By Lee Scott
My son called me the other day and said he was listening to audio podcasts in his car during his commute to work. He was listening to the works of various philosophers and wanted to know my opinion on philosophy. I told him that my experience was limited to one semester in college spent with Plato, Socrates and Descartes. One of the benefits, I reminded him, of a Liberal Arts College is that you are exposed to lots of information that you normally would not choose to be exposed; hence the philosophy class. I told him that it took me awhile to get in the swing of the class, but before I knew it I was saying things like “I think, therefore I am “ a translated Rene Descartes line from my studying.
However, there was pressure at the time to actually understand the class because ultimately I was going to have to write a term paper on the subject. I had to delve further into the class subject rather than just memorize the names of philosophers, where they lived and when. It turned out to be very interesting. I learned about various philosophical theories and the class had some very lively debates. It was enlightening to learn that we have incorporated so much of these philosophies into our society and we are not even conscious of it. The Socratic Method is used by teachers all the time. It is the practice of asking a student enough questions so they figure out the answer themselves without you giving them the answer. As parents, we do this all the time.
But the truth is that after I wrote the term paper and after I took my final exam, I moved on from philosophy until the 1980s. It was then that I was exposed to the comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson created the two characters. The young precocious six year old Calvin character was based on John Calvin the 16th century French Reformation Theologian. Hobbes, his pet stuffed tiger, was based on the philosopher, Thomas Hobbes who was a 17th century English political philosopher. Calvin’s little stuffed tiger would come to life when no one else was around. They had the best philosophical discussions. It was amazing to watch these two characters examine the world around them and come up with some of the most profound observations.
Think about an average six year old child and how they spend their days asking, when, where, how and what. It makes sense that Calvin’s pursuit of wisdom and his dialogue with Hobbes would draw the readers into his world. So it turns out that without realizing it my son and I are still in that pursuit of wisdom. Socrates would be so happy.