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Reflecting on philosophy, great thinkers

POSTED: November 13, 2013 4:01 p.m.
 

Not everybody would find a philosophy class appealing, but when I was a freshman in college I thought it sounded fascinating.

Just the word, “philosophy” sounded intriguing and, well, just smart. I imagined myself saying, “No, I cannot go out tonight, I have too much philosophy to study ... or ponder.”

Now that made you sound like an intellectual.

The first day of my first philosophy class went something like this. Me, along with a bunch of other 18-year-old idealists (and who else would take such a class really), shuffled into the classroom and found a seat.

While I was normally a front-row type of student (yes, I was that girl), for this class I sat in the third or fourth row. Intimidated did not begin to describe my demeanor and mindset.

The esteemed college professor strolled in. To me, he seemed almost God-like.

And that turned out to be ironic, since it was probably the second class when I learned he was not only an atheist but also quite skilled in making me feel stupid for thinking there was a God at all.

But I digress …

So we all found a seat and Dr. Godless proceeded to begin the class. The first sentence out of his mouth was: “How do you know you exist?”

I thought, “What?” Then, I looked down at my notebook and wrote down that question furiously.

He went on: “I would like for whomever here feels they know for sure they exist to please raise your hand and explain to me how you know.”

Now here was a real conundrum. Do you raise your hand and allow Dr. Godless to proceed to make you feel like a complete fool for defending your existence, or do you not raise your hand and basically admit you’re a figment of your own imagination?

One person raised his hand while the rest of us pretended we didn’t exist.

Thankfully, I don’t remember the exchange between the one brave student and our professor. But I do remember Dr. Godless quickly made mincemeat of him.

I’m not proud to say the rest of us cowards ended up laughing at the student’s answers to the questions the professor asked. I’m sure that student wished he didn’t exist after the exchange.

I seldom spoke during the class since this professor made all who did seem like idiots. In retrospect, he must have been a miserable person to so enjoy making young people feel as if they were ignorant and had nothing to contribute.

I did, however, learn much from the material. Even many of the philosophers I didn’t agree with (indeed, many were atheists) were brilliant in their thinking and reasoning.

I found it fascinating to study about Confucius, Rene Decartes, Thomas Aquinas, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, just to name a few of the standouts.

I particularly loved studying John Locke, his writings and how they deeply influenced our Founding Fathers and our country’s origins.

This class greatly influenced my decision to become a history major and continue studying great thinkers and the roles they played.

Thinking about the current state of affairs with our government, I can’t help but wonder why we don’t seem to have any great philosophers or thinkers. The people who talk the most and seem to think they are great thinkers are all politicians.

While I do follow politics, I can’t say I hear anything particularly intriguing, thought provoking or enlightening from most of these people.

I suppose I will just have to rely on past philosophers for words of inspiration.

What would all of those past great thinkers say about the current climate in Washington, D.C.? I don’t think you have to be a genius to imagine the answer to that.

 

Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at contact@adlenrobinson.com.

 

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