It is very late at night and I am looking at the screen of my laptop, sometimes I steer away to study the fluorescent light falling on the buttons and my hands which, at the same time, makes a layer of dust on the computer bright. Everything around me seems fresh like it is in an autumn morning. I am looking at the hard copy of the manuscript I am working on. I think about the author and some memories of the time I worked with him come break in my mind.
Debussy is playing and once for a while I imagine how I would pop up his name as an answer for a quiz at University Challenge. I think about the show. I remember me staring out the window in the night train to Nha Trang for a vacation. Lightbulbs were brightly shining under dragon fruits in Binh Thuan, which made me feel like I was having a journey along the universe. I was thinking about intersections and possibilities of various futures in various worlds. Perhaps what I love about travelling by trains is that I could always stare out and think while the night is falling and people around me are sleeping soundly.
I have just finished an online course named Introduction to Philosophy, offered by the University of Edinburgh in conjunction with Coursera, an online learning platform for free, like EdX and MIT or Yale courses. And here is my achievement:
The course is very helpful and it gives you an overview of what philosophy is and some key figures along the history of philosophy. Yet I think it would rather be renamed as “Introduction to Western Philosophy” to be precise. No school or philosopher from Asia has ever been mentioned. Anyway, I have learned and have been inspired a lot from the course. The instructors are funny and supportive. They even add some follow-up videos to answer learners’ questions in the discussion threads. It is really amazing. Sometimes I wonder why Edinburgh scores not so well in the “Student Satisfaction” in some British university rankings.
And of course the course is totally different from the philosophy of Marx being taught in schools all over Vietnam. It is clear that such a course is much more about propaganda purposes than teaching students how to think about a problem, argue and defense their theses. In the course on Marxism in Vietnam, all students have to do is to learn by heart the misleading translated extracts from his writings along with the ambiguous interpretations of the National Committee of Theory, which itself sounds crazy. The students then come to think that philosophy is good for nothing and it is really unfathomable subject, which it is really not. I think perhaps it is what the government want their people to think, that philosophy and intellectual autonomy are impossible. Philosophy is just about thinking, posing questions, bringing out problems from dark boxes and discussing them.
The course makes me think about a lot of PhD dissertations I have read recently. Some are really good, and contribute much to the universal knowledge of the field, some are no more than a hotpot of quotations, which is really bad. Even some ‘prominent scholar’ in the field could produce a work that might be surprisingly disappointing. More often than not, I have to utter: Why do you take a PhD when you do not have any original idea about the field, an idea would be the main thesis in your dissertation? Perhaps it is the right track for their academic career, or they do not know at a time what they want to do after completing their first degrees. And another thing, I do not really know how the world can get along with such intellectual situation.
I have watched a lot of films these days. I even forget some of them right after I close my computer.
The 12th National Congress of Communist Party of Vietnam has come to an end with the success of Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong, who has held the position for the last five years. After the result was announced, he had a news briefing in which he said something which, I believe, no one in the country takes seriously. I do not know why people like him keep telling lies while everyone knows he is lying. What is the point? Who does he want to deceive? Who on earth would believe a word from him, from his circle? Everything is just a bad play. I am not with any side of Evils yet I think how desperate our people are as to have to decide which one is no worse than the other. It is like to choose to go to the 8th or the 9th floor of the Hell.
Politics is never good, but it cannot be worse than it is here now.