Croquet and Kant

On Saturday we attended the 34th annual croquet match between St. John’s College and the US Naval Academy. It was quite a spectacle! Thousands of people, dressed in eccentric “Gatsby”-style outfits or just preppy dress, gathered on the front lawn of St. John’s while the two teams wacked their balls across carefully mowed grass. The navy team wore wonderful retro sweaters and uniforms, and the “Johnnies” were dressed in Dickie’s overalls and straw hats. We did not stay for the entire match because the kids were getting restless and the crowds prevented us from really relaxing and watching anything except the awesome Navy swing band. We heard later on that the Johnnies won!

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It’s been a while since I wrote anything on my classwork. For the most part, I have been busily occupied with many good things. For example, two weekends ago we bought and moved a used piano into our apartment. It has been so wonderful to have a piano in the house, even though none of us can play it all that well!!! We also started a weekly tradition of a joint family dinner with some friends in our neighborhood. Every Sunday night we now have dinner together and then the moms and dads split off to do our own faith study/accountability meeting. Thanks to that, I am back to waking up at 6 every morning and getting a lot more done first thing. Joseph had been sleeping terribly and I was letting myself sleep in to try to make up for the lack of sleep, but I was just generally feeling tired all the time. I think we are both coming out of that difficult period.

I had an essay due on Hume last Monday–I wrote about his account of liberty and necessity which I mentioned last time. Again, I found it to be a very helpful exercise in trying to understand Hume’s arguments, especially after I spoke to my good pal Shivani, a student of philosophy, who encouraged me to give him a more generous reading. I am not sure that my response to Hume has changed much, though! Sorry Shivani!

We have already moved on to Kant in both the tutorial and the seminar. We are reading his writings on metaphysics and morals. I had never read any Kant, only about him (Roger Scruton, a philosopher that I respect very much, writes on Kant a lot). I honestly don’t know what to say about Kant! He builds off of Hume in that he thinks that things in themselves are not knowable, but that we can know how they appear to us and we can observe how our minds perceive and make judgments about things. Thus we can construct a system of knowledge and even morality based on those “appearances.”

Something that has struck me in our discussions of Kant and Hume is that the class seems very much divided by people who accept their basic premise and those who do not. There are several in my class who accept with apparent ease this premise that the things “out there” or outside of our minds are not really knowable. Those same people seemed to have little patience for thinkers like Aristotle and Aquinas, whose premise is the total opposite! My own leanings about the subject are very Aristotelian. I can’t really even explain why (at least not yet, maybe that will be a further project for myself). But all I know is that Kant and Hume’s basic premise does not at all feel consistent with reality, and thus it is difficult for me to accept any of their other conclusions about things. Nonetheless, I can appreciate and do find fascinating Kant’s emphasis on understanding the way that our minds actually process and make judgments about the world. Also, so far we have gotten hints in the reading that Kant, unlike Hume, asserts that free will exists, so I will be interested to see how he gets there!

 

 

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