I was talking to F. yesterday on why do we do what we do. The typical PhD angst, I guess - but it needs its space and time, to exercise itself, take form and become something manageable, and not something that suffocates. F. is a clear thinker. I mean, in a convoluted way I sometimes don't understand, but that's me I think. So I think that's why I managed to articulate this feeling so clearly, because I was talking to him about it.
We begin the PhD with the idea that we are participating in a long-standing intellectual tradition, to which we will contribute something substantial. By the end of it, all we want is to become minimally competent scholars. And this is not: "That must be good enough." It's actually the point of the whole thing.
I wanted to put it in writing because of a completely different reason. In every few months, I go and read a blog by this teenager. I realized I wasn't a teenager anymore I guess, and I wanted to find out how some of them think (is it that different? Is it really true that generational differences can be so big in such short time-spans?).
Not sure about the questions in the parenthesis. But it did remind me how when I read the stuff I wrote somewhere a few years ago - especially when I was a teenager - or I am reminded of some of my discarded opinions, viewpoints, internalized life philosophies, I think to myself: Man, you were an idiot.
I always took it as a sign of personal growth, as something good. In the years between now and then, I apparently thought about it and started acting differently, so that must be good.
So, it got me thinking: How will my opinion about minimally competent scholars stand in the face of time? Or does the depreciation of your opinions slow down when you grow up enough?
If so, it is both assuring and scary at the same time.