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  • Writer's pictureJoia

Today’s rhaps is on … the Fake Dissertation Proposal

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

There was a fellowship available at Indiana University the year I would finally be done with grad courses and then only writing the dissertation. I wouldn’t have to work in the graduate library or tutor for the Equal Opportunity Program. I could just…write. Whatever that meant. In any case I didn’t get the fellowship, so I continued to tutor math and social sciences in the EOP and sit in Library Circulation perusing a truly random and wonderful collection of books. Applying to the fellowship did provide a unique opportunity, though: I created two dissertation proposals, one real and one fake. The Department Chair was always telling me that I kept trying to do too much. So I presented my dissertation advisor and the fellowship committee with the real and quite boring proposal, comparing realism and positivism in the philosophical writings of the physicist and Vienna Circle founder Moritz Schlick (clearly already doing too much here). Then I presented the Department Chair with the following proposal, Positivist Thought from the Iliad to the Tractatus. He read to the part about having to restrict the research to Western Civilization only, for reasons of space...and turning to me, beet-red, said, “this is a joke, isn’t it?” The proposal continued to reference everything from Greek bicameral minds and Medieval impetus theory to universal symbolic languages and semiotic signage, from the Newton-Leibniz calculus controversy to the chemistry of crucial experiments, concluding with Wittgenstein, as indeed all intellectual investigations must:

Positivist Thought from the Iliad to the Tractatus

[Will post as soon as copy of this turns up! Likely on a floppy disk somewhere.]

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