Sunday, August 26, 2012

Early Days in New Zealand

Well we made it! After 19 or so hours in the air we made it safely to New Zealand. Our trip over was not without some bumps, however. We arrived at the MSP airport on Tuesday afternoon excited and nervous with very well packed bags. Unfortunately one of those bags was over the checked bag weight limit (it was my bag, not Jess'), so 10 minutes of frantic repacking ensued. After getting my checked bag down to weight by stuffing a number of things in my carry on, however, the lady at the desk demanded that we test out my very full bag to see if it met the carry on specs (you've probably seen those metal guides with the carry on dimensions dotted throughout most airports, spoiler alert no one's bag fits in those.) After my bag didn't fit I was forced to pay for a second checked bag, expensive but cheaper than the arm, leg, and newborn child they charge for an overweight bag. After that debacle we were off to San Francisco, and then, after a short layover, Auckland. Our flight to Auckland could most accurately be described as loooong. Luckily there were plenty of movies to pass the time; Jess also got nearly a full nights sleep. Landing in Auckland brought a bit more stress, as we had only an hour and a half to get our bags, go through customs (they are very thorough, we had to unpack our hiking shoes so they could examine and wipe down the bottoms), recheck our bags, and then walk the ten minutes from the international terminal to the domestic one. We made our flight to Dunedin, barely and very out of breath. The flight to Dunedin was fantastic though, as it was a beautiful clear day and the route goes over the mountains that form the spine of the South Island and then follows the coast the rest of the way. We were able to see some beautiful scenery, including a volcano, and shots of the city. 

One of our landlords, Dayle, picked us up at the airport and brought us to the house. Dayle is a native of Dunedin and has just recently purchased the property with his wife Birgit, who is originally from Austria, to rent out to international students. The house is great, we have a massive room with a ton of space and a great view, and there is plenty of kitchen and bathroom space to go around. Dunedin is a 
The view from our room
very hilly city and while our view is a nice benefit of being on a hill, the trek up and down can be a bit tiring. We spent the rest of our first day in Dunedin, which was a Thursday as we skipped Wednesday because of the dateline, walking around the central part of the city, called the Octagon, on our way to the grocery store, accidentally taking a five hour nap thanks to jet lag, and making dinner. We also met a number of our roommates. In total our house includes an Austrian, three Germans, a Ghanaian, a Canadian, and a New Zealander. All of them are graduate level students of some sort, which gives the house a fun but more relaxed vibe. While we are obviously still getting to know everyone, so far we have being getting along really well with everyone in the house. 

Our first stop on Friday was to  2 Degrees, one of the big phone providers in New Zealand, to purchase cell phones. After that we walked down to the University to do some exploring. After registering at the International Office, we also stopped by the Philosophy Department and were able to meet a number of the professors. One of the other Masters students, Lucy, also took Jess and I out for coffee and we had a nice talk about the department. It seems like a very relaxed and inviting place, and I'm very excited to get started. We also found out Friday night that How I Met Your Mother is a very popular show with our German roommates, who were impressed to find out that we went to school right outside of St Cloud, home of Marshall Erikson. Our first Saturday was spent exploring more of the city, especially the area around the University. Sunday brought the best weather yet, it was 65 degrees and sunny. So we decided to trek down to the beach, it was a bit of a walk getting there but it was well worth it. 
St Kilda Beach in Dunedin
So far we have been enjoying our time in New Zealand quite a bit. It is still a big adjustment, but we are adapting (getting over our jet lag has certainly helped.) This next week is going to include more exploring of the city, and probably a Speight's Brewery tour, and relaxing before my program begins in September. Hopefully the next post will be soon, and not as long as this one! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Inaugural Philosopost

This is what will hopefully be the first of many philosophy related posts on the blog. So fair warning, if you aren't interested in philosophy you may not want to read any further.

I though I could post briefly about the initial plans for the project I will be undertaking at Otago. My main interests in philosophy lie in metaphysics, specifically in the philosophy of time. One of the main positions in the philosophy of time is known as presentism, which in the roughest sense is basically the view that only the present exists. A major point in favor of presentism over alternate views is that it is the most commonsensical and fits our everyday notions of time better than its competitors. This has always interested me because it is an intuition that many philosophers seem to have, but one which I lack. So the main question in my project is to examine whether presentism really is as commonsensical as it is made out to be. I hope to examine this by using a method of metaphysics pioneered by Peter Strawson known as 'descriptive metaphysics.' This type of metaphysical analysis typically doesn't have a place at the philosophy of time table, but to me it seems the perfect starting point for the type of analysis I have in mind.

So my research is going to be broadly construed into four sections. I'm going to start by examining the state of the debate in the philosophy of time, with a particular focus on presentism and the problems/solutions offered by critics/defenders of the view. Next, I'm going to be examining the methodology offered by Strawson and like minded thinkers while also working to see if this methodology can be applied to the current debates in the philosophy of time. Thirdly, I hope to apply this methodology to temporal experience in an effort to analyze the structure of temporal thought. I then plan on seeing how presentism can fit into this analysis, and whether it remains as commonsensical as advertised. Finally, I'll work on drawing overall conclusions about what this means for the philosophy of time as a whole (if anything at all). I'm really excited about the project, and I'll be sure to keep readers of this blog updated as to my progress (and to the inevitable changes which will occur). Below I've copied the title and abstract from my paper proposal. Thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Presentism and Temporal Experience: Using Descriptive Metaphysics to Build a Complete Picture of Our Experience of Time 

Abstract: One of the strengths of presentism has been its supposed intuitive appeal and commonsensical nature. Solutions to many of the view’s problems however, such as questions regarding the rate of time’s passage and the grounding of past truths, move far beyond this supposed strength. In this paper I hope to use the methods of descriptive metaphysics to make clear the structure of temporal experience in regards to possible solutions for the problems facing presentism. One particular area that seems ripe for examination is the distinction between our phenomenal experience of time and our more objective experience of time. In examining this area I hope to arrive at a clearer picture of our coherent temporal experience. 

Last Day in Cook

Today is Jess and my last day in Cook, MN. We've had a great time up here, hanging out with the Maults and relaxing by the lake. The big news from our time in Cook? We are now engaged! So we will be heading to New Zealand as a newly engaged couple, with an eye to tie the knot once we are back in the US next fall. It is pretty exciting times, as we fly out a week from today.

Can't quite see New Zealand from here

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bags Are Packed

Well, we've finished packing our bags. All and all we feel pretty good about the amount of stuff we are bringing. We will now be heading to Minnesota for a few weeks, first to Cook to see Jess' family and then to the cities to see more family and friends. Then, after attending a friend's wedding, we will be flying out on the 21st!

These bags made the New Zealand cut