Enlightenment

university_of_michigan_by_bagera3005-d4kqxbrWhen I first came to the University of Michigan, I was only focused on getting good grades so that I could get a good job.  All the work I had done in high school and was doing in college was towards my life in the future. Every time I wanted to take a break or procrastinate on an assignment I told myself that it would all pay off in time.  My thinking has changed somewhat, I still truly believe that my hard work will pay off in time but I am more focused now on actually learning for the sake of understanding the world around me.

The best way I can prove this shift in my attitude towards education is through the progression of my blog posts.  My first blog post, A Mathematical Proof of Menand’s Theory 1 (please not that this hyperlink is to a list of my blog posts with my most recent on top), is solely about getting a job after college.  I thought that simply receiving an education in anything, as long as it taught me the skills necessary for the job I wanted, was acceptable.

As the readings in my Political Science 101 class began to become older and authored by more famous philosophers, they also became more cynical.  My second blog post followed my reading of Huizinga’s definition of play and Bartlett Giamatti’s Take Time for Paradise.  Huizinga, a 20th century philosopher, defined play as a disinterested world in which we enter where there are no consequences or worries. Giamatti wrote that people love to watch sports because essentially they are attempting to live through the players.  By watching their grace and coordination we feel the positives such as the thrill of the win or a great play without having to feel the negatives like injuries or financial dependence.  I saw spectators at sporting events becoming enthralled and aggressive in the stands.  I witnessed fans attempting to live through the players and although I understood why the spectators would want to experience the game through the athletes, and even though I participated in it, I was still partly disgusted by the behavior I was seeing.

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau

This was the beginning of the downward spiral of my view of our society. My opinion of humanity was further soiled after reading Hobbes’ Leviathan, a book in which Hobbes defines social contracts and how humans interact with one another. Hobbes believes that our state of nature and war are synonymous and a main theme throughout the book is how humans are intrinsically fearful and selfish. Rousseau and Locke are two other philosophers who studied and theorized about social contracts.

Burke

Burke

  • Rousseau made points of how originally we were self-sufficient individuals but over time we became more civilized and began to live together and once this occurred we had social contracts in place to suppress our selfish desires for the good of society.
  • Locke delves more into whether we live in a state of nature versus a state of war. He argues that when we are free to pursue our own wishes and act as our own judge then war will always erupt. Only if we have a moderator or some force in place will peace be attained.
  • Burke was probably the most pessimistic of them all. Burke is a classic conservative meaning that he believe that there should be slow change in government and society. He explained how whatever class or profession people are born into is the place that they will die and trying to change is a fruitless effort.  He even went so far as to call the general population a “swinish multitude”.

After reading and analyzing these works how can one not be depressed about the future of humanity?  Apparently we are a group of dirty swine who will stab each other in the back whenever it will benefit us. We can’t trust each other, we have no control over our futures and the only times in which we were actually happy was far in the past in states of nature that will never be attainable.

But as I wrote earlier my thinking about college has changed. Before I was only concerned about money, which still has its perks: security, success, status, and pride. But I have decided that I want an education that will help me to understand the world rather than one that will only make me financially wealthy. So after contemplating the repugnant nature of humanity I thought, “What is the purpose of all these works? Is it all just to make us feel bad about ourselves? Do the authors think that they are above the rest of us and that they do not fit into their own descriptions of society?”

I believe that the reason we have these works today is to separate us.  There are those who will take Hobbes or Burke and become depressed at what they read.  And then there are those who become inspired to prove their definitions and theories about human nature wrong. In my third blog, Defying Hobbes Rules, I write about such people, mainly they are soldiers and daredevils. If I can take my education and what I’ve learned in Polisci 101 and use it to emulate the characteristics that these people possess- bravery, confidence, benevolence- then it doesn’t matter what job I have because I will be living a truly fulfilled life which is greater than any sum of money.