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The Most Useful QI Ever 

by Jacob Lyman 

Professor Harrison Kleiner 

SP18 PHIL 1500   


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Foreword 

For me, this class was eye opening, but in a very detailed and refining way. 

From the start of the semester, I viewed PHIL 1500 differently that my other 

classes. I put more work into it. More time, more effort, and more thought were 

all required to make sense of the readings, and to write coherently about them. I 

greatly value those hours I spent working, and understand now that this is how 

an education is supposed to be earned. It is not supposed to come easily, lightly, 

or without struggle. Now, I’ve always known that good things come to those who 

work, not wait, but this form of work was different than any other I had applied, 

both in its quality and in its duration. Today, as I sit and write this, I hold no new 

wisdom or stand in a unique position of intellectual excellence, yet I feel exalted, 

not for any inherent or earned quality of my own but rather because I am part of 

a fortunate few. So few people are given the opportunity to learn, to work 

towards a higher goal, and yet I am here, sitting in a university. I know how 

simply ​lucky​ I am to have been placed here, in this place and time, and this 

semester has seared this into my thinking. Not only am I to work hard, but I am 

to work ​well,​ with conscious concern for how I apply what I learn. My hope is to 

clearly convey my lessons of how this semester refined in me my idea of what an 

education entails, and how truly priceless the opportunity to get one is.  

 
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My biggest takeaway from this semester was that education finds its role in 

teaching how to apply wisdom and subjective knowledge equally and with care. 

Throughout the term, at times I felt buried by the complex understandings and 

interpretations we discussed in class, and routinely found myself thinking, ‘Aren’t 

we just talking about wisdom?’ I often hesitated to share this thought, because I 

feared I was over simplifying valuable ideas. In retrospect, my understanding of 

these ideas wasn’t over simplified, because I was just seeing the common threads 

that all of our readings shared. Wisdom is universal-but just how to define, use, 

and hold onto it is the trick 

Aristophanes differentiated between the Just Argument - argues not only 

what is factually correct, but also what is morally right - and the Unjust Argument 

- taking only into consideration what is necessary to win material gain. The 

Unjust Argument is easier to use, but it leads to unattractive consequences. When 

Strepsiades rebukes his debtors, he employs the Unjust Argument, which is fairly 

obvious to the reader. When his son Phidippides turns this same argument 

against him and beats him out of the house, Strepsiades claims the Just Argument 

as his defense but is overpowered by his unjust son, who has no moral code to 

follow. This cycle is evident in our own lives when we attempt to justify the 

morally wrong decision by claiming it is the material/temporarily beneficial thing 

to do. Working to earn an education does not weaken the appeal of the Unjust 

Argument, but only makes it clearer to the student the benefits of being kind, 

honest, brave, empathetic, generous, trusting, and just. The Just Argument stands 
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for all the good that an education is supposed to impart upon students, and it 

includes guidelines for how we are supposed to employ what we learn as well. 

While his argument is black and white in a world of every shade of grey, 

Aristotle’s call to live an examined life was one of the easiest to understand.  

But what is an examined life?  

C.S. Lewis wrote on the importance of reading old books to rediscover old 

truths which are relevant still today. He defined old books as those which are far 

enough removed from contemporary times so as to provide a unique perspective 

for modern readers. He proposed that men today can be blinded to our flaws if 

enough of our neighbors act similarly. He argued that to counteract becoming 

blind to our mistakes, we must read old books and learn the lessons of bygone 

ages, to find perspective.  

So here, I will introduce two imaginary people who I will use for the 

remainder of my paper. The Hero and the Villian, both fulfilling the stereotypes 

which their names suggest. The Hero and the Villain stand removed from each 

other by 1000 years, with the Hero having lived today and the Villain living in the 

distant future. Despite being the more valiant character overall, the Hero’s 

mother taught him that it was acceptable to treat poorly the people who work for 

you, while the villain’s mother taught him to be kind to all people, regardless of 

role or standing. In this case, the character representing all the basic things 

mankind values (honesty, determination, empathy, bravery, and wisdom) is 

shown to be flawed in this one specific area. To his benefit, while growing up our 
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futuristic Villain read a historical novel of great importance, the ​Harry Potter 

series, where Harry treats Dobby, the servant elf, with kindness and equality. 

