Pacific Rim Foundation
Liam Eady with Family

Updates from Liam Eady, 2012 Recipient

2105 Update

Well, once again I've set out to give you a nice, straightforward account of what I've been up to for the last year, and once again I've been swept off course by memories of the new ideas and insights I was exposed to since September. I apologize if the following is a bit wide-ranging and over-enthusiastic at what will certainly seem odd places, but I'm also thankful for the opportunity to revisit my past year and find out what really made the biggest impact on me as a student and, more generally, as a person.

I struggled for a while with this year’s summary because I was trying to do something closer to what I gave you last time, which I think was a more even coverage of all the courses I took in second year and what I got from them. However, after a while I decided to change up what I was doing and focus mainly on a select few courses which, I realize now, ended up having far more significance for my education so far.

For whatever reason, the courses I took in year two seemed to have stronger and more obvious parallels with each other. My primary honours subject, Contemporary Studies, is very interdisciplinary and can range from phenomenology to genocide studies to the aesthetics of satire depending on the classes you are drawn to, so there is not a lot of built-in hierarchy or progression between courses. Even the core courses that I have to take as a full-time CSP student can be taken in any order, as they deal with political thought, science/culture, and critical art theory respectively. What this means is that I have to be careful in selecting courses which go together in some ways if I want to feel like I am truly studying something concrete and identifiable. Overall, I was more successful at this in second year than third, but this didn’t diminish the quality of education I received from each course. So while I felt a bit more “at sea” with regards to finding a clear center to organize my thoughts around, this year did allow me to explore many areas that I hadn’t ever touched on before, with mixed yet ultimately very positive results.

Before I begin, I should list the courses I actually took this year: In the Fall, I began the year-long CSP core course Science and Culture, and I had four semester-long courses including “The Experience of the Other in Philosophy, Literature, and Art,” “Walter Benjamin’s Materials,” “Centuries of Dialogue: Asia and the West,” and a spanish translation course.

In the winter, I continued with my CSP core course and started an introductory Spanish and Latin American literature class, a course on Charles Darwin and his legacy, one on aesthetic theory and satire, as well as another eastern philosophy course that focused more on contemporary China, India and Japan.

As you can probably tell, these courses don’t have too many obvious parallels, but they did all interest me for different reasons. In the end, a few stood out as the most important courses for me this year, and it’s these I’d like to focus on below.

I’ll start with the class I took in the fall called “Walter Benjamin’s Materials.” Walter Benjamin was a German Jewish writer active from the 1920’s to the 40’s. I could call him a philosopher, but most of his works can be read from a number of very different angles, so I’ll stick to the somewhat vague description of cultural theorist. He also wrote on mysticism and hermeticism within the Jewish tradition, as well as a number of works on collective memory and trauma, but the materials we focused on in this course had to do with art, poetry, media, journalism, mass culture, and the workings of politics in all of these.

Above all, Benjamin concerns himself with the massive changes taking place in the world at his time, including the social, political, technological, and cultural realms. Technological change especially, I think, is the driving force behind these other developments in many ways. For Benjamin, it is access to new technologies which provides us with alternative ways of perceiving the world. These changes in perception necessitate thorough readjustments of our behaviour, culture, and even our values, or else we risk creating a dangerous dissonance between the technological possibilities of our age and the social norms we have at our disposal for negotiating our way within it.

A good example of Benjamin’s insistence on learning new ways to interact with a changing world can be found in his discussion of experience, or, in other words, the knowledge and wisdom that generations pass down to each other. Benjamin points to the disastrous results of relying on conventional battlefield strategy when the Great War began, as the introduction of the machine gun changed the game entirely. This is of course an extreme case, but it does a good job of evoking the urgency with which Benjamin wants us to treat all kinds of change taking place, in his day and in our own.

I think I found this so important because it speaks to the need to be aware of the consequences that such rapid changes in society can have. This might seem abstract or imprecise, but Benjamin himself was always in favour of practical means to prepare ourselves for the transformations taking place everywhere. He focused most intently on artistic and informational media like film and radio, which play a critical role in training their audiences to take in information in new, more useful ways.

All of this fascinates me, but I won’t pretend I can do a very good job making Benjamin’s points clear. I’ll admit that I only begin to understand what he himself means after several rereadings of a given text, and he’s not a bad writer either! But the things he has to say are complex and often without a lot of precedent, so part of what interests me in Benjamin are the many avenues that one can take his thought that haven’t been done before.

