Incident in English 177

I took a course at UC Berkeley called The Literature of Philosophy in which we would spend hours debating philosophical constructs and how language was used to express an idea. Out of all the things we debated, one of the most memorable was a particular lecture from which my notes, after all these years, still remain.

Professor Banfield introduces Bertrand Russell’s Theory of Knowledge. She uses his example of the table. The table in the lecture hall is the linoleum-top, chrome-legged variety found in public schools everywhere.

We can only visually see three legs as the professor posits that there is no proof to say that the fourth leg isn’t a fancy, hand-carved wooden leg in the Elizabethan style.

Dr. Banfield slowly walks around to the front of the table, looking intently at us all as we soak it all in. She turns finally to face us, driving home her point. Then, grinning with satisfaction that we all comprehend, leans back against the table which collapses under her, she falls to the ground, legs akimbo. The fourth leg was missing, not there at all!

The class stares, speechless. Mouths agape.

Best lecture ever.


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