on nature

This is kind of inspired by Rob’s post on myspace. Believe me, I was hurting for something the last two days to write about. Perhaps his post, and my visit to the Rochester Greek Festival had something to do with it, but this is how I got into the Philosophy business.

As a kid, I was always into odd things. It pretty much goes without saying that you don’t find a lot of abstract thinkers on the sports’ field and I was about as far away from the field as one could get. I played Soccer, but that was more about my parents wanting me to get outside and do something than it was about any sort of love of the game. I actually don’t like soccer at all, and my preferred position was pine rider (although I normally played halfback). My attention was usually drawn to obscure forms of literature and odd concepts. This was before the History Channel and “history’s mysteries” so television wasn’t going to help me out, the only philosophical work I could readily get my hands on was the Christian Bible and that was assigned reading in school…so i wasn’t actually going to read it. Besides, I needed something to casually flip through at church on Sundays.

In highschool I bought a copy of Sun Tzu. I still have it, it’s not a great translation but I keep it because it was the first book that I ever purchased that could be considerred Philosophy. I don’t know what drew me to it, perhaps the scene in passenger 57, or my love of history, nevertheless I knew that I wanted philosophy but didn’t know what to buy. The most probable reason for that book resides in its length. For all of the history/reputation the book has it undergoes a “Mona Lisa” effect. It appears larger in the mind than in reality. A casual reader could probably finish it off in a day. I must have read that book a thousand (literally) times by now, although I have switched to a more academic version.

After that came “The Prince.” This however is not about my life long love of Machiavelli. I was told to read the book by my friend in highschool, because he was reading it for history II. I bought a copy of that (still have it too) read it once and threw it on the bookshelf, in truth I didn’t like it. The writing was too dry and most of the time I had no idea who the author was talking about, but knew that Tupac fans always talked about the book. Although none of them ever read it.

Most people that know me have the impression that I have always been a Philosophy major. But I haven’t been, my original major was Law. I have one class at Buffalo State, Introduction to Criminology, which I aced. It was about the objectivity of the law that appealed to me the most, at least that is what I thought the law was at the time. Throughout the course I gained an insight that the law wasn’t anything special, it was merely a system of rules that did one of two things: facilitated the functioning of civilization and protected the right to property.

This realization pretty much disillusioned me from the persistent study of the legal system. Well, that and the next semester I foolishly signed up for a 400 level course, and was a bit daunted by the reading requirement. It didn’t matter though, the school bumped me from the class anyway. After that I transferred to SUNY Fredonia, to study Video and Digital Film Production. One cannot overstate the importance of that decision as it set me on a particular path both professionally and personally (I met my wife there). Oddly enough, the first Philosophy class I took was a 300 level class called “Philosophy of Law” where we dealt with the above question in a direct manner.

One might say that I dumb fucked my way into philosophy. This is a pretty accurate statement. The thing is, that my first year of college I wasn’t at Buffalo State full time. I was at Trocaire (where I would later teach) just taking liberal arts classes. By the time I transferred to Fredonia I had most of my Liberal Arts core finished and had many free slots in my schedule. The Film major’s four year program is set up where only certain classes are given per semester, this means that it WILL take a person four years to finish it. I took Philosophy classes to fill in the holes.

Typically I favored Dr. Stephen Kershnar. This was due to the situation regarding the final papers for his class, you could opt out of writing one if you were willing to participate in a debate in front of the class. I have never had much of an issue with public speaking so it was easy for me to volunteer. It’s one of the reasons that I did so well in Philosophy courses. Writing, although later becoming a strong facet of my abilities (though not in this post), was not something I was willing to work on. Plus, my mind works very quick it was easy to force an opponent to commit to a position only so that it could be torn down later. I took enough of those classes that the department head, Dr. Raymond Belliotti, suggested that I take on the subject as a second major. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Kershnar handed me an application to Grad school at the University of Toledo.

I applied to Grad school not because of a love of the subject, but because I was pretty much adrift after college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and prolonging that decision just made things easier. That was a decision that would have serious reprecussions later, as professional academics almost killed my desire to continue on. More on that story in the future.

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