Some of the only good in our Villain comes from reading old books, learning 

lessons from the past, and is remarkably successful with his villainous endeavors 

because his staff feel heard and respected. On the other hand, the Hero was 

educated in our age, and read no old books. My point is this- we have everything 

to lose and nothing to gain when we are content with our knowledge. “​Every age 

has its own outlook. It is especially good at seeing certain truths and specially 

liable to make certain mistakes” (Lewis) ​Lewis made this point far more 

succinctly by saying that there are undoubtedly things which Hitler and 

Roosevelt agree on, with both being made blind by widespread contemporary 

beliefs of their age. Lewis wrote that that we can decrease our blindness by 

studying the perspective of those from the past, and this is where the value of 

reading old books lies.  

Now, of course Lewis was not beseeching his readers to read old books like 

Harry Potter when searching for universal truths. However, the fact remains- 

good people can make mistakes when not taking care to examine their life and its 

meaning. This brings me to my next point: Getting an education allows us to go 

forward and live an examined, thoughtful life. In the ​Nicomachean Ethics,​  

Aristotle wrote about how best to achieve good in our lives.  

I understood Aristotle's definition of Happiness as this- doing the things 

which are simultaneously pleasant ​and​ good, rather than doing simply whatever 
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makes us happy or that good which we begrudgingly do. He proposed that doing 

good for the soul is far more important than doing good for the body, which stuck 

out to me so prominently perhaps because this is something which I believe. To 

that point, I would argue that generally, the soul guides the body. We have 

appetites, yes. To mind the soul is only going to benefit the body, but to ignore the 

needs of the soul and only work towards physical wellbeing is foolhardy. 

Essentially, Aristotle argued that to get an education in order to make money 

while ignoring the needs of the soul will end in mental exhaustion. At the same 

time, the body must be fed and we desire comfort, so a balance of soulful 

satisfaction and physical comfort must be struck. To do this requires living an 

examined life​, where each person judges his own needs and potential, taking care 

to maximize success while staying sufficiently relaxed. Education has to be the 

same- applicable and useful enough to make each of us a living, but also 

thoughtful enough to make this life we have earned joyful and sustainable.  

C.S. Lewis was my favorite author, and I hope I can be forgiven for calling 

on one more of his works. In ​The Abolition of Man​, Lewis writes about ‘men 

without chests’. He essentially claims that men who act smartly to pursue their 

appetites yet who lack integrity have no ‘chests’ - think of the old traditional slang 

meaning of ‘chest’, bravery or gumption and the like. Appetite is meant to 

represent our desires, our wants and the over satiation of our needs. Lewis goes 

on to say that modern man is abandoning traditional values, which are defined 

as the ​Tao​. The phrase ​Tao​ means the set of objective values which most all major 
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cultures have more or less agreed upon, that waterfalls and flowers are beautiful, 

basic truths like this. Lewis proposed that in the future, a small portion of 

mankind would control the majority by manipulating these objective values so as 

to lead the race how they wished, to guide reproduction and growth. “Their  

heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that  

makes them seem so.” (Abolition) Essentially, mankind will seem to be getting 

wiser but this will only mean that we are losing our integrity and focusing 

fruitlessly more on our knowledge. Lewis argues that this controlling minority is 

a bad thing, and that this would signal the erosion of the core beliefs which guide 

mankind and form the foundation upon which we judge right and wrong. His 

solution was to revert back to these objective values, and allow this consensus to 

stay unchanging as we strive as a race to solve our issues and react to the world.  

What does all of this mean to me?  

‘An Examined Life’ 

‘The Just Argument’ 

‘Men With Chests’ 

Well, I believe that these three things are wholesomely, intrinsically good. 

Learning how to think about why you do what you do is only going to help us and 

those around us. Teaching people to find solutions in a way that is smart and also 

morally right is the only sustainable way to live. I want to live my life being a 

good example of integrity, of course. But, these things are tough, they don’t come 

easily. So where do I go to learn all of this? School. 


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Works Cited 

(Lewis) - C.S. Lewis, “​On Reading Old Books” 

https://reasonabletheology.org/cs-lewis-on-reading-old-books/ 

(Abolition) - C.S. Lewis, “​The Abolition of Man” 

https://archive.org/stream/TheAbolitionOfMan_229/C.s.Lewis-TheAbolitionOfMan

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