Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ten Uses for a Philosophy Degree

1. Torment your parents. You're majoring in what?

2. Go to graduate school. You're never going to get a real job.

3. Go to law school. Oh, thank god, thank god, she's come to her senses. She says those logic courses helped her with the LSAT and having studied ethics might be a real advantage. No, of course I didn't tell her that. You want to put her off before she's even started?

4. Become a nihilist. You dropped out of law school? After one year? What do you mean, you're depressed? We're all depressed! But they'll take you back, right, when you come to your senses? And put that black t-shirt in the laundry, my god, don't you own any other clothes? Don't you want a pension and dental? What is the matter with you?

5. Laugh extra hard at that Monty Python sketch about the all-Bruce philosophy department at the University of Walamaloo (Australia, Australia, Australia, we love you!).

6. Fan yourself with it while imagining you're Lasthenea of Mantinea or Axiothea of Phlius, the only women known to have attended Plato's Academy.

7. Get an MFA in Creative Writing. So, graduate school after all. Which is more useless, do you think, philosophy or creative writing? Hmmm?

8. Read your old textbooks when you feel stressed. Seriously, you do that? Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics? Seriously?

9. Get a job in spite of it. Teaching writing? Do you get a pension and dental with that?

10. Write a novel about Aristotle. I began The Golden Mean in late-September 2001. Like many other privileged North Americans in the arts, I was questioning the relevance of my work in the aftermath of the attacks in New York and Washington. I struggled to read and write fiction, but found some solace in Aristotle. The things he thought about 2300 years ago--what makes a good government? what's a tragedy? what does it mean to lead a good life?--were the things everyone was suddenly thinking and talking about. For me, his words were serious, intelligent, contemporary, alive.

One day I read the thumbnail bio in the front of my copy of his Ethics and found myself wondering--just wondering, really. What would he have made of contemporary political polarities? What did he eat for breakfast? Did he like teaching? Why the particular interest in marine biology? How did he meet his wife?

Finally, I realized the only way I would ever find my way back to the abiding worth of fiction was through this most challenging, engaging, and relevant of subjects.


в. said...

Hi Annabel: Here is my own list, as inspired by yours, which I heard you read during the talk at the SFU Library this afternoon... Speaking of which, many thanks for the delightful talk! Your book will be a place of refuge for me from the 'dry' academic reading of the philosophy texts...

Annabel Lyon said...

Oh, ver.a, I laughed so hard at this - brilliant! I'm flattered that you found inspiration in my list. Best of luck as you continue your philosophy studies, and I hope you'll enjoy the novel -