As a typical busy student who does not have time to have a proper social life, I am half-forced half-willingly to rest my need of gossip with the academic world. For those of you who spend most of your time inside labs with your lab mates, you have to understand the solitary nature of many areas of study in Arts. We spend most of our days reading, and reading, and writing, and read some more. It really is a solitary exercise.
With that background in mind, I hope you can understand how I can have a more intimate “personal” relationship, though platonic in nature, with someone hundreds of years old, whose writings I spend most of my days reading, than some random person who sits quietly next to me reading similar stuff, who just happens to be my classmate. It’s not as pathetic as it sounds.
More to the point: I play favorites among philosophers. It’s really hard not to, since unlike scientists, who have to keep an objective point of view at all times, philosophers tend to throw in their personal histories or humors in their writings. I once read someone who tried to illustrate his point by telling a fable. I wish I could do that in a term paper.
Anyway, my favorite philosopher is David Hume. I forgot where I initially heard about him, but many of his claims just completely broadened my eyes – either that or I read him in my most naive years.
I didn’t really read too much about him back then, probably because I was afraid to disappoint myself – no matter how ahead of time these intellectual giants were, they were hundreds of years old; it’s really doubtful that their theories will still be “ahead of time” now – or I was just lazy. But this year, I decided to show some devotion to my intellectual idol. I took a seminar course on him.
If my view on him has changed at all, it’s definitely for the better. Any disagreement I’ve had with him so far, he has managed to persuade me, even though I am educated with hundreds of years more knowledge base than he was. What’s more discouraging? He began writing his <Treatise> when he was the same age as I am! Maybe my habit of collecting gossips about intellectual giants is not good for self-esteem. (But it’s fun! For example, did you know Descartes had a thing for cross-eyed women?)
The psychology side of me says that according to many studies done on geniuses, there are two characteristics of intelligence: 1, up to a point, IQ stops to predict success; 2, being smart is not correlated with being happy. But knowing the facts still doesn’t mean I can be entirely free from envy. I guess the only relief I can get is probably from the fact that he spent 5 years writing his <Treatise>, which we will finish reading in about 5 weeks; and we’ll write papers on it, and he won’t be able to defend himself. (It really is the dark side of me, isn’t it?)
Back to the classical question: if I were to have dinner with a historical figure, who would I invite? Probably not Hume, I’m afraid. He would most likely be talking beyond me the whole time. And since we’re on the dark side of me, I could invite Sir Isaac Newton – he had a phobia of women and it would be fun to see how that’s like.
Does anyone else play favorite with historical figures? Who would you invite to dinner?