Now I have again become a first-year student in yet another program. Being new is not always fun, in general. I am still struggling with many things, including coursework, friends, mobile phone, etc. Without wasting too much time complaining, I shall list the classes I am doing for the record.
1. 'Epistemology' by Jose Zalabardo
2. 'Practical Criticism' (first-year seminar) by Mark Kalderon
3. 'Recent Philosophical Writings' (first-year seminar) by Rory Madden
4. 'Metaphysics' by Ian Phillips
5. 'Wittgenstein's Later Philosophy' by Paul Snowdon
For auditing, there are:
1. 'A Priori Knowledge' by Marcus Giaquinto
2. 'Empiricism' by Paul Snowdon
3. 'Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science' by Ian Phillips
4. 'Experience' by Mark Kalderon
As you can see, I am taking five, and this is quasi-mandatory, to my surprise. I have to do two first-year seminars for more than one term, and two to three optional ones, for several terms. This is really much heavier than any coursework in the U.S.I have heard of. Given that coursework is not even a rule in the U.K., this is even more surprising. Although I am personally fond of coursework, this is obviously too much. I am chased by readings everyday and in many cases I fail to do readings carefully.
Some remarks about life: I live with my wife now and that's a huge difference, fortunately by and large positive. I find it harder to make friends here, and this is also to my surprise. I would have expected that after two years in NYC, having my English and social skills improved, I should find it easier. But it's the other way around. Maybe it's partly due to wrong expectations. But I suspect other factors play significant roles. First of all, philosophers here do go out for drinks and so on, but there are much fewer get-togethers among philosophers, as far as I know. Maybe it's because I am new to here so have no access to relevant information, but when I was in NYC, I always got many invitations about this and that, without spending to much time trying to know what's happening around me. Anyway, there are fewer chances to hang out with colleagues, at least for now.
This might not be a bad thing, since a worry about NYC is that there are always too many fun events, including philosophical ones, and people find it hard to sit down and do real works. It's easier in London - no doubt that we have Institute of Philosophy, Aristotelian Society, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, to name just a few, but overall it's fewer. There is nothing like the Cogsci group organized by David Rosenthal, the Consciousness project led by Dave Chalmers, and Qualia Fest by Richard Brown et al., among many others. It's just different. Again I am not in a position to complain, since London is really great enough, and probably even better in certain respects, but I cannot deny that I miss NYC a lot since nothing like Cogsci group etc. can be found here.
Let me end with a positive thought. I believe it's overall better for me, intellectually, to stay away from NYC for a while. It's too happy there, intellectually. I spent so much time with people from CUNY, NYU, Columbia, Rutgers, Princeton, MIT, Harvard, and so on. They are all great. I mean, really great. But I failed to sit down and do more serious works myself. If I were to stay there for my Ph.D., I would be very happy, since I would be able to hang out with those great people, on daily basis. There is no denying that London in particular and the U.K. in general are great as well, but people here are generally more reserved and calm - they are great, but it's harder to access. Again there are Institute of Philosophy etc. and they are wonderful, but the degree of activeness is simply incomparable. I suspect that very few people would understand my feelings. After all, who can be so lucky to do philosophy in both cities for substantial periods? Maybe I should shut up and do works now.
In terms of daily life, I prefer London, strongly. I am not going to elaborate this since I just want to write on philosophy-related matters here. When it comes to intellectual life, my feelings are as above. In a sentence, in NYC I had more fun but less time to work, while in London I have less fun but more time to work. Given this, I still regard my choice for Ph.D. in London as good, since in dissertating one probably needs more time to sit down and do works. But NYC is a place I would like to go back again and again, even I really hate many things there, for example the subway.
By the way, I miss Berkeley a lot too, but in a very different way. That's an entire different story.
Okay, time to work.