Some have a philosophizing bent. Not me. I’m pragmatic. I want to get on with whatever it is, not sit around considering it from one aspect and then another, possibly winding up in either a metaphysical tangle from which it’s impossible to extricate yourself or a shouting match with whoever was going to help you address the problem.
Given this mind set, I never took a straight philosophy course in college. Perhaps I was also scared off by my first serious boyfriend pronouncing me illogical. Of course, the subtext of his pronouncement had to do with sex — he being all for it right away and me putting up multiple objections to such haste. On departing for a semester at his own remote college, he urged me to acquire a copy of Cohen & Nagel’s Introduction to Logic; it would help me think properly when he returned for Christmas break. I hated Introduction to Logic from its very first page. Besides, it had nothing to do with sex. I shut the book and never looked at it again.
However, I did take a great senior course called The Individual and History given by a lanky and charismatic professor named Charles Trinkaus who didn’t know how charming he was. For him I turned the pages of the Bible and assorted works by, inter alia, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Benedict, Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Voltaire, Hegel, Engels, Marx and Freud — before forgetting most of what I had read.
With this sketchy training from boyfriend and professor, plus an unforgettably snotty remark from a first and early husband (but no other philosophic weapons at my command), I nevertheless entered adult life equipped with three magic bullets that fully resolved differences with another person, especially whenever I was feeling cornered — and permitted moving forward on whatever really mattered. If you too are a pragmatist and find yourself not doing so well in a talk-fest, be my guest.
1. Snotty putdown.
(So that other guy should not gloat when you’re stuck.)
“Now that you’ve got the last word, what are you going to do with it?”
2. Too wise to nit-pick.
(You said A; he or she said B; you’re not sure what to say next.)
“What are we arguing for? As Hegel said, It’s all thesis, antithesis, synthesis anyway.”
3. Self-referential deconstructionist.
(My favorite. Justifies everything. Best employed with Gallic shrug of shoulder and twinkling eye. Also from Hegel, via first serious boyfriend trying to impress me on the beach the summer we met. )
“The world is my idea.”
How can anyone argue with that?