Thinking without Professional Recognition

©2013, Shaina Sheaff Photography
©2013, Shaina Sheaff Photography

I work in and around higher education in the United States, but I am not a professor. I sometimes say that I am in the academy but not necessarily of the academy.

This does not imply, however, that I refuse to do more than my fair share of thinking about contemporary pedagogy. Nor does it intend that I eschew discussing the most important political events and pondering the most profound ideas. It does mean, however, that I am not in the business of  being an intellectual. Thus, Reason & Existenz blog is about philosophizing as a way of life rather than the professional negotiations of specialized information production.

As odd as it may sound to be saying this in a forum that is open to anybody with an internet connection anywhere in the world who can read English, I do not think to be recognized. I am in the singular position of being a very low level bureaucrat who pushes papers around at a college and who happens to get recognized by faculty, administrators, and students as someone who thinks.

Not confined by the sociopolitical obligations & demands of an information market, I have a leisure that my supervisors & colleagues in academia can rarely ever have. I put in forty hours of work per week pushing papers, making spreadsheets, balancing budgets, filling out forms, organizing workshops, answering emails, etc.

But the rest of my time belongs to me and to my friends and to my city. It does not belong to the educational enframing or to the professional market or to publishing in order to not perish. I belong to myself.

And what do I do in that time of belonging entirely to myself? Well, I do not publish yet more papers that only a few people will read. I do not sit through committee meetings in order to keep departments, academic societies, or even Congress on a responsible track.

Essentially, I do in my spare time as an anarchocynic what professors & priests once did before market forces turned the scholarly life into neoliberal labor. Now,  I do not disdain scholarly production; I seek to help scholars not become lost in the professionalization of their vocation. I talk to professors about their work & their lives so that their actualities do not overwhelm their possibilities.

Furthermore, I do not disdain study, recognizing the need both for general training and for becoming a disciplined thinker. So I dialog with students about their classes or their world in order to help them engage potentialities that will be actual life paths worthy of being called a life.

I would not be much of a practitioner of the loving struggle if I looked down on old or new scholars. I wander wondering around the local agora near my alma mater and reach out to people on art, science, literature, philosophy, politics, and the broad spectrum of being human.

This is what my job affords me as a means to an end greater than my own success. For that, I am most sincerely grateful to those who have created this space for me by hiring my services. Yet what if my bureaucratic job ended tomorrow, and I had to go back to slinging coffee to keep a roof over my head? Then I would do all of this anyway.

My name is Keith Wayne Brown. I philosophize as a way of life and encourage others to do the same. I think WITHOUT professional recognition, and I flourish in the leisure of being myself among friends & neighbors where I dwell.

Will you not engage the lifeworld with me?



  1. Well said my friend! As I sit here on a beautiful Sunday morning, writing yet another paper, I do envy your “time of belonging entirely to myself”. Mind you, I am not complaining as I do this not for another degree nor for a promotion at work – rather I do it out of the desire to learn about something that I did not know and to put my thoughts on paper so that they can be challenged.

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