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Paper Topics

Three or four weeks left in the semester and we enter into the home stretch. Or the gauntlet as the case may be. The difficulty is usually in the choosing of topics and then the writing of the papers. For this we have at least a half solution since all of the papers that I have to write about all have topics. This is a good thing as the largest problem with the finishing of the semester is the choosing of the topic. Once committed it’s really frustrating to have to give up and start over. Of course this is what I have had to do already, I hate this time of year.

Early modern philosophy the topic has switched so many times that it is quite frustrating. I would have thought that this would be my favorite class given the time period and the philosophers that we are covering. A simple paper on political philosophy seemed looming tying in the theories of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau and how they all had something to learn from Machiavelli. I was even thinking of figuring out a way to cite myself, just because I could. Then we covered Adam Smith and his book “On the Wealth of Nations.” The interest here was that while I know very little regarding economics, his theory surprised me. It surprised me because like Glen Beck and his ilk not understanding the actual writings of their heroes Jefferson and Paine on religion in general and its role in government (that had no official place), Smith’s free market theory is greatly misunderstood. The misunderstanding isn’t some subtle nuanced thing that only liberal academics perceive. It’s explicit that the those who can afford it should be taxed in order to provide for those who cannot to preserve the existence of the nation itself. This appealed to me given that I love pointing out these misunderstandings and because it is currently applicable in the real world.

Then we moved on from the subject but the research had begun. Machiavelli also warns of the danger of allowing the private individual to become too rich and powerful. It was a working idea. It still might work for some other time. As long as there are still idiots citing Smith’s free market.

Then we passed all of that and the ennui set in. Until we hit Descartes. Long time readers know how much I dislike Descartes. Yet we focused in on the Ontological proof of God’s existence in class and it was professed as an end to the argument regarding the question of existence and God. I had, what may be called, a difficult time with this. My problem with this proof is that it simply doesn’t work and it’s completely plagiarized from St. Anselm of Canterbury whom Descartes claimed he had never read.

It’s not my atheism that was angered in the presentation of this proof. It’s the proof itself, and thus my paper writing was ignited by passion for what I disdain rather than what I prefer. The Ontological proof makes a key mistake in that it makes an illogical leap from concept to reality. Just because something can be conceived does not mean that it is actual. Philosophers with the weight of Aquinas and Kant (both extremely religious people) have argued against this proof. Aquinas’ refutation was so devastating against Anselm that the entire concept of the proof was dead for centuries until Descartes re-worded it.

The worst part was that it was pointed out that Descartes had written a proof that was completely similar to Anselm’s to which he replied, “I’ll shall read Anselm at the earliest opportunity.” Instead of doing that however, he dies. Typical Frenchman.

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