I’ll move on now to the other course that I found especially important this year, my program’s core course which focused on science, culture, and the countless ways they interact. We spent most of the first term getting familiar with the dialogues and arguments present in the philosophy of science today, concerning the proper place of science within an open society, and what kind of society (free-market capitalist, communist, fascist, etc.) science is most compatible with. There was (and is) also a lot of debate on whether or not science truly progresses by any measure, or whether it is a sequence of paradigms which ask fundamentally different questions about existence, and are thus totally incommensurable. An example of this would be the switch from Newtonian physics to an Einsteinian model. Of course, it is easy to see a progression from there to here, where we stand now, but many raise the question of whether this progress is merely an optical illusion, or something we have imposed upon history. According to the rules and methodology of Newtonianism, importantly, modern science actually fails in nearly every way because of its acceptance of relativity, and so science itself can be viewed as deteriorating from this standpoint.

Naturally these claims provoked some strong opposition, as well as stirring up some interesting elaborations. The second half of the year we spent looking at case studies and more specialized fields where these contemporary ideas of science come into play. There are compelling critiques of science as it is performed that have come from anti-colonialist and feminist movements recently, concerning the tendency to privilege a westernized and masculinized notion of objectivity and reason. But more radical and controversial than these was the reaction to the social constructivists of the 1990’s. Social constructivism aims to debunk and critique certain institutions and bodies present in contemporary society, such as the idea of race or fixed gender roles. It does so by showing how these ideas were built up historically, and by attempting to prove that they are entirely contingent upon these circumstances, and that they can be otherwise.

This is a good sentiment, say those who come after, but social constructivism fails to take into account the agency of non-human actors and factors in the way that concepts and ‘things’ are constructed. Bruno Latour argues for a “Parliament of Things,” through which we understand all features of our environment to be co-constituted by conscious human action and the contributions of physical objects and forces around us.

I find this so interesting because it is not simply a refutation of the social constructivists’ position, and it does not revert to ideas of inevitability or fixed nature that these theorists rebelled against. Instead, the Parliament of Things reminds us that we are not all-powerful when it comes to shaping the world around us and determining how we view the universe. It is better, they argue, to consider ourselves as small parts of a system that includes everything in existence. The idea of a Parliament has another meaning here, for Latour goes so far as to posit a governmental system where not only citizens, humans all, have representation in the decision-making process. In essence, then, he asks us to imagine what it would look like if even rocks had a member of parliament to represent them. I could never be sure how much of Latour was tongue-in-cheek, but I think it’s important not to dismiss his ideas as ridiculous too soon, even if they are so. If they don’t make for an inspiring political manifesto, they are at least an interesting thought experiment!

Of the courses this year, these two have stuck with me and kept me thinking about their implications long after I left the classroom. To be sure, what I learned about Darwin, and ancient Indian philosophical debates, and many other topics all continue to fascinate me. However, out of everything I did this year, Benjamin’s thought and the debates in the philosophy of science strike me as the most ‘unfinished,’ like they’re inviting me to investigate further.

In the next two years, that is hopefully what I’ll be up to most of the time. I’ll spend one semester in Spain at the University of Salamanca, taking credits that count towards the Spanish Language side of my degree. I’ll return to King’s in the following Fall, where I hope to do lots more in the History of Science department, as well as learning more about contemporary art theory. The academic year of 2016/2017 is when I’ll be writing my undergrad thesis, and I’d love to include as much Benjamin as possible!

I’ve given a lot of thought to what I’ll be doing further down the road in my schooling, and at the moment I am hoping to do some postgraduate work that builds upon my King’s degree in Contemporary philosophy and History of Science, as I don’t think I’ll get tired of it any time soon! After that I would like to go to law school somewhere in the world because I think that, too, has a lot of interesting point of resonance with the kind of philosophy and political theory I’ve been studying. This would, ideally, afford me some flexibility in terms of travelling to interesting places for work, as well as keeping my options open for returning to Clayoquot Sound when I felt the need to. One of the major downsides, though certainly not the only one, that I’ve seen with going further into Academia is that I would never be able to live and work in Tofino, so my more recent designs seem to solve that problem for now!

 

2014 Update

This past year at University of King's College has been excellent; my courses are as rewarding as they are challenging, and both the school and the city of Halifax are great places to spend time in and find new things to do. Coming out of King's Foundation Year Programme in 2013, this year I've been finally able to explore my chosen primary Honours subject, Contemporary Studies. It has been, for the most part, everything I had hoped for: a rigorous and varied philosophy/literature/critical history program with an excellent faculty and a really committed, involved community of students to share the ride with. Individual courses are very well focused, and compliment each other with different approaches to subjects like power, violence, colonialism, etc. If you'll permit me, I'd like to share a few reflections on the courses I've taken since last September. I hope this will give you some idea of what I've been up to!

