Why am I majoring in philosophy, you ask? Certainly not to get any sort of job. Philosophy is a major for jerks who simply want to be smarter jerks. And make no mistake. I AM a jerk.
Or maybe it’s because I’m a Know-It-All who actually wants to figure out why people want to know it all.
Or maybe it’s because philosophers tend to think with their mouths (or words) and I have a mouth that won’t shut and words that never end.
Someone in my ethics class told me I was a Know-It-All who thought that if I talked long enough, it would give me a better grade.
Actually, what he said was “Every response I’ve read from you since this class began, you come off as a “Know It All”. I also like how you have this notion where the more you type, the better chance your grade will be good. Since you’re taking this class, I’d suggest you look into netiquette. But I’ll end this here, because it’s turning into something more than it really should be.”
Yes, that’s right. “The better chance my grade will be good.” I’d post the entire discussion here if I felt like it, but it’s really not worth it. It was like arguing with a third grader.
I could have responded with “Yeah, every one of my teachers since kindergarten would agree with you.”
Or, I could have responded with, “Well, I do have a 3.8 GPA and happen to be majoring in philosophy…. sooo…. there’s that.”
But then I would have to say that I am majoring in philosophy because I want to be a better writer. Why do I have to go to college and major in anything in order to be a better writer? What’s worse, why can’t I just shut up and write? Do I really need all this schoolin’?
Obviously, I do or I would have a book published by now. Which means I AM a know-it-all who talks too much because I have nothing to back it up.
Philosophizing is rough business. First, you’re questioned at every turn. Why major in philosophy? Why not something like English or political science? You can still be a writer with those degrees! Plus you can do lots of other things!
I don’t need to do lots of other things. I don’t need to major in English. I’ve read all that shit, and will spend the next two years correcting the grammar and punctuation in all my textbooks. No, thank you.
Are you going pre-law? Pre-med?
No and no.
Philosophizing is rough business. First, you must realize that you cannot argue any claims or make any claims for or against anything, or even understand those made by other famous philosophizers without meticulously reading the biographies of every mind behind every theory. If you simply lay on the foundation of textbooks, you’ll look like a fool and feel like you’ve been tricked.
Sure, they’ll quote Mill or Hume or Hobbes and ask you to understand and respond. But do you know Mill, Hume, and Hobbes? No, not what your textbook says. Have you actually read the book from which the quote/argument/claim was pulled? Have you read any of their biographies?
Textbooks and professors love to take words out of context. I have come to believe that professors especially love it because it makes them feel as if they know something you don’t. Because they do. So, when a student responds to an assignment without properly arming themselves with information, but by simply replying to a statement made by one of them thar famous philosophizers, they actually might be taking an idea or quote completely out of context. It’s great fun for the professors because they get to sit back and read a student’s assignent as said student shreds Mill to pieces for being a chauvanist bigot. Or blasts Hobbes for being nothing more or less than a communist, knowing nothing more or less and studying nothing more or less than what was in their text.
And a professor can go either way on students properly armed. Many of them appreciate the fact that a student can argue with knowledge. Others are taken aback when challenged and demand your sources. Others simply stare at you and ask why you’re bothering with college at all.
I’m bothering with college because (here’s a shocker) I need self-confidence. That’s right. I need the confidence, and the knowledge that forms the foundation of it, just to be able to step outside my comfort zone and allow someone besides my husband to read my work. I need the self-confidence to continue my work.
But more than that, I need to understand people. That is the most confounding issue I have with writing. People. I can spin a beautiful sentence. I can unwind a gorgeous poem. I can create all sorts of wicked sci-fi gidgets and gadgets. I can turn spacetime itself into my own ball of Play-Doh and make the ekpyrotic universe theory seem totally plausible. But people? Oh! Races? Species? Foreign and domestic? Alien and Earthling?
I need help.
If I can’t understand the path to knowledge of our own species, how can I even begin to create another? I don’t need psychology or psychiatry. I am fully aware of our defects and the way we interpret the human tendency to stray from the status quo.
I simply need to understand the biological machine that is the human brain, when and why its desire for understanding begins, what shapes its interpretation of the data it’s fed, how it uses that data to form a claim, why it chooses to defend the undefendable or- more importantly- why it chooses to fold in upon itself the face of data it cannot compute and, in the end, why and how it yields to the entropy that ultimately renders it obsolete.
If I can uncover the secrets of the Earthling, then there is no alien I cannot set against him, set beside him, discover him, or be discovered. There is no mind that is off limits to me. There is no cognitive chaos I cannot unwind or set loose. Reasoning, rationality, purpose, and emotion- their function and dysfunction- will be mine to create and destroy as I create and destroy the worlds from which they came.
I must learn people before I can create not-people. People have been the thorn in my ass since the day I was born.
What do you imagine when I say “yellow pencil?” I imagine a yellow pencil. But is my yellow pencil yours?
I shall college myself until I find out. In the meantime…..
Yellow. Fucking. Pencil.