“Philosophy is an academic discipline concerned with making explicit the nature and significance of ordinary and scientific beliefs and investigating the intelligibility of concepts by means of rational argument concerning their presuppositions, implications, and interrelationships; in particular, the rational investigation of the nature and structure of reality (metaphysics), the resources and limits of knowledge (epistemology), the principles and import of moral judgment (ethics), and the relationship between language and reality (semantics).”
A few days ago, my son in far away Belgium wrote to me informing me that his son (my grandson) had made it known to him that he has made up his mind to become a philosopher and that there is no making him change his mind.
And so, my son wanted to know what I make of this situation.
Note should be taken however, that not many people in this and other regions of Africa have come in close contact with children not to say grand-children wanting to grow into philosophers.
My first reaction therefore was to think that this kind of behaviour by my grand-child should be viewed as being only out of mischief on his part and in no way eccentric.
But then again, I thought of how most parents with children leaving high school keep on bragging of how their kids want to become engineers, architects, doctors, pilots and even presidents, but not philosophers for heaven’s sake.
I took a step back, as they say, and recalled a story a friend told me a long time ago.
This friend of mine had also gone after a golden fleece in Europe, in the art of speaking foreign tongues.
After some period of time there, when he had fairly settled down, he was invited to a dinner in a family home.
As was the tradition on the University’s curriculum, foreign language students were immersed into families, so as to encourage interaction which would thereby help them in polishing up their skills and ability in the local language.
On the evening of the day of the dinner, the host, a professor of languages at the University and his wife came to pick him up at his lodge and drove him to their home.
Upon arrival, the large number of the people present struck my friend as odd. The guests were of all ages, children and old people included. The host must have seen his surprise for he quickly explained that this was a family dinner.
So, those present among the elderly were the host’s father and mother, and the father and mother of his spouse. The host further explained that with the exception of his own wife, all of the rest did not speak a word of any other language but Spanish.
After some time, as dinner was in progress and conversation went on with my friend blowing away in Spanish with a very good accent, all the people around the table, especially the old people watched him with keen interest and mixed expressions of admiration, respect and something akin to reverence. But this was not so with the children.
Children are the same all over the world. They are innocent, playful, mischievous, but above all else, they are curious. And in their curiosity, they may even become very embarrassing.
What happened, one of the children, a six-year-old son to the host did what all of them would have wished to do – to touch him. The boy was sitting on his immediate right.
Unable to suppress his nagging inquisitiveness, the young man, in his juvenile innocence took my friend’s right hand, rubbed his forefinger hard on the proffered hand and, presto, there was no soot on his small white finger.
Blood rushed to the faces of all those who had witnessed the act, especially the mother. She turned crimson with embarrassment. The atmosphere was electric.
Quickly realizing what a foolish thing he had done, the small boy tried to flee, to escape. But my friend was faster. He was the only one to have kept his wits about him.
So he grabbed the boy’s hand and, with a smile rubbed his own black forefinger on the boy’s hand, looked at the finger, showed it to the visibly frightened boy.
There was no chalk on it. Surprised, but quickly getting the joke, the boy burst out laughing, and in so doing caused a general laughter among the diners. In a flash, just by remaining calm and cool headed, had defused the tension and everybody was now breathing easy.
I intend this article to be the reply to my son in Belgium if he is reading this. Let the young man be a philosopher if that is what he wants to be. My friend never dreamt of ever being one.