 I took the second year Contemporary Studies Program (CSP) core course, lasting all year, which offered a background in modern social and political thought through Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger, Foucault, and more, with many contemporary theorists' commentaries along the way. In the fall I took three other CSP electives: the first focused on death and the changing and conflicting ways that western thought has viewed death and dying in philosophy, literature, poetry, drama, and, more recently of course, in relation to science and statistics. We read Plato, Descartes, more Hegel, Heidegger, and Foucault, Tolstoy, de Beauvoir, Kleist, etc. An excellent class with no pat answer at the end of it - do I feel more prepared for death than before? Do I think I understand it or can imagine my own death any better? Not in the least. Rather, the course offered some fascinating and fruitful points of entry into discussions about death and how our commonly held attitudes towards it are fundamental in shaping our daily lives.

Also in the fall I took a crash course in what occurred in French philosophy after de Beauvoir and Sartre (though it had little to do with either) called Structuralism and Post-Structuralism. It began with Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure's attempt to create a universal system for categorizing and comparing spoken languages, hinging upon the idea that there are deep, underlying structures in the ways that we communicate, orally. This idea was seized upon by many French thinkers and applied to diverse subjects. Levi-Strauss, for example, tried to show that the same type of structure existed in the systems of mythology that every culture seems to produce ( and that Western science has abandoned). By founding a science of myth and trying to access these hidden structures, he wanted to show that myth was a way for societies to mediate between polar opposites in their lived experience (life/death, friend/foe, wet/dry...) in a way that is just as sophisticated and nuanced as the supposedly superior Western science. He makes a good case, and produces some fascinating analyses of myths like the North American trickster, the story of Oedipus Rex, etc., but there are problems to his approach as well...

We also studied how Jaques Lacan tries to apply Saussurean structure to the Freudian subconscious model, and how Louis Althusser combines it with a Marxist analysis of economic and social conditions, which are two more paragraphs of rambling I'll spare you.
Next we moved into Roland Barthes and his semi-appropriation, semi-rejection of Saussure's model to analyze the effects of cultural messages in the Midcentury France. His book, Mythologies, tears into certain pieces of propaganda, advertisements, films, celebrity, and other cultural phenomena, exposing them for the ways they try to instill belief and support for existing, exploitative social conditions. A good read; Barthes is very witty and our prof was great at bringing this out.

Finally in the Post-Structuralism section, we read parts of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's magnum opus "1000 Plateaus". It's a highly unconventional book of philosophical essays composed according to the structure of the rhizome - a type of organism which has no hierarchical organization of parts, such as a brain or vertebrae. Rather, each point in a rhizomatic structure is connected to all other parts - it has no center, or if you prefer, the center is dispersed across the entire surface.

The rhizome itself is to the centered structure of a tree what Deleuze and Guattari's book is to a conventional philosophical treatus, รก la Hegel. Instead of having a set point of entry and a linear progression from assumed absolute first principles, D&G's book can be read, so they assert, from any point and in any order and the meaning will come across just as well. They advocate for a better understanding of the rhizome as a metaphor for an alternative organizational principle to the "Great Chain of Being" conception which has dominated Western thought since Plato and Parmenides right up to the present. Just as the organism of the rhizome may flourish where a tree couldn't survive, such an understanding can open up new possibilities for life, thought, and social organization. My prof was excellent, and had written her dissertation on Deleuze, so I had a better interpreter in her than you do in me :)

We also read an essay by Jaques Derrida which many people call the post-structuralist manifesto, but I can't for the life of me recall any of his most interesting points. Will have to revisit it when I get back to shore!

Last, we tackled volume one of Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality. He uses sex and sexuality as a lens to look at the forms that power takes in institutions and in society as a whole. Much of the book is spent arguing against what he calls the Repressive Hypothesis, or the belief that power only functions by repressing positive activity, silencing discourse, and limiting the production and distribution of new knowledge. We see this today in the attitude towards the past as sexually repressed, and in claims that, because society now features much more discussion on the subject of sex, we are more free from power today than we ever have been. Wrong, says Foucault, power is much more versatile than the Repressive Hypothesis makes it out to be, and it functions just as well (or better) in the production of discourse and the creation and ordering of new knowledge. He uses the example of the practice of confession, which started in the church and spread to psychiatry, medicine, and many other institutions throughout society. The practice of confession allows all of these institutions to exercise their power over people neither by silencing them, nor by dictating certain truths to them (although all are engaged in this as well). Rather, confession entails the extraction and organization of knowledge from those upon whom power exerts itself. This means that although we may feel the urge to confess (to a church, doctor, authority, or friend) because we believe that it is a release, that it is a way to escape the repressive nature of power and free ourselves, but we are only participating in a different power structure. Ultimately this work is about complicating our understanding of the way power operates in society - an important undertaking, because we're all subject to it in so many ways, for good or ill.

