08 January 2007

How to Take a Philosophy Class: History

Most everyone who goes to college has to take a mandatory philosophy class, usually taught by somebody who'd rather be doing anything else at the moment but lacks the ambition and personal grooming necessary to do so. Unless your dream was to someday rather be doing anything but teaching an introductory philosophy class, you may not have enjoyed the class. You may not even have done quite as well as in your Marketing 101 course. Don't worry, marketing is far more useful.

If you didn't go to college, philosophy class probably isn't your thing anyway.

This helpful guide is meant to acquaint the reader with a brief history of philosophy which, although incomplete and often markedly inaccurate, will nevertheless supply only the very best information on the subject. Other installments will approach additional philosophical subjects such as epistemology, metaphysics, and how come Sisyphus never thought to try some kind of pulley system, in much the same way.

The subject at hand is history, and not, as some have conjectured, the distracting use of the passive voice. Please consider The Disrespect for Truth has Brought a New Dark Age (sic) by Paul Craig Roberts as an excellent example of equally excellent historical philosophy. Pithy, too.

For those of you who have vastly more important things to do, such as business homework, than read the entirety, or any, of Dr. Roberts' essay, I will summarize his helpful approach to historical philosophy:

First, establish a connection with your audience. Every good philosopher cares deeply, passionately, and deeply passionately about truth. Dr. Roberts writes, with a sort of passionate depth, on truth. He writes for truth. He writes in truth, and other prepositions as well. The only people I know who don't care about truth are liars.

Second, make distinctions between who knows truth and who does not. Philosophers have always done this, and there's really very little reason not to. After all, an opposing standpoint means plenty of debate appearances, paper opportunities, and book deals. Supply and demand, friend. In his essay, Dr. Roberts clearly states that some people did not care about truth, then some people did, and now people don't again. Quite lucid, you see?

Third, and finally, always associate truth with whichever period of history, philosophy, religion, political entity, government, cult leader, or product you like the best. Dr. Roberts has wisely chosen the Enlightenment, which is an excellent choice etymologically speaking, and popular as well. Luckily, the clue is in the name. First came the Dark Ages, when nobody cared about truth and mostly mucked about getting plague and the like. Next came the Enlightenment, when people cared, I mean really cared about truth. Sadly, according to Dr. Roberts, that did not last, and we're all headed back to the Dark Ages, which will probably be bit of a misnomer as we'll all muck about getting plague in fluorescent lighting.

To recap: Connection, Distinction, Association. We at Meatiocrity thank Dr. Roberts for his insightful essay and unwitting participation in this installment of How to Take a Philosophy Class and hope that you have found this, the first of many guides, helpful in your philosophy class and everyday life.

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