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Identity Phase Three Philosophy
So, I quite

I went to Georgetown, another Catholic institution peopled wth Irish and Italian and German and Polish Catholics from the Northeast, and run by the Jesuits as my high school had been run.

But by the time I got there I was a pretty sophisticated urban kid. I could read Latin and Greek and French, I had absorbed all the great literary classics, or many of them, I had spent a lot of time going to jazz clubs in the city and knew Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane and Miles Davis, not personally but as performers I'd heard and seen in little smoky Village clubs. I knew my way around, I was pretty confident. I was part Holden Caulfield, the preppy upper middle class intellectual, and part New York wiseguy, who carried a switchblade in his sock and looked down on rich pansies from prep school.

I smoked unfiltered cigarettes and had attitude to spare.

Georgetown was a shock - Ivy -esque, proper, beautiful and uptight. I was city, broke all the dorm rules, got suspended and spent time in detention (which they still had in colleges in 1959, along with curfews, which I could not keep).

I also loved school and despite being completely wild survived the first year well enough to acquire a few girl friends, act in some plays, pass everything (barely in the case of math), and get invited into the Honors program my second year.

I was still obsessed with theatre until the end of my second year when I realized that making a living in plays was not a great opportunity; plus, many of the people I had met in the theatre struck me as mighrty peculiar, insecure and a but crazy. I was odd enough without adding that to the mix.

So, I quit and began getting seriously interested in philosophy. Philosophy drew me in because, I think now, it offered an alternative identity to the one with which I had grown up and was then practicing.

What was different? In retrospect, my philosophy identity differed from my New York Irish Catholic identity by being secular. I came to philosophy via Descartes and Descartes is nothing if not secular. He was Catholic, of course, but when he did philosophy he used his method of doubt to isolate something about himself that had nothing to do with ethnicity or region or religion. He 'found', or created, something called the res cogitans, or, the thinking thing, using the famous formula "I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am."

I was ready to hear this because in my first year the class I found most bearable was a lit course in which I read Proust and Flaubert and Thomas Mann, guys I had never encountered on my own, and who fell considerably outside my own reading gambit of Americans - Hemingway, Dos Passos, Wolfe, Melville, Crane, James T. Farrell, Sinclair Lewis and Dreiser, and Russians (Dostoievsky, Tolstoy, Gogol, Turgenev -- I told you I was sophisticated), and Brits -- Dickens and Swift and Stevenson and Hardy, among others.

But I had not read Frenchmen and something about them -- add Stendhal -- appealed to me. So when this French professor guy introduced us to Descartes and his method, I was hooked. I read Descartes' little books in English and French and the original Latin. I was crazy for Descartes, became Descartes, saw the world as Descartes saw the world, and was forever changed.

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