A Variation On A Feeling I Often Have In Class

Julian Barnes, speaking to the Paris Review in 2000, on why he was not destined for a career as a philosopher:

INTERVIEWER

Do you think that one year in PPP has marked your mode of thinking, and therefore your work, in any way?

BARNES

Not really. You see, I wasn’t very good at it. I chose PPP because I thought reading literature was a bit frivolous. I had been well taught at school and I decided I didn’t need to go on doing French and refining my French prose and my views on Racine for another three years. I felt I needed something to get my teeth into and I thought philosophy and psychology were proper subjects. Of course they are, but I didn’t seem to be the right student for them; I don’t have that sort of mind. All those genes went to my brother. And I was frustrated to keep finding that philosophy seemed to consist of telling you one week why the philosophy you had studied the previous week was entirely wrong.

I’ve often felt this way while studying political science. I know that the point is to suss out the debates, but it can be frustrating when every last thing you read seems to be right. That is until you discuss it in class and you’re know longer sure who made the most valid point.

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