“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

guest
22 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
chk
chk
4 years ago

“Every time I leave this class I feel like I know less than I did before.”Report

DocFE
DocFE
Reply to  chk
4 years ago

In one sense this is good — Socrates, etc… On the other, not so, right? It all depends on what “know less” means. I often worried about this idea that we are telling student4s they know less than they know.Report

Julia
Julia
4 years ago

One student about my philosophical writing course: “This is not like other writing classes I have taken. It’s like writing on steroids.”Report

George Wrisley
4 years ago

Two different students at different schools said the same thing: “I don’t like philosophy because I don’t like thinking so hard.” They were not, thankfully, at my current school.Report

Craig
Craig
4 years ago

A few times a term a student will garb their head with both hands and shout “Stop! My head hurts!!”Report

Antoinette
Antoinette
4 years ago

“I’m supposed to be getting less confused”Report

Carolyn
Carolyn
4 years ago

Insomnia-inducing, but better than sex.Report

DocFE
DocFE
Reply to  Carolyn
4 years ago

Kind of a dumb response, no? Unless one sleeps through sex.Report

Geoff
Geoff
4 years ago

A student in my ethics class was overheard saying — while in the campus study center — to another student: “Boy! You sure can’t sleep in his class!”Report

Dave
Dave
4 years ago

“I learned that philosophy is not just bullshit.”Report

Zachary Fruhling
4 years ago

“Everything I know about philosophy I learned from Meta Treks.”Report

Alan White
Alan White
4 years ago

A student last year (male, if that matters) went by me as class ended and said “This class today gave me a brain orgasm!”Report

Matt
Matt
4 years ago

“This course makes my heard hurt… but I’m really enjoying it!”Report

DocFE
DocFE
4 years ago

One of my favorites is: “Philosophers are people who worry about things that no one in their right mind worries about.”

Another: “I used to be sure of everything and now I’m not sure I am sure of anything.”Report

Tiddy
Tiddy
Reply to  DocFE
4 years ago

Reminds me of Isaiah Berlin’s quote: philosophers are adults who persist in asking childish questions.Report

Jun-Jun
Jun-Jun
4 years ago

“Philosophy is about a bunch of people talking about a bunch of bullshit.”Report

DocFE
DocFE
Reply to  Jun-Jun
4 years ago

And we find this positive?Report

Glenn
Glenn
4 years ago

Me: Today we’re going to do a quick review of the Lacan.

Student in the front row: You mean Lacan’t?Report

DocFE
DocFE
4 years ago

One more I remembered: Professor F makes philosophy interesting, which it isn’t. But maybe I’ll read more when I get his age.Report

AegeanSea
AegeanSea
4 years ago

“Some of the philosophies we’ve discussed sound more like mental disorders than ways of life, prof.”Report

Greg Gauthier
Reply to  AegeanSea
4 years ago

I think a case could be argued that at least a couple of them, in fact, are.Report

DocFE
DocFE
4 years ago

One thing throughout this thread is that students can be very perceptive, humorous, and make it clear that we teach for a good reason.Report