Alumni network

Michael Cassady

photo of Michael Cassady
Michael Cassady
BA 1972
This is a question worth some serious thought—a work of promises.

Further education For life-support, I worked in industry, but I continued to read philosophy when conditions and energy would permit. I was unable to get reading materials through customs in Saudi Arabia; in a bookstore I passed selling romantic fiction for women in Al Kobar (nothing at all graphic), I wondered why all the women were dressed in black evening gowns that covered arms and legs. Closer inspection showed that the standard black was magic-marker covering any exposed skin. In Singapore, I saw the film Chinatown and was baffled by it for years after, until I happened to see it again and realized that all the scenes that had anything to do with incest had been cut out. Travel per se as education by direct experience is disappointing since, as one might expect, getting past what reflects light in experience, i.e., what accounts for the form of observed content, leads an observer to the realization that he understands little, or wrongly, what is causally happening. At some point, I was driven to the conclusion that my employers were robbing me of the best hours of my days and the best years of my life. I had left UCB with the thought I might return to do graduate work or law after a break from the general state of chaotic agitation on, and all around the 1970's social-action campus. Instead of returning to higher education, I ended up living twenty years in France.

Favorite courses at Berkeley I have mostly been able to follow the courses of Mike Martin recently. I sat in on Barry Stroud's courses on perception, knowledge and mind. Barry was very kind with over-the-hill groupies happily lost far away from a golf course. I continue to see a hole in space where Barry lacks matter but not energy.

Favorite professors Mike Martin, John Campbell, Burt Dreyfus, Katharina Kaiser, Hannah Ginsborg, Hans Sluga, John MacFarlane. These are persons I have had some contact with.

How has your philosophical training influenced your life and career? Even if I did not follow a career path in academic philosophy, since returning to Berkeley in 2011 at age 65, I have come to appreciate more than I anticipated the work of the kind professors who permit me to audit courses and seminars. A graduate seminar with Mike Martin, John Campbell or Barry Stroud provided enough follow up reading for a whole year.

Any current engagement with philosophy? I certainly continue to challenge my thinking following new developments that have freed me somewhat from the seductive charm of Wittgenstein unconditioned by enriching nuance. That said, the role of seduction in philosophy explains why it's richer reading Plato putting words in Socrates' mouth than it is studying an assembly instructions for putting together a bed frame. Searle disappointed me somewhat—very edifyingly—when he refused to even hear me out about the great cost of assuming realism and a physical world composed of particles going about in fields of force. I'm more and more inclined to keep matter tied to energy: what is the case seems hopelessly abstract without considering where it is the case. I also keep thinking that biology imposed autonomy plays a much bigger role in experience than it is given credit for. But, I'm ready to be shocked once more into the realization I've missed something completely.


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