54 is a good age for a person in my line of jive to transform his hopes for sudden recognition of his transcendent genius to hopes for transcendent posthumous success. really when i was but a wee philosopher i thought i could be a transformative figure. insofar as i am in contact with reality, i'd have to be convinced by now that such a thing is not likely, possibly due to insufficient talent. princeton and stanford aren't calling; indeed, it's more like i'm lucky to have a job. i fantasize about a macarthur or something, but i didn't even get the grants i applied for for my sabbatical. i keep writing books and they get published, but putting it mildly they don't launch a discussion, much less whole new lines of actual inquiry, ecsatic worldwide acclaim etc.
now i might tell myself things like this: oh they just don't see how incredible i am because they're too...narrow-minded, conventional etc. however, one would have to notice that radical or unconventional figures often do extremely well. so then it oscillates to: well you must just suck, you pathetic fuckhead. it's hard to tell about yourself how smart you are, or how good you actually are at your job , isn't it? at least, it's hard for me.
so i tell myself that all i can really do is to try to keep plugging away, or doing the best work i can. i berate myself: are you doing this because you believe what you're saying and because you love what you are saying it about - are you doing it for it - or are you doing it to be loved and admired? i want to be intrinsically committed to the material, not the career: that's how i feel i could do meaningful work. but then: i am writing a 'system of philosophy.' it might be tending to become massive. and i have to ask myself: who would read something like that from you? ok if some famous dude at harvard or the sorbonne was doing something like that, someone might publish it and people might read it. but the world surely is not begging for that from crispin sartwell. i do think about audience/success enough to ask myself, stongly enough to make me take the day off, whether anyone will actually read this stuff i spend years typing. and then i find myself in a fantasy: oh you know in 2075 somebody will casually find my book in the stacks of an academic library and go: wow that's amazing! revolutionary! let's write some dissertations about this. i portray myself in my own head - in what i cannot but regard on reflection as really a pathetic attempt to bolster a repulsively saggy ego - as a van gogh, etc: someone laboring away in obscurity in his own time only to sell for $100 million a hundred years afterwards. i waver between crazed grandiosity and useless defeatedness.
just possibly these reflections are somewhat heightened by the news that my ex-wife - with whom, pathetically, i am still in love - is dating an academic who just got a 200k advance on his next book, and whose divorce decree states specifically that should he win the nobel, she gets a third. i am so far from worrying about your pathetic nobels! he sobbed.