Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Elevator Seminars

One of my best teachers, Colin Koopman, gave me a very solid and practical piece of professional philosophical advice. He suggested that every philosopher needs to know their elevator seminar. 

Whatever you are researching be sure to have two short speeches or introductions ready: one for people in your field and one for those out side of it. 
This needs to be short, less than 30 seconds, thus the "elevator seminar".

I found this piece of advice very useful because once one get to any depth in philosophy, or I suppose any topic, you own knowledge and beliefs can become so convoluted with assumptions, contradictions, problems and the like that your topic becomes inexpressible. The trouble I found was that I didn't know how far to back up in my knowledge to give answer that made sense to them. 

Having a simple, slightly tweaked, example from a intro class can be of great help, especially when talking to those who are not versed in the philosophical themes and traditions. Jargon is your enemy when dealing with the public.

When dealing with people in your field (that being philosophy) remember that just because they study philosophy does not mean that they know the difference between ready-to-hand and present-to-hand in Heidegger or the difference between sinnlos and unsinnig in Wittgenstein. So remember your peers don't necessary know what your talking about when you start tossing around terms
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