The following letter to the editor was published in The Observer on March 7, 2013. It was a response to a letter to the editor, “Appreciating philosophy“, printed on March 4, which was a response to my February 26 column, “Our introduction to ‘philosophy’“.
Socrates was killed on charges of corrupting the youth. Dustin Crummett’s recent letter to the editor (“Appreciating philosophy,” Mar. 3) reminds us of the dangers of being a philosopher in the past. He suggests “things haven’t changed.” Perhaps not.
I’d like to charge him with corrupting my words. Mr. Crummett claims my idea of an introductory philosophy class is a kind of “souped-up Catechism” class. But I have little patience for those who would substitute the Catechism for philosophy or even theology. Philosophy is not the same thing as the teachings of the Catholic Church, though the two have a rather interesting relationship. As I actually state, philosophy is concerned with the “meaning and ultimate foundation of human, personal and social existence.” This is one reason why non-Catholics are so important to the University. In our search for meaning, they keep us Catholics from taking for granted what we sometimes presume to be self-evident truths.
I do criticize many philosophy courses for being boring. Mr. Crummett suggests perhaps this is just the selection of subject matter, that people have “different tastes” in philosophy. People may have different tastes, but most students have little taste for the bland. I once made sugar cookies for some students and forgot the sugar. They decided they’d rather skip dessert.
Philosophy professors could try to teach students to do otherwise, but their students would have to be paying attention in class. Socrates never had a problem with this. One might argue this was part of what made him a philosopher. It is said Plato’s Academy had a sign over the door. Perhaps we should get one of these for Malloy Hall. It would read, “Let no one ignorant of sugar enter here.”
Further, Mr. Crummett fails to take note of one significant difference between his situation and that of Socrates. When Socrates died, his teachings were remembered. For many students, after they pass, what their professors had to say will be tossed out like sugarless sugar cookies.
Christopher Damian is a senior studying philosophy. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.