Wednesday, September 19, 2012

To my Philosophy Professor

Dear sir

I've been reading this week's assignment centering around the famous Scottish Philosopher David Hume's work entitled "Treatise on Human Nature" (excerpt of book I) and, in an effort to better understand his often circular reasoning, decided to research the man himself. What I learned was shocking. Shocking because I thought the logic sounded familiar, but wasn't sure where I'd heard it before.

I hate to break the news to you, sir, but you've been had by an albeit brilliant sixteen year old boy. That's right. David Hume was just sixteen when he wrote the Treatise. Don't feel bad. It appears that many thousands before you were too. Quite obviously none of you people ("you people" being multiple generations of philosophers) were parents of teenagers or you would have recognized the argument immediately. I forgive you and I will illuminate you as to what he was actually doing when he wrote this argument.

Quite obviously David had taken out the family carriage (and/or horse), probably without permission, and wrecked it. In an effort to cover his tracks, David sneaked home and went about his business as though nothing had happened. Unfortunately for David, a younger sibling had seen him in the act and, as all younger siblings are wont to do (let's face it, their lives are otherwise so empty), tattled on him.

Thinking quickly, David came up with the following argument. "Yes I did steal the family carriage (and/or horse) and for that I'm sorry. But that does not mean I was responsible for wrecking said carriage (and/or horse). It's simple logic, really. Just because two events happened together or at the same time does not mean one caused the other."

David's mother, though brilliant herself and not believing her son's statement, demanded that he write out either a) a short essay apologizing for what he'd done and explaining what he was going to do to make it up to the family or b) a much longer essay explaining the logic behind his argument. Like many rookies, she miscalculated as to the stubborn nature of teenagers and believed that he would choose A as it was shorter and less complicated. Instead she received the essay that has now flummoxed generations of philosophers and tortured Philosophy 101 students. I recognize this mistake because I was once a rookie myself.

You're welcome. No thanks necessary. Just send cash. My teenagers are still eating all my food.

Mary O Paddock


Stacey Roberts said...

Hey! My teenagers are still eating all of my food too!

But I digress. Loved the post. Why? Although I did not take philosophy (my pretty little head could not understand it--too complicated), I was similarly afflicted on the literature side - my professors forever telling me that Hemingway clearly meant this, and Faulkner meant that. They too were taken in. Great post! Hope you get the cash. And feed those kids some green vegetables!

Mary O. Paddock said...

Hi Stacey!

Believe me, I did not CHOOSE to take philosophy because I thought I was smart enough to handle it. In fact, I'm starting to suspect I'm not. I'm taking it because it's required for a BA (along with TWELVE HOURS of a foreign language. Unfortunately Yiddish wasn't on the list). I just keep reminding myself that in a year and a half it will all be worth it (????)

As per the vegetables--excellent idea. Know where I can get some really big onions?

Debby said...

LOL. Another post is needed to let us know your teacher's response!

Debby said...

Onions? Go to Georgia.

Pencil Writer said...

Loved this post. I'm with Debby: please post your prof's response! Can't wait to hear what happens! ;-}

Ray Veen said...

Awesome! I've missed your musings, Mrs. Paddock.