Saturday, April 7, 2007

Lee Yearly's lecture on the Toaist idea of useless wandering

Lee Yearly, professor at Stanford University and teacher of my current philosophy professor, was the philosophy department's main speaker this year. Flushed with curiosity, I attended. Some random thoughts from his presentation:

1) The best orators all seem to all include tons of stories when they talk. I think we all love stories because they are such a good way of showing ideas without having to explicitly explain them. I want to make a point to learn more stories. I think that the practice has been looked down upon because it may not the best way to construct a persuasive argument, but there is lots of upside to telling a short story.

2) One of his main points was that society seems to have a way of using up "useful" people, and that we all seem to have a good idea of the use of being useful, but we don't have a very good idea of the use of the useless. I don't really understand the idea, but at the time I found it quite profound, because his prime example was pre-medicine students taking organic chemistry for the sole purpose of becoming a doctor in the future, even though they hated the class. Everyone always enjoys a good pre-med joke. Stupid pre-med students.

3) One point that did resonate with me was that we shouldn't take things in the present so seriously, because we have no way of knowing whether or not they will be "good" or "bad" in the long run. That point sort of reminded me of a refrigerator magnet I once saw that said something along the lines of, "Things will work out okay in the end. If they aren't okay, then it's not the end." As was the motto of our junior year basketball team, "indeed."

I still don't love philosophy, but if it's growing on me it's because it really has a way of getting you to think. I mean, the use of the useless? That's ridiculous. But somehow, if you start to think about these things for way longer than you should, they start to grow on you. And it's pretty money.