I spent a lot more time on Foucault, as I had the opportunity to take a full course on him in the fall. We read works on madness and reason, on disciplinary power and it's connection to plague-era Europe and the invention of the quarantine, on Bentham's "Panopticon" and the application of his scary techniques of surveillance to prisons, factories, hospitals, schools, and other institutions in contemporary society, on Ancient Greek techniques of the self (ways of conceptualizing and maintaining the self) as they compare to early Christian and modern techniques, and plenty more. Another great professor to help us through difficult material to boot.

In the Winter I took two more Contemporary Studies electives, one on the idea of race in philosophy, and the other on post-colonial literature. These two really worked well together, as they both addressed issues of social and racial justice, existing systems of discrimination and exclusion, privilege, the legacy of slavery, colonialism, and genocide, the power of poetic/artistic expression as a means for self-assertion, and how all of these relate back to contemporary Canadian, Nova Scotian, and British Columbian society (we ended up reading some poets and theorists from BC, and talked about its own history of colonialism).

And last but not least, I took one course in King's History of Science program on the history of brewing from ancient Egypt to the mid-20th century. It's a class that made the New York Times' list of the 100 most interesting courses, or so we're told, and in my opinion it certainly deserves it. We looked at the countless ways that brewing and society as a whole have influenced each other and developed together, from the origin of pasteurization, the discovery of the mechanical equivalent of heat in the basement of James Joule's family brewery, the growing prevalence of mathematical standardization (due in part to the need for fair trade in barrels) that helped pave the way for universal standardization in measure, the importance of the pub to working class movements in England and for the eventual (and contingent) rise to dominance of elite, "pure" science over the public artisan science practiced by botanical societies, and the many ways that beer and brewing have found themselves in the center of contentious political or economic issues within and between nations. Lots of information, and a step outside my comfort zone in terms of familiarity with scientific terms and concepts. A good challenge and lots of fun!

In addition to these King's courses, I took a second year spanish class that lasted both terms. It was a lot of fun as well, and allowed a lot of time to learn and practice, as the class was no bigger than five or six people on a give day. I feel a lot more proficient than before, as you'd expect, and plan to make Spanish and Latin American Studies my second honours subject.

My future plans are to spend all of third year at Kings, continuing with Contemporary Studies, Spanish, and working towards a minor in History of Science. To really get fluent in the language, I want to spend a year in Spain from around September 2015 to Summer 2016. I have a program lined up in Salamanca that will take care of remaining requirements in my degree, fortunately. Then I'll head to King's for one more year and finish up everything needed for my combined honours. I'm continuing to strive for my best work possible in the hopes that I can have one or more papers published in CSP's journal, "Hinge", at least once in the two non-consecutive years I'll spend there. I've submitted several so far, but competition is tough! I'll keep trying, and let you know how it goes :)

I can't express how much it means to have the Pacific Rim Scholarship's help while I continue my studies. I chose to come all the way to King's because it offers a more challenging, interdisciplinary approach to the subjects I have a passion for. I'm tremendously grateful to the Foundation for making it possible for me to put 100% of my effort into my studies, not worrying about running out of money or having to take time away from my books.

Many thanks, and see you on the coast!

Liam Eady

2013 Update from Liam Eady

As far as education goes, I've really enjoyed my first year at King's. The Foundation Year Programme provides a good, well, foundation in the history of the western tradition, from Gilgamesh and Homer to contemporary questions of technology, human relations, etc. Very helpful to get acquainted with some of the big thinkers of Western history, such as Kant, Nietzsche, Mill, and Marx (not you, I'm afraid). King's has a great community centered around these writers and their ideas that I'm very happy to be a part of.

For my degree, I am currently planning on pursuing a Combined Honours in Contemporary Studies and Spanish/Latin American Studies, with a possible minor in Early Modern Studies. This degree would allow me to both deeply engage in the works of the last two centuries' great thinkers (Foucault, Benjamin, Kant, Marx, Graeber, and many others) as well as spend a year abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. It's possible my plans could change in the future, of course, but the advantages of such a degree are clear. King's has some of the best philosophy courses and professors in the country, and I appreciate the flexibility to travel that comes along with an Honours in Spanish.

I've also really enjoyed participating in The King's Chorus, which had two productions this year: the entirety of Carmina Burana by Carl Orff in the first semester and then in the second we performed a collection of english folk rhymes set to music. Although I had to miss the Chorus's final concert due to exams, I still learned a lot from working through these works within a passionate community of amateur singers. We meet twice a week for 1.5 hours, and I also helped fund raise for the Chorus when possible. I definitely plan on continuing with the chorus in September!

