Making a connection with philosophy

Anthony Streiff — University student

“Philosophy” is a term often bogged down with the assumption that it is the province of precocious and stuffy intellectuals asking questions that do not matter.

Unfortunately, this is sometimes very true. Those who are interested in philosophizing at the University of Minnesota are tucked away in their own department, free to muse to themselves.

But this isolation in a silo represents neither intellectual health nor freedom. Philosophy is supposed to be concerned not only with understanding what is meant by “the good life” but with actually living it.

In May of 2012, I attended Philosophy Camp, a four-week residential course that takes place in southwestern Minnesota. Before arriving, I was overwhelmingly skeptical about what value I might find in it. I worried that we would spend our days arguing about whose philosophical teachings were best, invalidating arguments and generally being miserable. Philosophy, to me, was a process of intense discomfort that, in the end, only created ideological cliques and strife.

As we proceeded through the course, it became clear to me that the problem with philosophy wasn’t necessarily the intent but the practice. Instead of being encouraged to argue, I was extended an invitation to live
authentically, to reflect on questions about myself, my future and my community that actually mattered to me, to tell my story and to listen carefully as other people told theirs.

In no other class have I experienced such a profound sense of freedom. It spurred forth a deep satisfaction that I did not know was possible in
myself. I laid my soul forth for these complete strangers to see. At my most vulnerable, when I was the most afraid that I would be rejected, I looked into the eyes of the people around me. There, where I expected judgment, I found