Recently, through some sort of random event, I ran across an old high school classmate’s citation of a book on philosophy written by a teacher I had senior year. It was an interesting class. It was called Senior Seminar in the Humanities, and it was supposed to be a sort of culminating experience in your high school education. And actually, it was. To quote my friend, “Mr. Falcone essentially published the notes from that course in the form of a book entitled Great Thinkers, Great Ideas: An Introduction to Western Thought, which you are highly unlikely to run across at your local bookstore but which is available from online booksellers.”
So I bought it, and I started reading it this morning at breakfast, and got as far as the section where he describes the difference between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives, Mr Falcone says, essentially believe that people are flawed. Liberals believe that people are essentially good.
I remember that causing me no end of trouble in 12th grade. It still does, actually. I am a liberal, but I certainly believe that people are flawed. Nonetheless, you have to go forward hoping people will do the right thing.
I don’t know — is this a commonly known truth?
Mostly, though, what reading this brought back to me was the feeling of being in 12th grade. It was the feeling of not really knowing quite enough — not knowing quite enough to tell Mr Falcone he was wrong and feel that I had the proof of fact behind me. Not knowing quite enough to really be able to argue anything confidently. Worrying that there was quite a lot I did not know.
It was unsettling.
We each had to do a report on one philosopher, and I got Hobbes when I wanted Hegel. Hobbes was not all that interesting, as I remember. A little too uncomplicated.