As for right now, I'm spending a month in Guatemala before heading back to the West Coast. I'm in Antigua right now, learning about the history of the country's systematic exploitation and civil war which ended in 1996 (the war, not the exploitation). As a Canadian, I also feel it's important to understand how our country and the US contribute to the problems in places like Guatemala, including past efforts to perpetrate anti-communism across Latin America as well as current US and Canadian corporations forcing indigenous peoples off of their land, seldom without violence and intimidation, in order to make way for mining, hydroelectric, and industrial farming projects.
As you can see, there's a lot to be aware of once you engage with the unfortunate history of Western interference in indigenous ways of life, and I'm compelled to learn more in order to understand the ethical implications for me as a privileged Westerner. This keeps me busy most days!

Upon my return to the West Coast, I am hoping to get a job working for the District of Tofino as a Summer Parks and Trail Worker. This job would give me great experience in how the Parks are run on the Coast, which I think is very valuable. It would also allow me to spend time outside and get to know the workings of the District office. This too is important to me, as I am considering a career in planning for the District. Such a career would give me security in being able to stay on the Coast with reliable work, and provide me with new and interesting challenges along the way. I certainly have the will to stay in Tofino for the long-term, which I believe would be an asset to the District.

So there's my recent past, present, and future in a nutshell, I hope it's helpful in your report. Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Foundation once I get back to the West Coast!

2012: Update from Liam Eady

All is well in Halifax, I definitely feel that I made the right choice coming to King's.

The Foundation Year Programme is great, exactly what I hoped for. You can read about it here.

I'm mainly involved with the Chapel Chorus at King's, as we're preparing for a concert in November. I'm running for first year representative for the Chorus, which will allow me to be a part of the decision-making process in the future.

The Dalhousie Spanish Society is starting up soon, and I hope to be as involved as I can be with it, as I'm taking Beginner Spanish as my language elective.

I'll try to get some pictures for the foundation soon.

All the best!
Liam

In the News: Liam Eady 2012 Scholarship Recipient

Pacific Rim Foundation chooses West Coast scholarship winner

By Andrew Bailey, Westerly News
Westerly Newson Thursday, June 14, 2012

Liam Eady is this year's recipient of the Pacific Rim Foundation's $40,000 West Coast scholarship.

He is the fourth Ucluelet Secondary School graduate to receive the scholarship.

The announcement was made Tuesday during Tofino's council meeting.

"Part of our mission is to seek out the motivated student that will pursue in their post graduate work meaningful and fulfilling life," says foundation president Gary Marks.

During his presentation to council, Marks was joined by past scholarship winners Emily Tranfield, 2009, and Adria MacPherson, 20011. The 2010 recipient, Brittany Morgan, was unable to attend the meeting but sent comments for Marks to share.

"Receiving this scholarship has meant an incredible amount to me and made a humongous difference in my life," Tranfield says. "It has lifted what would have been a tremendous burden off my shoulders. Coming to see this year's recipient receive the scholarship really reinforces just how much the scholarship means to me and to the other people of the West Coast," she adds.

MacPherson spoke to the tremendous opportunity the scholarship gave her and expressed her amazement that such a large sum is distributed to local students in the small West Coast community.

"This scholarship is extremely meaningful to the recipient who receives it," says MacPherson. "It allows you peace of mind because you're able to focus on your studies and not have the burden of wondering how you're going to pay for your next year. That's really valuable when you're trying to pursue post secondary education."

Marks read aloud comments that Morgan had sent.

"The scholarship is truly a gift and the greatest honour to receive. I'm so grateful to have been the 2010 recipient and I try my best to work hard to make the Pacific Rim Foundation and all my loved ones back home in Ucluelet, but most importantly myself proud," Mor-gan says.

Marks made note to thank the supporters of West Coast students.

"I'd like to thank all the teachers that have played such a big part in these people's lives. Obviously they have had an impact and a great effect on them and we are very proud of the USS staff for what they accomplish. We'd also like to thank the parents. The parents are obviously key because they motivate each of these people," he says.

Eady thanked the friends, family, and foundation board members, in the audience-all of whom attended the meeting to witness him receiving the award and congratulate him on his accomplishment.

He also thanked the foundation's benefactor for providing this boost to his future's outlook.

"This award means so much to me because of the opportunities it will provide in the years to come."

The above information is reprinted from an original article by Andrew Bailey that appeared in Westerly News

© 2018, Pacific Rim Foundation