonable way!) the philosophical part of you, then they probably aren’t the right person for you. On the other hand, though, don’t be that philosopher who always drives their dating partners into philosophical corners and attacks. I have no sympathy for you if you can’t get that part of yourself under control.

Oh, and don’t be all arrogant and show-offy and patronizing about being a philosopher. Really. It’s a total turn-off.

Non-Philosophers: Give philosophers a chance; they really mean well. It might help you to understand your philosopher better by taking an advanced philosophy class or by reading some basic stuff (I can give you some recommendations, if you want them).

One thing we non-philosophers sometimes don’t realize is really both the blessing and the curse of dating philosophers (my philosopher refers to this as “volatility”). On the one hand, philosophers are really fun to converse with, as they bring a degree of thoughtfulness to a conversation that is hard to find anywhere else. On the other hand, though, conversations with philosophers can quickly turn to attacks if we or they aren’t careful. The whole trick to getting along with a philosopher is learning how to balance the two (it takes work on both ends).

In conclusion, philosophers are wonderful, interesting life-partners! I am never sorry that I decided to (somehow) gather up enough courage to attend that book club meeting.

~The Philosiologist

You can follow me on twitter (@Philosiologist), friend me on facebook (Philosiologist Qed), or add me to your circle on Google+ (Philosiologist Qed). You can also send me an email (left sidebar). So, are you going to go out and snag yourself a philosopher this year?


  1. I agree with a lot of what you said above is probababout finding a non-philosopher partner: my partner is one of the smartest people I know, so if he were a philsopher, I would probably be intimidated. As it was, we are both former debaters, and that has been a very good match since he would never be overwhelmed by me going argumentative on him, and we both really enjoy verbal sparring (although, as I would imagine with a dual-philosopher couple, we are careful that our mini-debates are only about intellectual or social issues, not about us).

  2. I have also found w/ my philosopher (I'm a non-phil) that getting him to understand that "emotive" talk is important and a valid form of communication. And that not everything said must be precise and logical and qualified. I also had to inform him when I was going to talk emotively at first. He now knows the difference and occasionally uses emotive talk also.