Why is such a high value placed in reading the "Classics"? It's one thing to

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Why is such a high value placed in reading the "Classics"? It's one thing to honor the past and honor the fact that, but for those who came before, we wouldn't be where we are today, and another thing entirely to pretend that those "classic" thinkers and thoughts of the past are worthy of the scrutiny of self-respecting truth-seekers today. If I'm being honest, the Pre-Socratic writings are simply idiotic by today's standards, claiming matter is all "water", or "fire", or some other random element. Leibniz, Spinoza, and those guys aren't any better. None of them had even the most rudimentary concept of physics. JS Mill and Kant read like some High Schooler, discoursing at length about Happiness and motivation without even a whiff of suspicion about the basic facts of psychology, treating those terms as if they were transparently obvious, monolithic concepts. Even an idea like the more recently vaunted Veil of Ignorance seems ludicrously vulnerable to someone of even mediocre intelligence, like me. It takes me about 2 minutes to realize that just because I might design a world a certain way behind the veil doesn't mean it would be just. I might choose to have 90% of people happy and 10% utterly miserable simply because of the odds - that doesn't mean my design is just. I have the feeling there is a conflation happening within the university - conflating education with celebration of the history of a subject. Reading Leibniz or JS Mill isn't likely to ready you to produce contemporary philosophy; it isn't even going to ready you to produce interesting enough ideas to hold your own at a dinner party. To me it's obvious that such "Classics" contain purely historical interest. Am I alone on this?

I can't resist piping up to defend Rawls's Veil of Ignorance. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls anticipates and rebuts the questioner's objection. The deliberators behind the Veil of Ignorance are choosing the most general principles of justice that will govern their society, and hence they have no basis for the specific prediction that a given principle will make "90% of people happy and 10% utterly miserable": as Rawls says, behind the Veil of Ignorance such numerical estimates "are at best extremely insecure" (p. 154). Given that insecurity, Rawls argues that it would be irrational for you to risk being among the utterly miserable, particularly if your gain in happiness (compared to what you'd experience in a less unequal society) is small compared to what you'd lose if you end up among the utterly miserable. His argument may not be conclusive, but I don't think it's as easily dismissed as the questioner suggests.

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