Window into my undergrad years: I fancied myself something of a philosopher. A yuppie, middle-class philosopher, attending an expensive private liberal arts college (strictly on scholarships and loans, mind you). Remember that metaphor Joan Didion used about the shaky passport and false papers and being afraid of being found out? That probably applies here. I became intrigued with philosophy as a senior on high school. I wanted to know everything there was to know about philosophy, and the world–well everything that was actually knowable, that is. Wait, how do we know what is knowable? According to whom? What is knowledge anyway?
I was kind of ridiculous. A strange hybrid of too-serious, pseudo-intellectual and selfish, materialistic, semi-entitled suburban kid. Ah, youth.
This pursuit of knowledge often consumes the undergrad, and for good reason. New surroundings, new ideas, new responsibilities, new opportunities for cultural awareness–it’s all very exciting and dizzying. See what you have to look forward to? College is awesome.
So this philosophy stuff. I did an independent study on ethics one semester with this professor who unexpectedly burst into fits of shouting about the ontological argument and the problem of evil: Oh, look! Little pieces of evil! –It was rather entertaining. But we read and discussed Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics and while I can’t pretend that I have retained everything from that (or any other) semester, the concept of “happiness” as well being or eudaimonia, has stuck with me. This is what Vicki Hearne was getting at when she went on and on about animals deserving to be happy. She wasn’t talking about smiley, giggly, I am so happy happiness; she was talking about living a full life.
I know, you didn’t sign up for philosophy lit. and your patience is fading, but guess what? If you’re going to write a compelling argument-driven essay, you have to consider virtually everything. Fun, right?
Composition requires thinking. Critical thinking. Clear thinking. Creative thinking–it’s mental gymnastics, people. Start training.