Posted by: yannaungoak | May 8, 2009

Last Day of Classes

I was in the library the whole night finishing off the final paper for the philosophy class. It didn’t really feel strange until I was actually walking to class from the library. Everything was really quiet, not the usual “10am rush to get to class” atmosphere. It seemed like most people decided to skip the last day of classes. I usually did the same for most of my previous semesters, because you know, teacher evaluations are boring, and usually nothing important gets covered on the last day, usually just a mop up and summary type stuff.

But I’m glad I did go to class today, at first it was just so that I could hand in my paper on time, but it became pretty obvious quickly that it was the last time I’ll get a chance to sit in a classroom for a really really long time. 20 years of education, and today’s the last day. Even if I do get to set foot in a classroom in the next few years, it will be in something that is a whole lot different than the whole New England liberal arts experience. That, I’ll never get to have again for the rest of my life.

Philosophy class was basically mop-up and summary type stuff. But it was memorable. I love that feeling of being able to actually grasp a summary of a whole entire field as it currently stands. For something like physics, thanks to all the popular physics books I had some sort of an idea of what the “cutting edge” was like, and you know, the way things proceeded was always in line with the actual historical development of the field, even in a high school textbook, it goes: mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism and then modern physics. When I was first learning economics in high school and in intro college classes for instance, there was this huge gap in my knowledge between what we were learning in our classroom and what was actually going on in the field right now. It didn’t help of course that you just jump right into supply and demand without anyone telling you it’s “so-and-so’s law” of supply and demand, as if economists collectively came up with this set of ideas one fine day in 1921 or something. And then the format is anything but historical. Ricardian equivalence? You get to that on like the 2nd to last week of the macro class, if you didn’t know, you’d half expect Ricardo to show up on TV the next day debating Paul Krugman or something.

Yeah, so history is important. History of thought is especially important, because while all the wars and famines and revolutions and discoveries of new continents were taking place, people weren’t just calmly going about their world changing endeavors. They were thinking.

Well anyways, back to philosophy. When you don’t have that overview of things, it seems like what all these academics are doing is just that much more esoteric. Now, I do have a pretty good idea what today’s economics is about, but philosophy, that’s a whole other world. Philosophy, being philosophy, seems all the more esoteric.

I remember the first philosophy class I sat in for, the Prof said something about the continental and analytic traditions, and how the analytic tradition was killed after Quine published his “Two Dogmas of Empiricism“. I was really interested since then, how a single paper could kill a whole branch of philosophy. Well, after dragging myself through this semester’s class, finally I have somewhat of an idea. Quine’s paper, combined with Kuhn’s book on scientific revolutions, did quite a bit to refute the logical positivists’ worldview, which at the time was synonymous with analytic tradition. And since logical positivism is full of holes, it’s not really that surprising that a single paper could strike down the house of cards. It seems to make much more sense when you put it in context like that. Before all this, I thought that since the analytic tradition was dead, all we had to comfort us these days was the BS peddling continental folks who like to use made up words and tried as hard as they can to be incomprehensible. Luckily, that’s not the case apparently.

Towards the end of the class, we got a assigned a bunch of readings from Richard Rorty, this American dude who is a pragmatist at heart but drew influences from people like Wittgenstein and Heidegger, even Derrida. He seems to be a big deal in late twentieth century American philosophy. Here’s a video snippet from a documentary called “American Philosopher”, which seems to mention Rorty a lot:

I haven’t done any of the assigned readings and I just bought the book yesterday (yes, one day before the end of classes). But now, I think I’ll go back and read the whole book (it’s *THIS* book by the way).

And on the topic of of books, there’s another one that I really have to go back and read. For my other class, an intro to political philosophy, the last book we got assigned was “The Human Condition” by Hannah Arendt. I’ll probably write my final paper on her, and a number of people have said that its a pretty cool book. I’ve only read the introduction, and she clearly writes incredibly well, so that’s a plus.

But right now I’m just downright lethargic. I still have to do one last round of editing for my thesis, and then there’s a whole stack of Physics 101 homeworks to grade. I just want to be done with this. One more week, and its the end of my undergrad years.

And there’s still lots of reading to do, both in order to pass my exams next week, and also for the long term. Nobody these days really actually graduate, it’s always just undergraduation, with more to come. More of everything.

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