“How could someone be so devastatingly exacting and kind?”

If your father is a philosopher, then you should expect to lose many arguments. You will never lose “because life isn’t fair,” or because your dad “says so.” You will always lose on strict logical grounds… If your father is a philosopher, your premises must support your conclusion. Then, maybe once or twice in a childhood filled with lost arguments, you will win. When you win, you win big.

People, do yourself a favor and read this beautiful essay by Emily Adler about her father, the late Jonathan Adler, who was professor of philosophy at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center.

Some more excerpts:

Please, when you meet my father, do not try to talk to him about philosophy. Yes, of course, he loves to talk philosophy. But you will want to talk to him about Foucault or sociology or you will not understand the nuance in Kant’s argument and I will have to change the subject. You will not realize that the argument hinges on a sentence that you did not underline…

If your father is a philosopher then you should expect to see some version of your at-home altercations elevated to a moral academic question. If your father is a philosopher, this should not be misconstrued as a “coping mechanism.”

That’s all I’m going to give you. If you want more you’ll have to read the whole thing.

(via Amelia Wirts)

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Richard Hanley
Richard Hanley
9 years ago

“What most people say. The worst kind of wrong answer.” Fantastic piece…

David Hilbert
9 years ago

Thanks for the pointer, really quite beautiful and touching. With some trepidation I’ve shared it with my own daughters.

Peter Graham
Peter Graham
9 years ago

A beautiful essay. Jonathan was a wonderful, kind friend. I miss him. Thank you Emily.