Reading Generously

Last night we had a Symposium for our reading of Plato’s Symposium in my preceptorial. It was a delightful close to a wonderful class, and I am very appreciative of the opportunity to have been in a class like that—everyone was eager and thoughtful in their contributions, obviously reading the text closely. Since we were able to spread out the whole text over the course of the semester, we could take our time and really focus on particular passages and even return to them again later on. I think that it was also different from my other classes because the majority of my classmates and my tutor were middle-aged at least! So they brought an interesting perspective and humble self-assuredness which I found very refreshing. Of all my classes, we laughed the most in this one and really enjoyed each other.

My last tutorial for Philosophy and Theology was also a good conclusion to a productive conversation throughout the semester. We finished Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, and I was surprised to find myself defending Nietzsche against some of my classmates! Now, Nietzsche does say some pretty nasty things about all sorts of people, and women especially, but it’s easy to jump to conclusions from those aspects of the text and perhaps lose sight of the whole.

This effort at sympathizing with the text at first in order to grasp it—even with texts that you find most grating—is something that I have learned throughout the semester. It took a bit of a failure to do that myself in order to realize how necessary it is—that is, my tutor thought that I was not sympathetic enough in my reading of Hume and thus didn’t present or explore his arguments as well as I could have in my essay. I sort of took it for granted when I wrote my essay on Aristotle that I was naturally sympathetic with his arguments, but when it came to Hume, I was much more quick to want to raise objections. I totally see this now, and even though the objection-raising was satisfying, I know that the fruits of trying to understand those arguments that I disagree with are critical to the development of an adequate response to them.

I have noticed in class that when a fellow student becomes too worked up about or too antagonistic toward a particular aspect of a text, then the conversation begins to suffer and we all walk away a bit frustrated because we got stuck one one or two points without much progress. I am not at all trying to suggest that we should ignore the difficult parts of the text or anything like that, but that it’s best when we try to account for those troublesome passages within the logic of the text itself and from there we can evaluate it. Again, I have failed to do this too, so it’s not something that I am perfect at but I am trying to become better at it.

I still have one final paper to finish on Nietzsche and then I will be able to do some leisurely reading and writing before school starts again in June. I have decided to finally read some articles that I have been stuffing away in a “To Read” folder for the past two years. And, the big project right now is potty training Anselm….

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *