Knorr Dining Hall

All Conversations Welcome

Written by Katarzyna Ignatik

One weekday, I was sitting at a full lunch table (what we were talking about, I don’t recall) when one inspired individual sagely interjected, “Remember not to put Descartes before de horse.”

Another person at the table, recognizing the reference to a seventeenth-century philosopher, fired back with a philosopher reference of his own: “I Kant believe you just said that.”

“You could say it’s part of my Hume-an nature,” the original speaker said.

“Stop it. We should Locke you up in jail.”

The first speaker paused for a second and retorted with a pun so terrible that I won’t repeat it here. He subsided, extremely pleased with himself, among groans and cries of protest from all around the table.

Okay, so not all conversations around Hillsdale College lunch tables are as “nerdy” or painful as this one. But I can say that Hillsdalians do have fun with academic conversation. Furthermore, one could argue that such discussion is a part of learning, as integrating information from philosophy class into conversations outside the classroom shows that we’re integrating studies into our lives.

Not all learning is meant to be crammed into fifty-minute class periods. When you hear discussions and jokes like these, serious and playful alike, you know you’re surrounded by bright students who care about the tradition they’re studying. (And hey, one of the most famous teaching methods of all time is the Socratic method, which is basically conversation.)

However, this doesn’t mean that all conversations have to be in-depth, focused discussions on an intelligent topic in order to have merit. Take, for example, the conversations spent laughing over something stupid, or talking about TV shows from childhood, or recollecting something that happened yesterday afternoon—basically, the sorts of things that people talk about every day. You wouldn’t say these conversations are discernibly practical, but you wouldn’t say they’re useless either.

Conversations like these are part of normal life. They build relationships and enrich our lives. At Hillsdale, we’re not here to separate ourselves from normal human experiences or isolate ourselves in overloads of work and busyness. We’re here to form the whole person, and I think that partaking in light-hearted conversations plays a part in that.

So go ahead. Enjoy involved conversations about what you’re learning in Dr. Gaetano’s Renaissance class, but also launch into the argument (facetious, of course) that Santa Claus is a socialist heretic, and laugh about you and your roommate’s latest antics. Just please—spare your tablemates, and don’t go overboard with the philosophy puns.

Katarzyna IgnatikKatarzyna Ignatik is an English major in the class of 2020. She spends her time doing homework (of course), binge-reading, binge-writing, singing, and laughing at everything and anything. Talk to her about Tolkien, the 50s, or abstract philosophical concepts, and she’ll be perfectly happy.