Perhaps I am insane.

I am seriously considering entitling a paper about democratic deliberation between political opponents, participation, and (now — just had a breakthrough) civic education “Don’t Be Afraid, The Clown’s Afraid Too.” Yes, after the Mingus song.

That wouldn’t be my best paper title though. That’s a tie between two seminar papers, one, for a philosophy seminar on practical reason, was (or did I decide not to use it? I forget.) “What I Had Reason To Do On My Summer Vacation.” The other, for a paper for a Rawls seminar where I was arguing that there are tensions between the distributive principle and liberty of consience, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Robert Nozick.”

I am also still very fond of the title of an old law school paper from the internet and society seminar, which, iirc, was “The Eyeball Consumers of the Internet.”

If I have no other academic talents, I can at least write excellent paper titles.


12 Responses to “Perhaps I am insane.”

  1. Daniel Goldberg Says:

    I once utilized “Nietzsche vs. Mill: Steel-Cage Death Match.”

    And I published a recent paper with the great Mandy Patinkin refrain: “I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.”

  2. homais Says:

    I once saw a paper called “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. It was about how German agriculture adapted to auto-harvesting technologies in the late 19th century.

  3. Paul Gowder Says:

    Daniel, who won? I feel like a fool even asking that question because in any paper written by you, Nietzsche will win, and that makes me cry bitter, bitter tears.

    Also: inconceivable!

    Homais: Don’t Fear the Reaper: marvelous! My favorite Paper Title By Someone Else has got to be Judith Shklar’s “Let Us Not Be Hypocritical.” Especially since it also has an epigraph from my beloved Anouilh, from which the title is drawn.

    I have been trying for years now to write a paper worthy of the title “What the Owl Said to X,” where X is someone who will be appropriately crushed by a Hegelian argument, such that the paper title is a reference both to Hegel’s Owl of Minerva (and its appearance at the dusk of the destroyed argument) and Carroll’s “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles.” Unfortunately, it’s never quite come together. My dissertation is looking like it’s going to be very Hegelian, but not exactly directed against someone, so it won’t work there. Although I’m tempted to entitle it “What the Owl Said to Your Mom,” that would probably not be healthy for my employment prospects, as well as prompting the question “what DID the owl say to my mom?” to which I have no answer, and, worse, I would be all too tempted to blurt out something like “thanks for the shag,” which would have an even more unhealthy impact on said employment prospects, possibly also physical well-being.

  4. Daniel Goldberg Says:


    Back in those days, Mill actually won.

    (You do know I absolutely adore Mill, right? One of my many backburner projects is applying some of Mill’s work to the ethics of research in devloping countries).

    I love Nietzsche, too, though.

  5. Paul Gowder Says:

    YAY!!! Daniel, there may be hope for you yet! :-)

    (I think Mill was basically right about everything, once we take the hatchet of the principle of charity to the principle of utility.)

  6. Daniel Goldberg Says:

    Heh — dude, you can’t just chop away the major intellectual crisis in Mill’s work . . .

  7. Paul Gowder Says:

    Sure I can. Ahistorical, remember? Boo-yah. :-)

  8. Matt Says:

    One of my favorite things in Nietzsche is where he (somewhere) calls Mill a “blockhead”, at least in the Kaufman translation. It’s especially nice since it sounds like something from Peanuts. I can’t remember where it is, though. Maybe around where he says something like, “‘All men desire pleasure.’ No. Only all Englishmen.”

  9. ben wolfson Says:

    My first year here I wanted to call a paper “Off the Railtons”. But I didn’t.

    Also: “The Determinable Mr. X: A Phenomenological Interpretation of the Residents’ God in Three Persons“; “Sartre Resorted: Carlyle as Proto-Existentialist”.

  10. Paul Gowder Says:

    Matt, Neitzsche was rather good at insults, wasn’t he? Isn’t there some metaphysical argument where he uses “Konigsberg” as a synonym for “sissy?”

    Ben, “Off the Railtons” is pretty much perfect.

  11. eric Says:

    My favorite Neitzschean insult is from Menschliches, Allzumenschliches:

    “Some people throw a bit of their personality after their bad arguments, as if that might straighten their paths and turn them into right and good arguments — just as a man in a bowling alley, after he has let go of the ball, still tries to direct it with gestures.”

    I love it, above all, because it suggests that old Fred actually spent some time in a bowling alley. Which in turn suggests another paper title: The Über Lebowski. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of Neitzschean philosophy, at least its an ethos.

  12. Paul Gowder Says:

    Thus Spake The Dude!

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