Friday, August 7, 2009

Time to Think, Time to Dream

Today and tomorrow and the day after that I’ll be attending the second annual Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress (RoME), hosted by my own University of Colorado Philosophy Department, a splendid conference crammed full of papers and poster sessions and keynote talks by famous moral theorists.

I know in advance from years of conference-going that some papers will be riveting and some deadly dull, both in content and in delivery. I plan on enjoying both. For some reason, I find it very stimulating to sit in a boring talk, letting the speaker’s words wash over me without actually listening to them, as I make notes ostensibly on the talk but really on book ideas, blog ideas, things I’m looking forward to, bits of money I’m expecting, schemes for becoming more famous, lines that may find their way into a poem.

It’s sometimes hard to tell in advance, to I’ll just go to talks that friends and colleagues are attending and see what I get. So from 4-5:15 today, my choices are “The Deep Problem with Voluntaristic Theories of Political Obligation,” “A Defense of the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing,” “The Metaphysics of Axiology and the Welfare of Animals,” and “The Best and Most Irrefutable Ethical Internalism.” Will I spend my time in rapt philosophical attention or in thinking my own pleasant little thoughts, which sometimes straggle forth shyly, in the illusion of safety, while they think I’m listening to something else?

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