Philosophy: what’s the point anyway?
One of my more interesting days in school occurred in what should have been my final year, when we had returned to Canada after a year in England, during which I miraculously passed 5 ‘O’ levels (which gives one a Grade 12 equivalency for people who know how to count linearly).
Returning to my old alma mater for what they called Level 4 (because they also could not count linearly - I think they are trying to hide from you just how incredibly long you have been on the receiving end) one of the courses I had to take was Philosophy. And in that short first, and only, week of Level 4, we discussed whether or not the desk in front of me was really there. In London, at Parliament Hill School for Girls, a nice word for the inmates, on my first day someone set one of the bathrooms on fire, and a ‘girl’ told a teacher to fuck off when she asked her to take her feet off her desk.
Such youthful promise. This photo is from 1983, 5 years later, when the economy and outlook had clearly improved greatly:
So my attitude, having been somewhat expanded by this experience, was basically of course the desk is ^&*%#@* there, and I feel like putting my ^&*%#@* feet on it to prove it. But I have always been too polite to tell anyone to ‘f’ off though, even at my worst. I think I argued for a bit about how it didn’t matter, because I could use it whether it existed or not, and then I left, never to return. The desk’s existence might have been in question, but at least the door appeared to be real. (I might add, had I not walked out that door, I would not have re-met my hubby, or had my wonderful kids ... what looks like a screw-up can be the best thing that you do.)
That was when I was 16. Now I am 50. It still drives me crazy discussing whether or not the desk is real, and while I now understand the question a little better, being somewhat wiser between my years, much philosophy can be relegated to the intellectual stratosphere to fester with the simple question, “Does it make any difference to my behaviour.?”
Take the popular and hard to destroy concept that everything is a figment of your imagination. Then a) your imagination really sucks; and b) does it actually change any of your actions? Or any of mine? Can I still punch you? Yes. So stop worrying about it.
Perhaps philosophy is sort of like comedy. Much is terrible, but it is worth suffering through for the occasional brilliant gem. Plato’s Cave analogy. The Socratic method. Zen. But wade one must, and through brackish waters. My middle child and I were (this actually happened) discussing Camus’ L’Etranger in the kitchen and it turned out we both thought that Camus approved of everything that happened - why would they make you read that book in high school? - when we first were reading it.
What is my point? I don’t have one! And here’s why.
We have some good old friends with whom we, for some reason, were unable to have dinner without ending up going to bed at 4:00 a.m. (because we were discussing philosophy of course, not playing pool, visiting the garage, or strangely gyrating in the living-room to popular, if dated, beats). This resulted in us giving up any thought of getting home when we visited, and I was never much of one for baby-sitters, so we accepted our character flaws and stuffed all the kids in the basement for sleep-overs, bribed them not to emerge, and got down to business. But they would emerge, at dawn. This was always problematic, and the strongest of us would try to answer any question with, “You can do anything safe within the confines of the property that does not involve adult supervision.” This, however, being much too difficult to say early in the morning when one is ‘tired’, my girlfriend invented the concept of a “free day”. Words we could utter without much motion, and that were clearly understood. Eat what you can scrounge, watch what we would let you watch (or stretch the limits because we are weak), don’t be too loud, and don’t fight. It was tough, as there were 8 of them and only 6 of us, but they were mostly well trained.
Now it is me getting up at dawn, and the youths sleep ‘till noon unless provoked. But it is still a Saturday, and everyone should have a ‘free day’ now and then (and no one ever can stick to a topic anyhow, so I am virtue-ing out of necessity, don’t tell anyone).
On top of which, there have been some heavy hitters posting, and I am still digesting a few key points. The dichotomizing of argument and my woefully under-thought out investing strategies, being chief amongst them. Not to mention checking the temperature of the warm water I seem to be gently simmering in.
So it seems like a good day for a ‘free day’. Just don’t fight or be too loud.
BTW, I think this Hobbes might be right.