I have always found the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day to be the absolute pits. Nothing is open, the usual TV shows are not on, the amount of daylight is at its smallest of the year, and between Christmas and New Year's Eve comes my birthday. The Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association used to meet and perhaps still does meet on December 27 – 29th which meant that it was always on my birthday so I might as well amuse myself if not my readers by telling again my favorite story about the APA.
It must have been in 1952 or maybe 1953 that the APA met in New York and since I was home from college for the holidays I went. I was standing around with a group of Harvard philosophy department graduate students desperately trying to look older than I was when the great man himself – Willard Van Orman Quine – walked up and greeted us. He looked around the circle and then said to me, "well, Wolff, you must be the youngest person here." I wanted the earth that open up and swallow me. He went on, "Good to see you here. The sooner you start coming to these things, the sooner you will realize they are not worth coming to." Then he walked away.
I think that was the same meeting at which I made the remarkable discovery that actual people wrote the books that we were reading in our courses. I was wandering around aimlessly when I saw a man leaning up against the wall just standing. He had a name tag on and I edged closer to see what it said. The name tag read "Wilfrid Sellars." I had just finished taking a course in which we read some things in a collection edited by Hospers and Sellars and strange as it may seem, it had not occurred to me that those were actual human beings. It was a revelation.
Well, as you can tell, I am just doing what musicians call vamping till ready. Even my walk this morning on a dark and drizzly New Year's morning did not provide me with anything of interest to say. It is now four days until the Georgia senatorial elections and although the turnout figures are promising I am steeling myself to discover that the Republicans have salvaged control of the Senate.
One final thought that did occur to me as I walked. Commentators always say that Ted Cruz is smart because he went to Harvard Law school. Now they are saying that Josh Hawley is smart because he went to Stanford and Yale law school. I think it is about time that we take these and other similar facts as establishing that going to an Ivy League school is not in fact evidence of great intelligence.