(aka Jesus Christ I’m writing blog drafts on my Facebook feed)
(originally written on my Facebook wall)
The loveliest views inspire the broadening of horizons, and a deepening of connections in the world, never mind that it’s in your computer screen. Philosophy is about beholding views, both lovely and ugly, and seeing both the big picture as well as the small details. Wonder and rigor. Paghahanap ng kabuuan. Ang pilosopiya ay parehong pagtingin at paggawa. Pagtingin ng mas mabuti, talaga nga ba ang nakikita? at mismong paglalakad sa mga pasilyong minsan lang nadaraanan. Pakikipag-usap. Pakikipag-meron. That’s why it’s so exciting (and so difficult).
I’m studying for my contemporary philosophy orals, and it’s my first “proper” non-core subject philosophy orals, so it is momentous, for me, in its own small way. I’m supposed to take for 12 minutes straight, which isn’t a problem, usually (CLEARLY), except now, I have to talk about someone(s) that people have been talking about for decades.
I love how Dr. Bulaong uses the metaphor of acquaintance VS friendship when it comes to talking about philosophers and concepts, in thesis statements (or lack thereof). When you’re just acquainted with what you’re talking about, there’s no sense of ownership, no connection, no attempt at intimacy—what you end up doing is just a bio-data-like rundown of the philosopher’s life, and answering questions as they are. “Oh, I know /of/ Marx, isn’t he Communist Manifesto Dude?” It’s robotic. And boring as hell. So boring, you start losing interest in what you’re talking about and end before you’re supposed to. You leave the room regretting you ever entered it.
But the same way when I ask you to talk about someone you know really well, there is a sense of excitement, a shining of the eyes. It is never boring, talking about someone you know in common. You can only know someone (and see, and understand) someone in your own special way, and therefore, you can talk about that someone in your own special way too. And you will be able to get to talk about that person to someone who knows him/her well. So, of course, the interesting conversations arise from the differences in perspective. The important thing is to make sure you have to fundamentals, the facts, about your common friend right, and then take it from there. (Listening well in class, engaging, and participating, usually does the trick for the first few steps in synthesizing knowledge.)
For example, Nietzsche can resonate with one in terms of self-empowerment (with his famous Übermensch); to me, Nietzsche is all about the strength of being a (real) pessimist (and this is tough, because my intellectual, emotional and philosophical disposition is always towards…well, sunshine).
Marxist rhetoric is, of course, one owned by many, but for me, Marx inspires academic rigor fueled by purpose (evidenced by how Das Kapital came out after the Communist Manifesto). Galing talaga, kung papaano siya nakagawa ng sistema para maintindihan niya, at ng iba, yung mundo. (At kung gaano ito katotoo. MAHIRAP ‘YUN AH!)
Freud is always misconstrued as the sex-dude, Mr. Oedipus Complex, but to me, it takes intense courage to swim underneath, to the cold-depths, to as far down the iceberg as you can get. And to use that and publish it so the rest of the world can participate in the knowledge (although of course, one can always argue that this is fueled by a more primitive drive to be noticed…by his mother) is just…mad, man. And I like how he values the little things about human beings, the small things that people take for granted—slips of the tongue, dreams. I like that he looks at human beings as they are, not as what they can be instead. (Ehem world of forms ehem)
And Frege, who is not a master of suspicion but is dear to me now
anyway, by planting the seeds of analytic philosophy, echoes one of my main frustrations in life (and love): why are people making things so damn difficult to understand? (Without meaning to?) I can’t talk about Frege without breaking out the “Because I’m a Comm major…” line.
If you’re doing orals for the first time this semester, take it from a fifth year-er who has done orals with Dacanay, Ferriols, BobbyGuev and Calasanz (yep, I totally just name-dropped, and I’m dropping names of Theology professors in a discussion about philosophy, because we’re on the topic of oral exams), METHOD IS EVERYTHING. Meaning: find your way to the “end” in your own way. Group studies are good to test ideas, but I’ve learned that the ideas, concepts and thesis statements that I’ve owned are the ones that I really found a way to tell in my own words. And the way to do that is to have an experience of it. (This does not apply to Bobby Guev’s orals. I repeat. This does not apply. He doesn’t really care for your feels until he’s sure you’ve understand the matters at hand. This applies to everyone, but moreso for him. )
Oh, and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND. This means if you find out how your professor does orals (always ask this on the first day), then you have to study accordingly.
For example, Bobby Guev puts a premium on your grasp of concepts and ideas and he only needs 5 minutes of you discussing the main concepts and the threads that tie them together. He doesn’t need your insight, not yet, while philosophy professors tend to put a premium on your mastery of the whole and what you think of it. You can begin and end talking about anything your own way, while passing through the requisite signposts (concepts). Calasanz will pick a thesis statement (sometimes there aren’t any) and he will patiently listen until you say something interesting. This means POOLING TOGETHER YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF ~*EVERYTHING*~ and SYNTHESIZING. With Padre Roque it’s somehow similar, except you had to be ready for curveball questions (some professors don’t ask questions).
This is important. I repeat. Begin with the end in mind. Do not slack off on pre-work. Diagrams are good ideas to make sure you have the connections right, sentence outlines are good as well to make sure you have the words and understanding down pat. Do both (and more, like I said, up to you). Instead of preparing early, listen, listen, do your own work outside of the classroom and review what you know (aka what you /think/ you know), each step of the way.
Other than that, I implore you to not see your orals as merely an obstacle in the way. I used to. But after some successful oral exams (and some DISASTROUS ones), I find that the reward is not the grade (I don’t even know how I fare sometimes), but in realizing that when you look back, even a year later, you recognize that you still know the thesis statements, know what they mean, know what they stand for, and, best of all, why and how they matter in life, outside the classroom. Sayang kung hahayaan mo lang ang pagkakataon-na-maalala mawala dahil nagcram ka.
(Which reminds me: Thesis 7, Prodigal Son.)