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Essay about A Conversation with Socrates

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The scene: inside the Perry-Castañeda Library, as I doze off over a paperback of Plato’s Republic. Socrates materializes before me in a sudden, puzzling flash of light.
Me. Socrates, why am I here?
Socrates. Your parents willed it so. I am afraid I do not follow the intent of your question.
Me. I mean, at this university, that is. What am I doing here? Is there any ethical or moral justification for my attainment of a college education? What is the purpose of my education?
Socrates. I do not believe I can produce an adequate answer. You are the college student, whereas I am just an ancient philosopher, so it seems that you would be in a better position to answer your own question. Why do you conjecture you are here at college?
Me. Well, I must be here to prepare myself for a future job, for a career.
Socrates. Yes, that is one way of perceiving the situation, I suppose. However, your definition is quite narrow and limited, is it not?
Me. Isn’t that what people do at college, though? They choose their majors, they take the right classes to prepare them for their future careers, and they eventually graduate with degrees that will help them find work. At least, that’s what our state legislators keep telling me. Through my attainment of a useful career, I can provide for both my family and society as a whole. Therefore, I must argue that the justification for a college education lies in its ability to provide a fruitful career.
Socrates. Yes, that much is true. Nevertheless, the pursuit of a career is not the only reason you are at this university, I would hope. You do not plan to become a linguist, I presume?
Me. Of course not! Not that there’s anything wrong with linguists.
Socrates. Why have you registered for the course...


... middle of paper ...


...es.
Socrates. However, does such a mathematical proof truly require a human imagination, or can it be successfully constructed by an automaton? Does the student truly synthesize any novel ideas in his new proof of a long-known fact?
Me. I would think so, although your questions give me reservations. Wouldn’t the mathematical proof generated by an automaton simply be a reflection on the imagination of its creator?
Socrates. It is futile to argue back and forth on the semantics of the word “imagination.” I am afraid that we still have not been able to conclude a concrete purpose for a college education.
Me. Ah, I was afraid you might say that.
I suddenly awaken over the loud crashing of books upon the floor. I blink a few times, attempting to recompose myself, but Socrates has disappeared from the ether of my dreams and returned to the pages of Plato’s Republic.



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