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Zahm should promote free thinking

Letter to the Editor | Monday, December 4, 2006

I am disappointed to hear of the shift toward a more docile Zahm Hall. Somewhere in the early nineties, in between various lewd and obscene acts, I found time to read some Nietzsche, who tells us that “the genuine philosopher lives ‘un-philosophically’ and ‘unwisely,’ above all imprudently.” The Zahm I knew enacted that philosophy, which now appears to be repressed and/or misunderstood.

Individuality, creativity, fearlessness and a willingness to question dominant values are qualities that I hope Notre Dame values. Zahm, as I experienced it, was a place that encouraged those qualities. When your neighbors commonly run around naked, you are clearly and perhaps at first unsettlingly in a realm that values self-expression. And in such a realm, many of us unsurprisingly felt more free to voice our takes on the world, however blunt, unpopular, insightful, stupid or profane. This was a delightful antidote to the polite, safe and unchallenging discussions that dominated some classes, then and now.

Preventing dangerous behavior is one thing. But I hope that Zahm and the Notre Dame community do not enact a philosophical shift that confuses bland, polite, TV-friendly compliance (looked at the Notre Dame Bookstore catalog lately?) with maturity and intellectual growth. If a university is to create leaders and free thinkers – and Zahm unquestionably did that – it must encourage them to take risks, to be unwise, imprudent and, on occasion, publicly nude.

Dr. C. Prescott Sobol


Class of 1994

Dec. 3