This ‘Friday’ was not one of the most common Fridays that are usually in store for me. Soon after rushing to my French class in the afternoon, it was time to brave the lashing quintessential Kolkata monsoons to attend a ‘mehfil’ where my guru Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty would be demonstrating the importance of lyrics in classical Indian music. Mehfil’s are typically cozy Indian get-togethers where people come, not in huge numbers, for a event which are usually cultural ones. With my heart still in a daze pondering over the topic of discussion, my mind swiftly cuts in to the next thing in my schedule – a game of balancing sides which I have quite got used to playing. I would be flying to London to attend the LSE Summer School in a few hours. Packing was hardly done and the apartment was a complete mess, bearing not a great deal of comedy compared to the situation portrayed by Jerome K. Jerome in his novel. Reaching home in a dog tired state, there would hardly be scope for any kind of feelings to percolate and surface. However it did: it was a strange amalgamation of excitement, joy, fear, anxiousness, a gut feeling which was indicating that perspectives were going to be changed. Writing about my 2015 summer stay in London could be possible from a thousand different ways: as a travelogue, a poem, informing about the Summer School and counting. However, here I want to share with all of you about my experiences as a student of International Relations with the University of London and the LSE, as a humble student of music, and what I gained from the time.
This is my first post and will be hopefully followed by many others during my studies. My name is Oscar, I’m Italian, and currently pursuing the BSc in Economics and Finance.
I decided to join the blog since I felt I had to share my impressions and experiences with fellow students as well as actively discuss about subjects we’re studying and how these relate to our daily lives. I hope we’ll have engaging discussions along the way.
My last blog entry entitled “The paradox of time” seemed like an appropriate segway to open and close my final blog on. As I’m sure most of you can relate to, time has flown by and it’s hard to conceive that October to June could be so shortly spaced together. For some students, myself included, the school year has not quite ended as we work towards finishing our thesis projects.
The University of London International Programmes (UoL) has just begun releasing exam results for students who sat for exams in May. Suppose that on the day that results are released for your program, you access them in the way you’re officially instructed to by UoL, which involves entering your personal information into a UoL-supplied web form. You do precisely as you’re instructed, and as you pull your results up, you learn that you scored a 71 on exam X. ‘Excellent!’ you happily exclaim. And from this information, coupled with your awareness of the fact that all scores of 70 and over merit a first, you validly deduce,
(B) ‘I scored a first in exam X’.
Most of us, on the basis of the information provided above, would unhesitatingly say that you know that you scored a first on exam X. That is, we would ascribe knowledge of (B) to you. And the reason we’d be inclined to say that you have knowledge in this case is because you have excellent reasons for holding a true belief. For you validly inferred (B) from two powerfully supported premises, viz. (1) I scored a 71 on exam X (which is supported by the results you received, in a legitimate way, from a highly reliable source), and (2) all scores over 70 merit a first (which is supported by information received through legitimate sources like student handbooks etc.).
Over a month has passed since I finished taking my second year UoL exams. But this time was a bit different. I was not a BSc Accounting and Finance student anymore but a student of BSc International Relations. Not to drag this blog again into exams, I would say as minimum as possible regarding the exams. Admittedly, I could deliver as per my expectations and my preparations, though I don’t expect to achieve results to the best of my capability. Still, a notch above in performance compared to the previous year, and hopefully the results reflect it. This improvement may be attributed to me getting used to the environment of the UoL and the LSE. They have almost become my home and I need to fantasize hard to feel like an alien – which I used to feel on joining the International Programmes during my very first days.
By now, many of us have completed our 2015 University of London (UoL) exams. We’re hoping for good results. But that’s only because there’s a sense in which we don’t know how well we performed. That is, we have doubts about how well we performed. In this case, our doubts are in a sense forced upon us by the nature of our situation. For we desire good grades, we’ve completed our exam essays, and there are criteria that our essays must satisfy to earn good grades. But we have insufficient information to determine precisely what criteria our completed exam essays in fact satisfy. Thus, we’re left with our doubts and our hopes (at least until July!).
Doing a master’s course is a great learning process. The four core modules form a great theoretical basis which Moodle and all the readings turn into a practical discovery and global exploration. The subsequent elective modules are more demanding as academic writing comes in! If, like me, you have not done such serious assignment writing before, it is really tough to write six essays in two years and not get desperate because of fear for wrong referencing, paraphrasing, quoting or not fitting within the strict word limits. Still, it is an ideal learning process for the project report of 10,000 words that I am about to start as soon as I get ethical approval locally and from LSHTM.
Well, unless you’ve been trapped in a Yotel for the last three weeks, (or if like me you’ve been studying like a mad thing for your LLB exams then you are forgiven), you’ll be aware that there’s been a fight. Now this was not just any schoolyard brawl, nor even any other professional fight, it was billed as THE fight of the 21st century and even the media began running out of superlatives. The indomitable Emmanuel “Manny” Dapidran Pacquiao (first and only “eight-division world champion”) went glove-to-glove with Floyd Joy Sinclair known to us as the seemingly undefeatable Floyd Mayweather Jr. in what was the richest fight in boxing history.
Dear students in arms,
There are two aspects to consider here that are relevant in undertaking any exam. The first is the psychological and the second is technical; I will try to elaborate on both holistically.
From the psychological side we have to realize that we ourselves are our greatest teachers; tutors and professors can show us the way but we have to travel that path ourselves. A person who is determined and keeps on pursuing ultimately gets his/her rewards, with or without any tutor. Later onwards in our lives we will realize that ‘one repays a teacher badly if one always remains only a pupil’ (Friedrich Nietzsche).
Exams are only weeks away. Perhaps many of you woke up earlier than usual this morning so that, after the usual chores, you could continue revising a subject that you began working on last night. I did. But as is often the case in philosophy, this very ordinary scenario raises some fascinating and remarkably difficult questions. One of them is called ‘the problem of personal identity’, which we could put, at a first pass, like this: How do you know that the ‘you’ who awoke this morning and continued revising is one and the same person as the ‘you’ who was revising and then went to sleep last night? Let’s call this the Basic Question.
I realize that this problem – or even the suggestion that it actually is a problem — may sound ridiculous to many of you. But I shall try, as Bouwsma said a philosopher must, to ‘quicken the sense of the queer’ – that is, to explain why it is in fact so wonderfully problematic. And later, I shall try to explain some of the practical implications that follow from how we ultimately answer questions like the Basic Question.