The 8 Ghastly Phases of a Philosophy Major

The Intro Phase:  First Semester

  • This is where it all begins.  Four years from now you’ll be able to argue the Rousseaus from the Hobbeses like circumspection from circumcision, but right now you are just getting your feet wet with Basics of Philosophy and Philosophical Writings.  You learn what an argument is without ever actually being asked to make one.  The professor will be a young, grad school student (read: barely employable), reciting the lecture verbatim from a notebook he made between his routine morning coffee binge and his 8:00 am seminar on “Why determinism is futile, and why we should care?” (The answer is we shouldn’t).
  • You are the only philosophy major in the class; everybody else sitting around you will be there for that easy Humanities/Elective credit.  They will spend all semester questioning your good senses for choosing philosophy as your career track, but it won’t bother you because you spent that afternoon orientation carefully reading that brochure assuring you that philosophy is, “a much admired and valued degree in various professions.”  Your future is limitless, you’ll think, in all these “various professions” (read: teacher).
  • Semester’s Final Counsel:  This phase is nothing but idle tripe, nonetheless, whatever you do, do not grow a handlebar moustache.

 Ethics Phase:  Second Semester

  • The last semester of your first year as a prospective philosopher, and the topic now is Ethics.  You finally get to apply all the things you’ve learned about arguments to actually make one of your own.  The problem is that unlike last semester, here everybody is striving to get that sweet, sweet philosopher status; also they all have beards.  Following along with their construction of an argument is like listening to Aristotle, being discussed by Aristotle, in ancient Greek.  You’ll be lucky if you can make one coherent sentence all semester long.
  • The professor is a middle-aged man, enthusiastic about teaching, because he never managed to do anything else with his degree (spoiler alert).  He will bring up interesting moral topics like abortion, and the holocaust, and watch with frustration as his students completely miss the point on everything he is trying to say; being greeted only with vague buzz words like “antecedent”, and “zeitgeist”, and if enough time is available, repeated non sequitur references to “cognito”, “ergo”, and “sum”, won’t be far off.
  • Semester’s Final Counsel:  Through Socrates’ self-sacrifice, we have achieved the zenith of Kant’s decrepit absolutism and Schopenhauer’s dreaded pessimism.  The conclusion:  A true philosopher can namedrop like a motherfucker!

Logic Phase:  Third Semester

  • The first semester of the second year will be unlike anything you have learned in the first.  For the time being, there will be no more words, no more names, just plain arguments like you have never seen before.  Literally, the arguments will be unrecognizable to you, as they will consist mostly of simple letters and symbols à la:
    • 1. ((C v D) ∙ (~C v ~D)) ∙ ((~C v ~D) → ~(D v E))
    • 2. ((C v D) v ~(C v E)) → ((~C v ~D) → ~C)
    • 3. ((D v E) → C) ∙ (~D v (D v E))
    • 4. (~D ∙ (~C v ~D))→(~D v E)→(~D→(~C→~E)))                  /~E
    • 5.  (C v D) ∙ (~C v ~D)               Simplification (Simp.) 1
    • 6.  ~C v ~D                              Simp. 5
    • 7.  C v D                                  Simp. 5
    • 8.  (~C v ~D) → ~ (D v E)          Simp. 1
    • 9.  (C v D) v ~ (C v E)                Addition (Add.) 7
    • 10. ~ (D v E)                            Modus Ponens (M.P.) 6, 8
    • 11. (~C v ~D) → ~C                  M.P. 2, 9
    • 12. ~C                                     M.P. 6, 11
    • 13. (D v E) → C                        Simp. 3
    • 14. ~D v (D v E)                        Simp. 3
    • 15. ~D                                     Disjunction Syllogism (D.S.) 14, 10
    • 16. ~D ∙ (~C v ~D)                    Conjunction (Conj.) 15, 6
    • 17. ~(D v E)→(~D→(~C→~E))  M.P. 4, 16
    • 18. ~D → (~C → ~E)               M.P. 10, 17
    • 19.  ~C → ~E                         M.P. 15, 18
    • 20. ~E                                    M.P. 12, 19
  • You have argued well, and proved your case in a clear and mathematically logical manner, the only challenge facing you in this semester is not dozing off and/or reconsidering your major, because let’s face the facts:  The best part about having a Liberal Arts major is the limited amount of math proficiency you are expected to master.  But having to spend fourteen weeks treating letters as numbers in place of formulating a grammatical syntax, will force you to conquer a beast you swore never to awaken in the first place.
  • Semester’s Final Counsel:  There are truths that are recognizable best by mediocre minds because they are most congenial to them; there are truths that have charm and seductive powers only for mediocre spirits; and there are faces for which no beard can fit as flatteringly as their frat brothers insist.  If you are not among the first two, then you are undoubtedly among the hairy-faced third.

