“Brain Hurt” and Other Student Descriptions of Philosophy


Every once in a while a student will make some remark about philosophy (or about reading or writing philosophy, or about a philosophy course) that perfectly captures an aspect of it in an interesting or new or funny way. Sometimes these are in the form of complaints that their professors take as compliments, e.g., “this course makes my brain hurt.” Sometimes they are expressions of surprise, e.g., “I did not realize there were so many questions.”

I heard a new one the other day. A student said: “philosophy is like looking at a microscope through another microscope.” Nice. It evokes the reflexive scrutiny of philosophical thought and the attention to detail that characterizes some philosophical inquiry—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

I imagine many of you have your own collection of such gems. Let’s hear them.

image by Bedelgeuse

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