Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t philosophize my way out of a wet paper bag, but I listened to two people yesterday who made me feel downright dim in this area. In these last countdown weeks to commencement, several seniors are giving presentations about their final work during “dedicated hour,” offering a front row seat to the thrills and chills of the roller coaster rite-of-passage called the Plan. I was fortunate enough to learn from the talks by Ariella Miller and Noah Burke, two students who could clearly philosophize their way out of a paper bag, even a paper bag full of other philosophy students.
Did you know, for instance, that the conceptual art movement led to a progressive “dematerialization” of art objects and a rise in the importance of artistic intention? For me, most conceptual art fell under the very large category of “art I don’t understand and as interesting to look at as venetian blinds,” until I went to Ariella’s talk about her Plan in philosophy and art history. With articulate insights, and building on her junior year experience in Berlin, Ariella navigated the deep waters of artistic intention, dematerialization and repetition so that even a Neanderthal like myself could make some sense of it.
I was not so successful with Noah’s talk about Immanuel Kant and his observations on “the sublime.” This was no fault of Noah’s, who was as knowledgeable and articulate as Ariella; honestly, most of what I previously knew about Kant I learned from Monty Python. I could follow Noah as far as his definition of the sublime: something so overwhelmingly pleasurable that you recognize yourself as separate from nature. Like a thunderstorm, or an earthquake, or a hot fudge sundae. But when Noah got into the details of “moral will” and the difference between a priori and a posteriori knowledge, explaining how he perceived that a paper cup was indeed a paper cup, that’s when I could feel the wet paper bag closing in around me. I am not discouraged, and will keep going back to Plan presentations by mind-bending Marlboro students until I get it right.