“The third was to carry on my reflections in due order, commencing with the most simple and easy to understand, in order to rise little by little, or by degrees, to knowledge of the most complex, assuming an order, even if a fictitious one, among those which do not follow a natural sequence relative to one another.”
This one is probably my favorite, at least among the four published rules. Loving this one as much as I do, and believing it is worth perfect mastery, tomorrow we’ll begin breaking it down phrase by phrase and see where that leads. Today, I am going to simply share a small story of my own relationship to this material.
Dr. Shapiro is, without question, the most influential teacher I’ve ever studied directly with. That is, at the level of life and soul, no other teacher in school can claim to have affected me equally. Not that Dr. Shapiro would care to make that claim, he most assuredly would not. Dr. Shapiro was aloof, distant, obsessed with the topic, irritated with us students, somewhat tired of even having to face us, yet still, some amazing how, he was both sublimely moved, himself, and powerfully moving in the presentation of the world’s most important thinking.
Sadly, I could not squeeze my way into his Greek Philosophy course in the first semester of my sophomore year. But, oh so fortunately, I did get into his Modern Philosophy course during second semester! We covered:
Yes, it was in that order, and yes, I am absolutely showing off that I remember this, 30 years later, without checking any crib sheets! Not only are their seven stories here, one for each of the philosophers Dr. Shapiro introduced us to, there are many stories from my real life that are driven by these very adventures in thought and comprehension. I can’t share them today, and who knows, this may not be the right venue for those stories which, in the end, would amount to my memoirs actually. But there is also a story of HOW Dr. Shapiro taught and then, there is the story of the missing lesson that young Pasquale failed to follow. Let me see if I can’t crunch both of those in here, right now.
Dr. Shapiro presented each philosopher as if his work were the only work to have survived history. He approached the work from each one as if the salvation of our immortal souls were dependent upon hearing the words and understanding the meaning of each philosopher, virtually as if that work was prophecy, not mere speculation. He introduced us to the times, and the life story and reason behind the work, but did these things briefly. What he gave himself over to completely was the work itself, making each case as a true believer would. To use the word “compelling” is to understate. I don’t know how to state the power of his teaching properly.
Still, young Pasquale completely missed Rene’s four rules. It’s worse though, than if I hadn’t read them, or we hadn’t discussed them. I did read them. I just had NO idea of their power. I suspect as well that Dr. Shapiro may not have realized their force either. For one thing, he had never done the work to struggle with Rene’s Secret Sauce Rules, and I for one believe you must, ultimately, if you’re really going to decode Rene’s message. More though even than that, Rene makes these rules sound so simple when you read them in context. And they are. They really are. But, if you fail to apply them to your own actual life, if you just put them in your mind and don’t go any further, you gain almost nothing from them.
So, the simple story is that I read these rules 30 years ago, and paid them no attention whatever.
Tomorrow, I’ll quickly share how I rediscovered them 25 years or so later, and we’ll get down to work breaking Rule 3 into tiny pieces.