Aesthetics Phase:  Fourth Semester

  • Having survived Symbolic Logic you’re going to be feeling pretty confident about yourself as a prospective philosopher.  So confident that you will feel the need to demonstrate your ability to people who will at best smile politely at your recitation of James Rachels, while inching further and further away from you, hoping to make it to an exit before they give in to the urge to cordially remind you how nobody present gives a flying fuck about what some guy they’ve never heard of has to say about anything.
  • You will throw yourself wholeheartedly into the course material, and make every effort to impress your gray-haired, thick-bearded professor with your advanced knowledge of argument deconstruction.  Your grade will be a B+, when you inquire as to why you did not receive an A, you will be met with inspiring advise of, “I dunno know, it was good, but it had no umpf.”  And if the writings of past thinkers are any indication, philosophy without “umpf” might as well be cat piss.
  • Semester’s Final Counsel:  Aesthetics…well…your verdict is as good as mine here.

Seminar Phase:  Fifth Semester

  • The Upper-division status has finally been reached, and because you have survived to year three as a philosophy major you will be rewarded with access to seminar courses.  The point of a seminar class is to expose philosophy majors to a graduate school environment of lively debate and philosophizing, but what it really does is expose male students to a shameful feeling of regret that had begun two semesters back when they realized they had joined the mother of all sausage fests, as the only three women present in class will be the two who are already dating (each other, that is), and the one who is thrilled enough by the call of philosophy to major in it herself but not confident enough to break her engagement to the pre-med senior whose career path doesn’t involve theorizing how the form of forms are not equivalent to, but indeed superior of, the form of the good.
  • Your first move will be to stand out by delivering an impressive comparison between Utilitarianism and Moral Relativism, only to be shot down by a discontent peer wearing a red/black El Che shirt.  Your attempt to counter by pointing out the objector’s hypocrisy of blending consumerism with an anti-consumerist Marxist will end in completely failure; making you an enemy for the semester who will stop at nothing to prove your arguments illogical, like a bespectacled, beret wearing Evil Spock from Philosopher’s Hades.
  • Also, you have three semesters left to go, and the patchy beard you have grown to fit in with the philosophy crowd is looking less and less appealing (not that it was ever appealing to anybody to begin with, looking like a dehydrated Chia Pet).
  • Semester’s Final Counsel:  No one can tell the truly great how to live.  Now shave your face, you look like a complete tool.

Nihilist Phase:  Sixth Semester

  • The place where every philosopher ends up at one point or another, and the place which many never go passed either.  The writings of past thinkers are hereby irrelevant, the input of peers is dreadfully boring on a good day, and insufferable on a bad day (the latter being most days).  You no longer need to hear the arguments for this and that, because ultimately it’s all drivel.  Specks of wasted energy, in a universe devoid of meaning and purpose.  You will see no contradiction in proposing that you have it all figured out, while simultaneously asserting that there is nothing to figure out.  And you’ll mock the brainwashed sheep who point out the dilemma in your rationality as unenlightened fools.
  • Your professor will be some soft-spoken crank or another, or perhaps an unorthodox traditionalist; it doesn’t matter.  The important part is that he is a distraction to you.  Just another gear in the conformist automaton machine plant of standard issue relevance spouting conformist promoting ideologies bent on keeping up the noncontroversial image of society as a rose steamed garden of possibility and hope.  That’s right, in philosophy there are no stinkin’ commas.
  • Semester’s Final Counsel:  This is a phase for all and none.  If you have made it this far, then you go on and own that walrus styled fuzz, own it for all its worth.

Phase of Complex Diction Usage as Applicable to Thought Expression:  Seventh Semester

  • Once your cognitive processes have surpassed the volatile state of nihilistic solipsism, you will possess the mental prowess to ascend beyond self-despondency.  Such acclivity passed one’s preceding neophyte state of existence, will do fine in gradually disclosing the proper path of maneuvering against the strain of contend experienced hitherto.
  • As pertaining to the caricature one would assign towards the dispositional nature of the professorial order, the only satisfactory descriptive commentary that can be utilized is one of simplistic diction refraining itself from the temptation of convoluted jargon.  In short:  Elocution is the primary objective.
  • Semester’s Final Counsel:  The Grand Unifying Theory of Philosophy:  Everyone is wrong about everything, except me about this.

Epitaph Phase:  Last Semester

  • You’re last semester as a prospective philosophy undergrad will be one of great despair, as your realize that no academic field considers anything below a PhD in philosophy to be worth less than the quantifiers of monadic predicates [???].  Thus, you’ll spend the last semester left taking that final deontology class contemplating the next seven years you will be spending essentially repeating the last two years, while slowly but surely descending back to your previous stage of nihilism by graduation.  Happy teaching, Prof.  For it will be your life.
  • Semester’s Final Counsel:  Philosophy is Dead!