Hey Prof. Thomas,
Recent thoughts and conversations I have had pertaining to political theory have made me realize how different I am from other people. