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Identifying the context

MurphyKate Montee | Friday, March 22, 2013

Regarding his recent letter to the editor, Mr. Crummett did not “corrupt” Mr. Damian’s words; he identifies context (“Mr. Crummett’s cookies” Mar. 6). While Mr. Damian did say philosophy is concerned with “meaning and ultimate foundation of human, personal and social existence,” this was (1) a direct quote from Pope John Paul II, (2) in the same paragraph in which he explains that history is a valid subject because it reveals “God’s plan for the universe” and (3) later followed with the statement that a goal of the philosophy requirement at Notre Dame is “to learn to think in depth about the problems posed by a life of faith.” In this context, Mr. Damian’s description of philosophy is undoubtedly strongly tied to religion, and fairly interpreted as a call for a “souped-up Catechism class.”
Furthermore, Mr. Damian’s implied claim that Plato would have approved of a sign saying “Let no one ignorant of sugar enter here” entirely misses the point of the sign reading “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here.” Here, geometry symbolizes abstract thought. This is entirely different from Mr. Damian’s proposal. In fact, the geometry sign supports Mr. Crummett’s argument that introductory philosophy classes are intended to “help [students] reason critically and evaluate arguments.”
Finally, I would like to point out Mr. Damian’s original physics professor example is unfair and offensive. On a campus such as ours, there are literal experts in the relationship between physics and free will. There is no need for a physics professor to state as fact a personal opinion based on, presumably, not much more formal study that an undergraduate would have (though he has undoubtedly discussed this question frequently with colleagues). This hardly implies the professor is not “educated and free,” nor does it imply that he “has failed to make connections that a basic introduction to philosophy course” would allow him to make, and it absolutely does not imply that “Notre Dame students graduate more educated than their professors.” That statement is ignorant and disrespectful of the amount of time, passion, and energy every professor here has put into their academic career.

MurphyKate Montee
Badin Hall
March 7