Monday, September 14, 2009

wishing caps etc.

Came to class despite strong objections from spouse and daughter ("You look terrible!") and am glad I did. Our discussions of James and Socrates, postponed from Friday, were edifying. And thanks to our volunteer discussion moderators, my voice is still audible.

I was surprised to find how few of us think we'd want to live in James's imaginary "wishing cap" world. (But I'll bet if we asked ourselves how many of us think we could do with a few more fulfilled desires, we'd pretty nearly all line up with WJ... masochists move to the rear, please.)

The contrast between Socrates and Galileo was helpful. The latter gave his accusers what they wanted, a public confession. Only under his breath did he mutter "it (the earth) still moves." Socrates wasn't willing to to be a different person in public than in private, even if it cost him his life.

I love Gabby's brother's unposted tree analogy blog post: "stop worrying about your branches, just grow!"

I confess, I was a bit shocked to discover how few recent High School grads have even heard of William James's younger brother Henry (aka "The Master"); but at least most said they'd encountered Thoreau and Emerson.

And finally, Mike shared with me what may have been the most insightful observation of the day: Socrates chose to die for pedagogical reasons, to spur his fellow Athenians (and eventually you and me) to think about what makes life worth living. With his dying breath he was still teaching, still trying to provoke critical reflection. If that's right, he truly died for philosophy... and for freedom.

And so it's no coincidence that the death of Socrates introduces our next chapter, "The Meaning of Life."

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