Aristotle, Descartes, Schopenhauer: these are my pop icons of preference.
I love thinking abstractly, challenging assumptions, asking why. Conversations about whether we can know anything
for certain, what makes a government valid, and what constitutes the purpose of life, were for a long time
confined between my best friends and me at school lunch tables and dance parties. This I thought was a problem
because I knew there were debaters, writers and teachers who would delight in discussing topics such as democratic
theory and transcendentalism. So I founded a club called the Philosophy Round Table to serve as the intellectual hub
of campus, exposing students to the realm of philosophy (economic, political, metaphysical, etc.) and providing a medium
for those already interested to express and refine their ideas through the rigor of public discourse.
At each meeting I bring background information regarding current schools of thought on the topics at hand. My colleagues see the exhaustive research I must do as burdensome work, but really it’s just another one of my quirky choices of fun. For instance, driving to school each day takes me an hour, but I make sure it’s not an hour wasted, for instead of listening to pop music, I listen to academic lectures series such as “Ideas that Shaped Mankind,” “The History of Moral Thought and Ethics,” “The Enlightenment and the Birth of Modern Humanity,” and “Political Philosophy from Plato’s Cave to Game Theory.” On the walls of my bedroom hang not posters of the latest hip-hopsters, but portraits of my real heroes: Ralph Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Ben Franklin, Theodore Roosevelt, and FDR. I crave to write books: on the history of the Iraq War in the style of Thucydides, on the cultural and intellectual fissures giving rise to domestic upheaval in Iran, on the short falls of America’s political system. I delight in writing essays whenever I see room in my private studies to contribute original thought. On one occasion I brought to the Philosophy Round Table my essay extending to present day America a theory found in Federalist Paper #6 regarding sectarian interests overarching the public interest. I didn’t mind when its shortfalls were revealed by my colleagues who attacked its underlying premise of utilitarianism, because I firmly believe that in every exchange bearing free ideas, diverse perspectives, and a loose attachment to individual biases, everyone experiences intellectual growth.
I established the Philosophy Round Table on the principle that the aim of argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress. It is in an institution infused with my passion for fostering a critical atmosphere, for challenging complacent and irrational beliefs, and above all, for intellectual revelry.
Our latest meeting was a blast. Skepticism and David Hume, Marx vs. Smith, ideas galore! It was the Wednesday Society of 18th century enlightenment Berlin, and I was Moses Mendelssohn. When we got to the basis of temporal morality and what makes something right or wrong, dramatic dialogue erupted as the Table divided. On one side a gentleman argued Kant’s Categorical Imperative and deontological ethics; on the other, I – with Friedrich Nietzsche, argued post-Modernist moral relativism. For an hour we poked holes in each other’s arguments, striving to demonstrate how truth laid on our side. At the end as we were going home, my opponent conferred to me that he in fact favored Nietzsche. To which I replied, “Good! because I in fact prefer Kant. Maybe we can learn from each other.”