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September In high school I decided I was going to study philosophy in college. I had several motives, some more honorable than others.
One of the less honorable was to shock people. College was regarded as job training where I grew up, so studying philosophy seemed an impressively impractical thing to do. Sort of like slashing holes in your clothes or putting a safety pin through your ear, which were other forms of impressive impracticality then just coming into fashion.
But I had some more honest motives as well. I thought studying philosophy would be a shortcut straight to wisdom. All the people majoring in other things would just end up with a bunch of domain knowledge. I would be learning what was really what.
I'd tried to read a few philosophy books. Not recent ones; you wouldn't find those in our high school library. But I tried to read Plato and Aristotle. I doubt I believed I understood them, but they sounded like they were talking about something important.
I assumed I'd learn what in college. The summer before senior year I took some college classes. I learned a lot in the calculus class, but I didn't learn much in Philosophy And yet my plan to study philosophy remained intact. It was my fault I hadn't learned anything.
I hadn't read the books we were assigned carefully enough. I'd give Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge another shot in college. Anything so admired and so difficult to read must have something in it, if one could only figure out what. Twenty-six years later, I still don't understand Berkeley.
I have a nice edition of his collected works. Will I ever read it? The difference between then and now is that now I understand why Berkeley is probably not worth trying to understand. I think I see now what went wrong with philosophy, and how we might fix it.
Words I did end up being a philosophy major for most of college. It didn't work out as I'd hoped. I didn't learn any magical truths compared to which everything else was mere domain knowledge. But I do at least know now why I didn't.
Philosophy doesn't really have a subject matter in the way math or history or most other university subjects do. There is no core of knowledge one must master. The closest you come to that is a knowledge of what various individual philosophers have said about different topics over the years.
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September In high school I decided I was going to study philosophy in college.
I had several motives, some more honorable than others. One of the less honorable was to shock people.
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