Monday, 16 April 2012

Me and philosophy

I am interested in either tangible things (preferably decorative or edible) or in human emotions  - I can discuss both with enthusiasm.  But ideas that are just about ideas are not for me - my brain is not built to understand them (bit like maths).  So it probably surprised friends that as a teenager I answered an advert asking for a young person to read philosophy to a mature gentleman for two hours every Wednesday evening - in retrospect this sounds so incredibly dodgy I'm surprised my parents allowed it.

The elderly gentleman was kind (probably wasn't really that elderly - but when you are under 18 anyone over 30 seems positively ancient - I expect my daughter thinks I should sleep in a coffin - just in case) and very keen to teach me about philosophy.

Strangely the male of the species have always wanted to teach me things - do I look like there is room in my brain for esoteric pursuits?  I have been offered lessons on ancient Greek, electronics, plumbing, UDC Classification (well, he was a librarian - turned that one down very smartly), driving (that didn't last long),  how to play Medal of Honour and a few things I really can't bring myself to share (but I shall treasure the thought - nice to be viewed as adventurous even by delusional people).

Anyway decrepit gentleman (DG hereafter) announces we are going to read Plato's The Republic.  I refer you to wikipedia for more information as I can remember nothing about it (like physics it has been expunged from my memory).

I would read a page, stumbling over the names - Greek not being a language I had ever studied.  DG patiently corrected my pronunciation - but to no avail I just can not remember them.  Then horror of horrors he would ask me what I thought the recently read section meant; not wanting to disappoint I would waffle on until he took pity on me and explained in great  detail.  About half way through the session his wife would totter in bearing  a tray with two mugs of cocoa - I'd pray that at least one was laced with hemlock - frankly I didn't care if it was his or mine.

My new found passion for philosophy had nothing to do with a thirst for knowledge.  It just meant that Mum was happy for me to go into Oxford on a school night and I could combine the reading with a visit to my boyfriend who was a student.  Students were generally not trusted by parents - especially during the hours of darkness.  I was reminded on a daily (hourly?) basis that students were only after one thing (I felt it tactful not to enlighten them on the libido of the teenage girl), but fortunately combined with philosophy, my virtue was thought to be safe.

Coincidentally the boyfriend was also studying philosophy.  He frequently asked if I would like a philosophy master class (the fool) - I swiftly disabused him of this notion and suggested he saved his thoughts on The Republic for his next tutorial.

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