Friday, April 8

Anatomy of an insufferable self-absorbed wanker.

In my last post, I mentioned that I don't much care for the philosopher Michael Tye. I wasn't going to go on about it, but then I saw this on his homepage:

My interest in philosophy was awakened at Oxford while an undergraduate (though not by my tutor, who spent most of our tutorial time together in silent meditation).

Michael Tye criticises his tutor for not doing enough to teach him philosophy? Well then.

Tye was to be my tutor for the first half of my fourth year at St Andrews. He had just arrived at the university, and so my first tutorial with him was, I think, his first tutorial. Unfortunately, I had one hell of a bad throat at the time and was under doctor's orders to stay in bed — I had a throat ulcer, my doctor said, which sounded alarming. So I called the department, like I was supposed to, and left a message to let Professor Tye know I wouldn't be there. This was totally unexceptional stuff; happened all the time.

So up I turned the next week, feeling better, and the guy just laid into me. He took my ill health to be a personal affront. He clearly didn't believe that I had really been ill; he had received the message I'd left to apologise in advance for my absence but didn't feel the message was good enough in some unspecified way. He informed me that he had turned down a very prestigious professorship in America to accept the St Andrews job, as if that had some bearing on my health. When I refused to apologise for insulting him on the simple grounds that I had not done so, he started his little vendetta against me. He started by giving me two days to write an essay as punishment for my transgression; I refused: I didn't have enough time over the following two days anyway (I did have other classes), and I refused on principle to accept a punishment when I hadn't even come close to breaking any rules. For the next couple of weeks, he ridiculed every single thing I said in tutorials, sneering at me and telling me that my contributions were stupid or unimportant or irrelevant or taken from books that he felt hadn't contributed anything to the field. He also complained that I didn't say enough. (There were three students in those tutorials, and the American girl whose name I forget never uttered a single word. He didn't complain about her lack of contribution.) He made an official complaint about me to the department, including the detail of my missing the first tutorial but carefully leaving out the bit about my letting him know in advance — lying, in other words. Luckily, the then Head of School, Stephen Read, was a very nice and reasonable man who had taught me before and, I think, knew that I wasn't a trouble-maker, so he accepted that I had done nothing wrong and I didn't get any black marks against my record. However, Michael Tye was, by now, refusing to teach me unless I grovelled to him.

Those tutorials were a required course for my degree. The department gave me a special dispensation so that I could still get the degree without ever having to go near Michael fucking Tye ever again.

My interest in philosophy was awakened at Oxford while an undergraduate (though not by my tutor, who spent most of our tutorial time together in silent meditation).

Oh, you poor man. That must have been awful for you.

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