Post- Magazine

my life philosophy [narrative]

to love by extension

2015

I have no idea why anyone would want a degree in philosophy. Philosopher doesn’t seem like a job someone can apply for, much less have. Plato and Socrates and Aristotle and other Greek men revered for their thoughts seem to have cornered the market. 

“Why that degree?” I ask my dad. “Like, what does one do with a philosophy degree?”

He explains that he just ended up there, and that he had taken the wisdom of his professors for granted. 

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I suppose it helped him with law school, but it seems to me that anything could be applicable to law. Why study thinking and knowledge rather than a field of knowledge itself?

2017

Halfway through Peter Singer’s Ethics in the Real World: 90 Essays on Things That Matter, I find myself utterly captivated. On a walk around the neighborhood, my dad and I discuss our most recent read. The warm sun caresses my skin, lifting the weight of heavy questions of morality up into the air so our conversation feels lighter than it is.

2020

So very bored. Everyone is, though, which makes the boredom ache a little less. My dad, optimistic as always, suggests that perhaps this is the time for everyone to discover a new interest or hobby.

I feel as though I have already found all the things I care about, but he is so excited about the prospect of curiosity that I don’t have the heart to say anything. He buys my brother books on weight lifting and anatomy, as well as a basil plant I affectionately name Basilly. 

The pandemic has relegated me to my computer, to a 2-D world that I try desperately to imagine as 3-D, as real—or close to it. I begin my college search because it feels like 3-D places make the 2-D screen feel more like 2.5-D.

My first search is something to the effect of “best colleges for writing.” English makes sense as a degree: for me as a writer, for me as a student, for me as a girl committed to not losing her mind or sight of her dreams.

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2021

I’m only a few weeks into my first semester at Brown, and I can already tell I have drastically messed up my course selection. My anthropology class demands a book per week, and the books are the kind that I might need a month or two to read, three or more to understand. My literary arts class is quite terrible, too: The authors that come to “speak” just read their books out loud. On Zoom. After we’ve already read the book that week for homework. My linguistics class is beyond confusing, and as I make random noises in the library, I realize how foolish I must sound to the average passerby. Voiced plosive g’s? Voiced labial stops?

But my ethics class is my intellectual saving grace. The professor, an older woman with a cat as her Zoom background and a bonnet atop her head, is quite possibly the smartest person I have ever met. Every argument is turned inside-out, upside-down, backward, forward, and right-side-up again. Every thought is deeply analyzed, down to its core, and reconstructed with mindful attention.

It’s like I can feel my brain getting bigger.

2022

I’ll just take one more class with that professor…

2023

This one sounds interesting too…

2023, Later

December of my junior year only feels like such when the first snowfall drifts by my window. It strikes me—quite hard—that I graduate in a year and a half. I’ll be graduating with an English degree I am not quite sure what to do with and a backpack full of dreams that take me in different directions, any of which would be fine by me.

I pull my advising dashboard up on my computer screen to check my progress. In looking at my courses, I note the amount of PHIL that appears in the numberings.

I wonder

In a new window, I pull up the philosophy department’s concentration requirements and find myself checking off most of them.

2024

“Because why not, right? I’m only three classes away,” I tell my dad. He tells me that’s awesome, and he’s proud of me, and he wishes he’d put the same effort into his philosophy courses as I do mine.

The first day of my Philosophy of Mind class, the professor hands out a syllabus that has exactly two books on it. When I send the titles over to my dad, he warns me that it might be hard, possibly too hard.

“It’ll be fine,” I assure him. “It’s interesting! And if I don’t understand, I’ll just ask the professor.” There’s too much stigma around admitting you don’t understand something—I find there is strength in just accepting it.

“I was always afraid to ask questions in my classes. Good for you for just asking, Sarah.”

A few days later, my dad tells me he bought one of the books and intends to do the readings along with me. I simply cannot help but smile, imagining him 1,000 miles away but flipping the pages of the same book as me. 

When the first readings are assigned, I send him a picture of the pages.

I have completed my homework. When are your office hours? I have a couple questions, he texts me one snowy afternoon. I glance at the unread chapter I bookmarked, and text back oopsies might be a little behind!

I only have one class and I’m auditing it so I have a lighter schedule :)

All my other classwork suddenly feels less relevant in light of a text from him, so I switch over to my philosophy reading instead. Determined to understand everything before my dad calls, I highlight the text like never before. 

In our little book club, we ask whatever questions we have. Between the two of us, I think we understand it all.

“By the way, I get it,” I say before we hang up, “I get why you majored in philosophy. And if it makes me anything like you, then I’m glad I’m following in your footsteps.”

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