Monday, August 14, 2006

Teachers, philosophers and kids... oh my

This was an old draft...having pangs of conscience I removed it from the site at the time. But hey, the paper did get an "A" - even though the student got an "F" in the course. Which proves that try as one might, all good intentions's stupid, wrong and ultimately impossible to live someone else's life for them.)

Today I spent six hours working on an eleven page paper about a certain German philosopher whose first and middle initials are "G.W." Said philosopher, also considered a father of calculus, a mathematical genius and all around 17th century renaissance man, once proposed Eastern European countries band together to wage war on the non-Christian nations, beginning with Egypt.

Ironic, isn't it -- like Al Pacino in Godfather III, I keep trying to get away from politics, but it keeps pulling me back in.

Stay away, any warmongers with the initials of G.W.

The difference between the two men (aside from the whole calculus, genius stuff) is that this G.W. of old is still somewhat respected.

But for what, I ask you? For passages like this:

"...the most perfect of all beings, those that occupy the least volume, that is, those that least interfere with one another, are minds, whose perfections consist in their virtues. That is why we mustn't doubt that the happiness of minds is the principal aim of God and that he puts this into practice to the extent that the general harmony permits it."

Which is fairly straightforward, in comparison to, say, this:

-"...all true predication has some basis in the nature of things and...when a proposition is not an identity, that is, when the predicate is not explicitly contained in the subject, it must be contained in it virtually....Thus the subject term must always contain the predicate term, so that one who understands perfectly the notion of the subject would also know that the predicate belongs to it."

Pardon my crypticism (and for that matter, his) when it comes to full disclosure as to his name. You see, the paper wasn't mine to do. Lest my enabling of beloved children and placating of former teachers be unearthed, I'm forced to remain fuzzy on identities.

Said child was ill for days and in her normal state of procrastination. The teacher was apoplectic over the last "missing" assignment. His voice had a catch in it when he begged for the next paper to be done on time. A catch! I wanted to reach through the phone and give him a hug.

There's also that little matter of a paper I wrote in one of his classes over 20 years ago --- the one where he served as the Scrooge character to a class full of Tiny Tims, their Christmas vacations ruined by a creative writing assignment.

Guilt and karma, baby - they go together.

It was pity, all the way around. Rendered still more pitiful, given one night to try and understand G.W.'s hypotheses on God, substance, predication's influence on subject and the differences between contingent and necessary truths.

And that was before the physics stuff.

To my admittedly pedestrian eye, philosophers always seem to hedge their bets. Explains why many were lawyers and politicians. Maybe it's a genetic thing, a predisposition for abstruse wording obscuring fairly direct concepts. Like that sentence.

But, good God and butterflies, it's annoying.

I mean, he spends twenty minutes, 7 billion words and thousands of pages meditating on monads and how they carry God's essence. After that comes a two sentence paragraph that essentially says, "on the other hand, I may be wrong." The precursor to page 28 newspaper retractions about front page stories stemmed from philosophers.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't making sense of things in an orderly fashion supposed to be a philosopher's shtick? Cut to the chase, already!

It's like watching the movie Cold Mountain: hours and hours of pain for five second's worth of an ending that renders the entire exercise meaningless.

"Whoops, sorry. Nevermind!"

So, anyway, now I want desperately to go back to school and I'm feeling terribly guilty for cheating in high school -twenty years after high school - at the same time. Not to mention the fact that this post is nearly as bad as what it's complaining about: a whole lot of necessary sifting through stuff to arrive at one simple conclusion.

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