Jones' thesis was in confirmation theory, the area where mathematical logic, traditional theory of knowledge, and philosophy of science all meet. It was an odd niche, technical enough to baffle most people, but with undisputed respectability.
The practitioners were mostly in the Ivy League or on the west coast, and there was, in fact, no one in Cincinnati who really understood what Jones was doing. They might have refused to let him do it, but for two factors. One was the idea that a man who has had papers published in the area must know what he's doing. Scarcely less important was the chairman's insistence that a man who sank Japanese battleships should be allowed to do what he liked.
Jones had arrived in Cincinnati with college credits earned in the navy, and had then accelerated his undergraduate and graduate education. With Wilson Adams' considerable help in cutting a few corners, Jones was now on track to get his Ph. D. in the coming spring.
The other five members of the department had their reservations. It was claimed that Jones hardly knew any philosophy outside his narrow specialty. It was suspected that short-term knowledge of secondary sources had carried him through the comprehensive examinations, and that most of that knowledge had remained in the examination room when he left it. Worst of all, he didn't seem like a philosopher, or any sort of academic. Someone, it might have been young Professor Ennis, had remarked that he looked more like a police detective than a future member of a university faculty.
Mrs. Blakey-Fenton, returning to the Pink Room after an absence of a couple of weeks, commented on this rumor,
"Detectives push people into confessing, even if they're innocent. You push people wherever you want them to go, as I know to my cost."
"Wasn't that little maneuver of ours behind the vending machines your idea?"
"Of course not! You're pushing right now."
"Only in fun."
"You do everything in fun. Academics may indulge in a certain amount of ironic humor, but they don't do things for, or in, fun. They also don't push. They may offer casual advice, but they're careful not to be seen checking whether it's being followed."
"I wonder if they try to discover whether I read the books they recommend to me."
"They assume that you don't. That's obvious to anyone."
"I've read a couple Adams recommended."
"I bet they weren't in philosophy."
"No. Military history. Did you know he was an infantryman in the first war?"
"I wasn't aware of it, but there is a military look behind all that benevolence."
"So he and I have some things to talk about. He remains convinced that I sank a Japanese battleship."
"Count your blessings. The others may not see the connection between battleship sinking and philosophy, but he won't let them interfere with your progress."
"Do you really think they would?"
"I don't know your department intimately, but I'd guess that they'd put you into reverse gear in ten minutes if Adams dropped with a heart attack."
"He seems pretty healthy."
"You never know. Our Professor Gibbs was about the same age. He was fine one day, and the next he was carted away making the strangest noises I've ever heard."
"Did he die?"
"Before they got to the hospital. I didn't like him, but some people wailed and carried on."
"You like Adams, don't you?"
"As much as I know him. Everyone seems to like him. Since he's your protector, you might try to model yourself on him. I re-made myself when I saw the need."
"I can hardly imagine myself being like Adams."
"He's fluent in French and he writes articles about people like Camus and Sartre. How's your French?"
"I passed the test only by choosing a mathematical book that's practically all symbolism."
"Well, Adams wrote a book about Zen Buddhism in Japan without, I imagine, knowing Japanese. You could do that sort of thing."
"Until recently, I was happily killing Japanese."
"That's horrible! I hope you don't talk that way in front of the faculty."
"But we were at war. We were supposed to kill Japs. Adams probably killed some Germans in his day."
"But he'd have an entirely different tone. He'd speak as if it had been a regrettable necessity. There'd be no hint of enjoyment. Like it or not, you're in philosophy, not engineering."
"Engineers are expected to be crude. But philosophy is one of the humanities. The idea is to promote human values, not murder people in their beds."
"I've never murdered anyone in his or her bed. Besides, I'd bring those Japs back to life if I could."
"So you could kill them again! Anyhow, the word is 'Japanese.'"
"We noticed that there were two different kinds. Most were little twisted brownish yellow guys, a lot like monkeys. But dangerous, of course."
"I can hardly wait to hear about the other kind."
"Well, they were more normal, a lot like us with just differences of detail. You know, most didn't want to be rescued by us, but we pulled one out of the water who looked more or less imploringly up at me."
"I'm sure he was the second kind. You wouldn't have bothered with the first."
"It turned out that he'd lived in California and spoke English. But he'd become a Jap army officer, and, of course, he was disgraced by surrendering. So he was pretty anxious to make it back to California."
"I have no idea."
"Did you talk with him?"
"Oh yes. He'd had a severe shock when we ambushed the barge he was in. Rather like you a couple of weeks ago."
"Did he cry?"
"Actually, he did. I don't think Japs are supposed to do that, but he was far from typical."
"Were you kind and sympathetic?"
"Reasonably so. I wouldn't let the crew torture him."
"Did they want to?"
"One of our gunners wanted to tie him up and pretend to be about to cut his genitals off. It was a sort of joke, but I thought it was inappropriate."
"You're putting me on, Jones."
"How do you know, Mrs. Blakey-Fenton?"
"I just do, that's all."
"Ah well, the magazines are full of the problems we veterans are having adjusting to civilian life."
"I've read about men who sleep with sub-machine guns and open fire at noises they hear at night."
"Yes indeedy. I don't do things like that."
"You'd make more progress if you didn't go back to the navy summers."
"That's a research job. I don't wear a uniform, and it's more like a university than anything else."
"But it gets you thinking about the wrong things. Such as sinking ships with PT boats."
"I gave up on PT boats."
"Really? I thought you went to sleep every night with the roar of their engines in your mind's ear."
"I left them late in forty four in the Phillipines when I got sick."
"Did you get malaria?"
"No, that was a jungle disease. We were at a naval base, and I was living in a sort of villa turned into an officers' club."
"Were there Filippina chambermaids?"
"Well, yes, there were some."
"So you got venereal disease from banging them."
"You get rather personal, Mrs. Blakey-Fenton."
"You got rather personal behind the coke machines, Mr. Jones. I'm glad things did get interrupted. Otherwise, I'd probably be having an uncontrollable itching in the area of my private parts."
"Oh, it's all gone now."
"It's probably just lurking under the skin. Anyhow, did it disqualify you from PT boats?
"No, but PT boats had become almost useless at that point. I transferred to submarines, and was being retrained when the war ended."
"So you now see things from a submarine point of view."
"Yes. We could have won the war with subs without the atom bomb and without invading Japan. The subs had cut off their food supply and the Japs were literally starving. They went on starving for some time after the war's end."
"So you now spend your summers figuring out how to win future wars with submarines?"
"Yes. As a matter of fact, I've discovered that what I'm doing here has applications to defence problems."
"You mean philosophy applied to war? An underwater version of Clausewitz?"
"War planning now involves computer programming, and the kind of logic I do is almost like programming."
"Are you more interested in this than in seducing ladies like myself? I bet you are."
"I seldom seduce anyone."
"Strangely enough, I believe you. You're very curious, and you want to undress a woman. You want to see what she looks like and how she reacts. Then, the sticking of the peg in the hole is more or less perfunctory. So you got what you wanted with me."
"The peg can feel awfully good in the hole."
"Yes, of course. But this may be the area in which you're most sophisticated. The nuances count for more than the pure physical pleasure."
"You know, we should check that out. The girl with the sour mouth isn't here today. We could take up where we left off."
"Jones, you are completely crazy!"