By now many readers will have seen the Reddit post written by a physicist seeking advice about what to do about her Hegel-obsessed philosopher-of-science husband. It was posted in the Heap of Links the other day, and all over social media—to the extent that “Hegel” was trending on Twitter.
The post begins:
My husband and I are both academics. We’ve been married for 3 years, and been together for 6. He is an academic philosopher and I am a physicist. He has recently expressed displeasure that I’ve never seriously engaged with his work. Now, I’ve read a bit… Unfortunately, everything he’s shown me has just seems completely insane. Here’s the problem: his work apparently involves claims about physics that are just wrong, and wrong in a very embarrassing way!
She details some of those claims, points out various problems, and claims his pre-occupation with Hegel “has reached the point of creepiness,” noting that “he keeps a framed picture of Hegel on the nightstand in our bedroom.”
The problem grows and culminates in a fight:
Recently we got in a huge fight because he was trying to demonstrate an example of the Hegelian concept of the “unity of opposites” (whatever that means) by claiming that right and left hands are opposite but also identical. I told him this is just wrong and that right and left hands are not “identical” in any meaningful sense (chirality is a basic concept in geometry/group theory: left and right hands are not superimposable). He kept putting his hands together and tried to show how they were “identical” and kept failing (because they’re not) and then got angry and stormed out of the house. I haven’t seen him since (this was about a day ago) and texted him and haven’t heard back.
There’s some speculation that the post is a hoax. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with it.
I was trying to imagine versions of this, modifying the wife’s research area and the philosopher with whom her husband is obsessed in ways most likely to generate similarly ridiculous fights.
It can work like a kind of MadLibs:
Husband works in [area of philosophy] and is obsessed with [philosopher].
Wife is a [expert career].
Recently we got in a huge fight because [husband’s philosopher-based actions or statements are at least apparently inconsistent with what the wife knows in virtue of her expert career].
Husband works in the History of Philosophy and is obsessed with Hobbes.
Wife is a primatologist.
Recently we got in a huge fight because he has become increasingly bossy, saying that Hobbes showed that you needed one strong power in charge otherwise we’d have a state of nature in which life was nasty, brutish, and short, and that we needed to apply this to our family. I told him this is just wrong. Studies of gorillas and our other close primate relatives show that they, in their state of nature, are able to exist largely peacefully. He kept drawing prisoners dilemma matrixes to support Hobbes’ view but got angry because he kept putting numbers in the matrix that didn’t add up to the results he wanted. When I reminded him that gorillas don’t have prisons anyway he stormed out of the house. I haven’t seen him since.
I bet some of you can do better than that. (And you needn’t be beholden to the specific husband/wife roles, of course.) Go for it.