10 September 2009
When all the Fellows have arrived, my first concern is to take this scattered collection of scholars and nudge them towards forming a collaborating group of academic friends. To this end, they were invited to join me for coffee and cake on Thursday afternoon.
We sat together around the table that Joyce had laden with Western Pennsylvania delicacies: "gobs" and toasted almond cake. If that conjures up no sensations of taste and texture for you, there's not much more I can say than "you have to have been here to understand."
Our Polaroid "Wall of Fame" so far had only two Fellow's photos. I'd taken one of Thanos, and Karen had taken one of Lisa. Karen pointed out to me delicately that my photo simply would not do; it was half ceiling. Hers of Lisa was frame filling. Suitably stung, I decided that I would ask the remaining Fellows to take snaps of each other for the wall. So I handed the camera over to them. I'd like to tell you that they passed the camera between them in rapid, fluid motions, taking one photo after another. Alas, they gazed at the camera warily as it is were some wild beast. After a few brave souls grasped it and took some photos, I decided that enough was enough and, for better or worse, sped through the rest with my meager Polaroid skills.
We could now turn to the serious business or introducing ourselves academically. I asked each to tell us how they got into philosophy of science and what they care about in the field. At first that seems like a daunting task and each apologized for not having much to say.
Yet each found that once they started, the ideas flowed and filled the room. It was fascinating to learn of the many hidden experiences and expertises of those around the table. We even had one with the extraordinary experience of consulting as a philosopher of science for Microsoft! As always, strong commonalities emerged. In this group, I heard of minds, brains, cognitive science and of all variations on them, more than ever before.
Some two hours later, the toasted almond cake was half gone and there were few gobs left.
It was time to think of dinner. Since the air was still warm, I followed my precedent of past years. The Doublewide Grill on the Southside is a gem of Americana, an old gas station converted into simple restaurant. It serves simple fare. We do best with nachos and Buffalo wings. There we can sit outside at picnic tables, as the sun fades from the sky and air cools. We can eat, drink and talk, until it is time to go home. That time came when they set up a huge outdoor screen and speakers to celebrate the kickoff of football season.
John D. Norton