I’m doing a philosophy class.
You may have the imagination of J.K. Rowling and Lewis Carroll combined, but honestly, you cannot even begin to imagine the horror. My brother’s hasn’t stopped laughing since I told him. It’s getting a bit scary now.
Anyway, the reason for this is that I am probably what you’d call the least philosophical person on earth. The closest I’ve ever come to philosophy is asking rhetorical questions.
I’m not even sure about how to pronounce ‘philosophical’ (‘phil-O-sophical’ or ‘philo-SOPH-ical’?).
Now that I’ve stated the premise, you’re probably expecting a ‘but’ here:
BUT it turns out I wasn’t that bad after all or
BUT I was so exceptional at philosophy that I could give Socrates a run for his money or
BUT everyone takes rhetorical questions seriously in Philosophy class, so I wasn’t as hopeless as everyone expected.
Nope, that’s not happening.
I’m even worse than I thought I would be, if that’s possible.
It’s fine in the beginning, when everyone’s talking about ordinary things like reasoning and logic and other things I mostly understand. But two minutes later I’m sitting in some sort of ‘Inception’ meets ‘The Matrix’ wonderland, and there’s a little bit of drool gathering at the corner of my lips.
I don’t even know what’s hit me (Okay, I do know – it’s usually a friend smacking my wrist and asking me to stop drooling). But seriously, I have no idea how the conversation goes from a discussion about logic to a discussion about…erm, things. I can’t even tell you what ‘things’, because the ‘things’ are so abstract, it’s like, I don’t know – concepts and stuff. And then there’s all of these principle type thingy-s.
Yes, um, I don’t think this is making for a very effective post.
In my defence though, it’s hard. Really hard. I know that quantifying philosophy as ‘hard’ is inherently against all the principles of philosophy, but then again, I’m not very good at it, remember? I’m trying to make myself feel better by telling myself that people are either philosophical or they’re not, and if I’m the latter, there’s nothing I can do about it. But philosophy itself says that ‘everything is possible’, so being my usual pedantic self, I have to technically be able to do something about it. And I can’t. Which drives me crazy. Well, okay, crazier.
The problem is that I just don’t get the questions. ‘Why do we exist? What purpose do we serve as human beings? What is ‘real’? Is ‘reality’ all just an illusion?’ If it were up to me, the answers to all these questions would be, ‘It’s just…you know, like…so yeah’. You can imagine what happens when the teacher calls on me:
“What do I mean by ‘existentialism’?”
“It’s just like…existing, you know. Something that’s there.” (Pointing vigorously at the ground to fully clarify the meaning of the word ‘there’).
“Yes, but what is ‘existentialism’ in philosophy?”
“Oh, everything. Everything is existentialism. Because you know, philosophy exists.”
“What’s the matter with you?!”
“Um…is that question counted for my grade?”
My verbal answers are terrible and written assignments are much, much worse. I think I’m slowly driving my teacher to the brink of early retirement. When I begin each sentence in a philosophy written assignment, I have absolutely no idea how it’s going to end. I just fumble my way through a dark metaphorical forest of words, picking up random, vaguely philosoph-ish sounding words and adding a few prepositions at strategic intervals. In the end I’m left with some garbled nonsense suspiciously similar to ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves; Did gyre and gimble in the wabe.’ Following is a 100% real excerpt from my first written assignment (tell me if you can figure out what it was about. I haven’t a clue, but I’m guessing – and hoping – that it’s something related to the existence of God):
“Is knowledge connected to belief? Some people believe in the existence of God while many do not. So which of these two groups have true knowledge about God? Moreover, can everything we know be considered the truth? For example, nobody knows the truth behind the concept of God. However, people who do believe in God consider their belief to be the truth and vice versa. So each group knows things differently, but can both groups be correct? No. This means that one group must be wrong.”
Notice how I begin with asking the reader questions that I never end up answering, and then proceed to carefully scrutinize the statement that ‘both groups cannot be correct’, thus arriving at the prudent, nuanced conclusion of “this means that one group must be wrong”.
For the sake of my philosophy grade (and my philosophy teacher’s sanity) I seriously hope that there is a god.
So, I’ll end with some advice for all my fellow non-philosophers out there who cannot distinguish between a philosophy and a rhetorical question:
If anyone asks, you don’t exist.