Bet you thought I’d forgetten about this, didn’t you? Well, I wanted to leave my novel alone for a few weeks before reading it through, to give me a bit of distance from it. I’m currently ploughing my way through it and although there are some huge plot holes and some bits that actually make no sense at all, there are some bits that I do quite like. This extract is from early on in the novel and introduces the main character’s boyfriend, Pete. See what you think.
“Pete gritted his teeth.
“No, Samuel, Descartes did not say “Bibo Ergo Sum”, it was “Cogito Ergo Sum”. Furthermore, you are approximately the seven hundredth student to attempt that joke with me and it wasn’t funny the first time because I heard it when I was a student myself. Could we continue?”
Surveying his class, Pete reflected on the never-ending joy of university teaching. Just as you’d got one lot relatively up to speed, a new bunch turned up who knew precisely nothing about philosophy, but usually felt that their extensive study of Pete Doherty’s lyrics entitled them to expert status. Usually most of them gave up around the time that philosophical logic was introduced, the subject reminding them too much of maths and therefore real work. But in the meantime, it was Pete’s never-ending pleasure to teach them the rudiments of philosophical knowledge, starting with that great dressing-gown-wearing doubter, Descartes.
“What do we know for sure? That was Descartes’ question. Anyone care to have a go?”
“Em, telly’s always rubbish on a Saturday night?” posited one scholar, a student of the teachings of The Darkness if his T-shirt was anything to go by.
“Very good. Anyone who’s not an idiot got any suggestions?”
Oh no. Here we go. As with every class, there was a smattering of mature students, most of them ideal pupils: keen, interested, confident enough to speak up, always the first ones to hand in their assignments. Pete would have been thrilled to have them, but for one thing: they frightened the life out of him. Naive, grubby freshers were no problem, but mature students always seemed to know far more than he did. Sometimes he thought they were actually professional philosophers with PhDs and publications to their name, sent by the university to test him: a kind of academic mystery shopper. In their presence, all his bravado melted away.
He turned to face the cardigan-clad fortysomething: in the front row, of course.
“Yes? What do you think?”
“Well, Descartes concluded that the only thing he could know for sure was that he existed in some sense. He knew he had thoughts, because he experienced them. And therefore he knew that he must have some form of existence, to account for where his thoughts came from.”
“Well done!” cried Pete enthusiastically. “Bollocks” he thought privately. “That’s the entire week’s lectures rendered utterly pointless.”
He ploughed on, but it felt pointless now that his big punchline had been nicked. He hated these swots who actually read the course reading list. Where would lecturers be if everyone went round reading things for themselves? Out of a bloody job, that’s where.”