I was in a used bookstore the other day, the stereotypical used bookstore, with very tall shelves, and sliding ladders to reach them, and a vintage stairway, and the smell of books over everything, the sort of place that I can wallow in for any amount of time. I was browsing the philosophy section, when I overheard this conversation. I relate it as nearly to life as I can recall.
– Hey, look, it’s the same edition of The Republic that we’re using in my philosophy class.
– Cool. I love Plato.
– Really? What have you read?
– Oh, nothing. But I really love Plato, and I’m totally going to read him some time, you know?
– Are you taking a philosophy class next semester?
– No. I would love to, because I really love philosophy, but I just don’t have space in my schedule.
– That’s my problem too. There’s just so much I want to take.
– Yeah, I love everything, you know? But maybe I’ll just read some of it on my own. Maybe I should buy that Plato book right now.
– No, no. You can borrow mine. I mean, the semester’s over, so I won’t need it any more.
– Cool. Hey, so maybe I’ll buy this copy of The Prince instead. My ex-boyfriend said that it was the only book you’ll ever need to read. He said it was about how to rule the world or something.
– Yeah? It wasn’t on my philosophy course, but I’ve heard people talk about it.”
– I think it’s totally the kind of thing I’d love.
– Yeah, me too.
– You can have this copy if you want.
– No, it’s okay. I think I’ll get this one, Das Kapital. I’m thinking of taking a course of Marxism, so maybe I can read ahead a little bit.
– I love Marxism. I have a friend who’s a Marxist, and maybe a Leninist. I’m not sure. And I think I might be a Marxist too, but not a communist, you know what I mean? I think we should share stuff so that there won’t be poor people or anything, but you have to have your own stuff too. That’s Marxist, right?
– Um, I’m not really sure, but you’re probably right. I guess I’ll find out when I take that course.
– Are you a Marxist.
– No, I don’t think so. I’m trying to decide whether I want to be a nihilist or an existentialist.
-Oh. That’s really cool. I love existentialism. And nihilism too. Can’t you be both?
– Ah, maybe. I don’t know. When I asked my professor about existentialism, he just gave me a list of books to read.
– Is Marx on it?
– I don’t think so.
– Oh. That’s too bad. Who is on it?
– I can’t remember all of them. It’s a long list. There’s Kierkegaard, I think. And Nietzsche. And Sartre.
– I love Sarte.
– Have you read Sartre?
– No, but he was so romantic. He was with this woman philosopher. Her name had ‘de’ in it, de Boudoir or something, and they were in Paris, and they were really in love with each other, but they’re love wasn’t easy because they loved their philosophy more. It was very romantic.
– Wow. I didn’t know that.
– I love those kinds of stories, you know. It makes people seem more real.
– Yeah, I know what you mean.
– I’d love to be with a philosopher. It would be so beautiful, and so tortured too, because that’s how philosophers are. But beautiful.
– Yeah. Would you marry him?
– No. That’s not how it goes. It’s more romantic if you break up and find other people but keep coming back to each other.
– I love philosophy.
– Me too.