Dear princess ‘Ishka,
The job of a philosopher usually consists of criticizing things. These things can be theories, social constructs, ideologies or else. But among them, very seldom the philosopher herself appears publicly as an object of criticism.
Since I do not yet consider myself a philosopher – nor do I claim the contrary, I will take this time the freedom to criticize one of my worst personal deficiencies.
I am a very talkative person, and there is nothing wrong with that. I also think that what I talk about is usually interesting and I try as hard as possible not to turn my conversations into a waste of time. But, sometimes, what I intentionally say is simple, blatant, pure bullshit.
Few days ago, I was attending a seminar on a rather unknown 19th century philosopher, who has written extensively about psychology – he would have preferred to be called “psychologist” rather than “philosopher”, but karma is unpredictable and not always eager to please. I had a very great point to make about his conception of memory, or so I thought. But, at the same time, my head had been recently filled with the worry that reading something about mirror neurons could have been beneficial for an essay I was writing for another course.
The professor in the seminar about the “psylosopher” opened the session by saying that it would have been interesting to debate the accuracy of the author’s scientific ideas with respect to contemporary scientific achievements. And somehow, this input gave credit in my mind to the idea that making an intervention about mirror neurons would have been appropriate.
Afterwards, the professor asked also if what the author thought about Deja-vu was to be taken as reliable. I said to myself “of course not! Deja-vu have surely been explained by science with some mechanical process going on in our brains”. And so I connected Deja-vu with the activity of mirror neurons (which are even doubted to exist in the first place by certain scientists). The link was easy to my mind: mirror neurons are a region of our brains which is activated by doing an action as well as seeing the same action done by another person; therefore, they could be activated by mistake and mechanically give the impression that one has experienced already a situation one is at the same time participating to, generating a Deja-vu (lit. French, “already seen”).
Now, this explanation is proper bullshit. I don’t know how it came to my mind. There is no scientific evidence of any sort about it. No scientific article has ever been written about it. It’s the purest form of bullshit: a theory generated by my mind just to entertain itself.
I raised my hand and said that Deja-vu had been already explained by mirror neurons. The professor was ready enough to answer that he saw no possible connection between Deja-vu and mirror neurons and that, to his knowledge, there was no scientific research on the topic. Luckily, he kindly shifted the focus of his response on the second part of my question, which was apparently more relevant and contained a lower level of bullshit.
Why did I say such blatant bullshit? Was that mansplaining? Was that an attempt to show myself as an expert of neurosciences? Was that the compulsive need of giving an answer to a couple of questions I had no clue how to appropriately answer?
I don’t know. Maybe all these explanations at once. I am just thankful to M, one of my classmates, who always stands my feedbacks and stubbornness after each class. And to my flat mate, who had to pity my regret and obsessive self-criticism afterwards.
What I mostly regret is actually that I lost an opportunity to make a “good” philosophical point about the conception of memory of our psylosophist, and I said instead some pseudo-scientific bullshit. I lost a chance to be temporarily a good student of philosophy just to attempt to be what I am not.
So this is maybe the point of this whole story: don’t talk about things which require expertise, if you are no expert of such things. Learn from good philosophers, for they always find a reliable way to talk about everything without ever being experts of anything.