Dissertation, Conference, and Scotland

I have been working on my dissertation for months now and it has come to the point where I can't objectively critique it anymore. I guess I'm quite satisfied with it, but of course that's because all of it makes sense in my head; whether or not the people grading my paper will think it's interesting and rigorous is another question. Speaking of grades, I calculated that I have to get at least a 75 on my dissertation to graduate with a distinction, which is possible but unlikely. This saddens me a bit since it will hurt my chances of getting into a good PhD program, but once I remind myself of the bigger picture, I realize it really isn't that important. What's more important is that I convince people of my theory of natural diversity, which doesn't necessarily require me to graduate from the best university.

In related news, I am happy to say that I will be presenting my dissertation in Indonesia in two weeks at a conference organized by the Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA). The HDCA was founded by Amartya Sen and is the main organization for my field – the capability approach. Unfortunately, Sen will not be attending the conference this year, but the other big names will be, including Martha Nussbaum. Hopefully, I will get the chance to meet her and give her a quick explanation of my theory.

The fact that the HDCA accepted my proposal reaffirms my belief that the theory of natural diversity has great potential. I suspect that I will slowly convince more and more people once I have the opportunity to speak to willing listeners. And hopefully this process will begin at the conference which starts in two weeks.

Although the past few months have been quite tough, I did manage to fit in a one week trip to Scotland. Four of my friends and I rented a tiny car and toured roughly 5 cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Inverness. Most of the places we visited were beautiful, especially the Scottish highlands, but Glasgow was quite run-down and so it was a bit disappointing. To make the experience more fun, my friends and I made a short list of all the stereotypical Scottish things that we had to see or do. The list included seeing kilts, bagpipes, highland cows, eating haggis and fried Mars bars. Needless to say, we checked off everything on the list (my personal favorite was eating haggis). On the whole, I'm glad that I took the time to go see Scotland; it was a very relaxing experience, but more importantly, it was a well needed break from my dissertation.

Seeing Mill's Statue

John Stuart Mill, bronze statue by Thomas Woolner, raised on the Thames Embankment in 1879.

Three days ago, I had the privilege to finally visit John Stuart Mill's statue in London, which is located in a small park on the embankment of the river Thames. I must say it was a very touching and spiritual experience for me. I stood there for minutes just staring at it, almost as if I were waiting for him to talk to me. I'm not exactly sure what was going on in my mind, but I was probably reflecting the impact he had on my life. And indeed, what an impact it was!

I have no doubt that I would not be where I am today if it weren't for him. I would certainly not be in England studying political philosophy, but more importantly, I would not have such a strong grasp on my identity. Before reading On Liberty, I was an incomplete human being, simply floating around in life with no specific purpose. I neither cared about developing myself nor about helping others. In fact, I didn't care much about anything at all. I even remember telling my tutor once that I believed the purpose of college was to make more money and sound smart. I was so naïve.

Fortunately, my life eventually changed during my senior year when I had to read Mill for my modern political theory course. I don't know what about On Liberty was so influential, but it touched my soul. I suspect it gave me vindication of being a critical thinker, which was something I always believed in, but could never express. Furthermore, On Liberty was so beautifully written. The way Mill was able to portray his ideas in such an academic yet eloquent manner is beyond my understanding. I will forever attempt to write as well as him even though I know I will never succeed.

Because Mill had such a large impact in my life and because seeing his statue will probably be the closest I will ever get to his existence, I was extremely unhappy with the condition of the statue itself. For one, it is not as prominent as it should be; there are trees and bushes growing around it that make the statue more difficult to notice. And two, although his name is engraved in the stone, it is almost invisible due to dirt and mold. The result of this is that thousands of people walk by his statute every week and don't even see him, and those who do see him don't know who he is. This is grave dishonor to the father of feminism and England's greatest public intellectual. I intend to write an email to the proper authorities to get this resolved.

As you can see, the engraving is almost invisible.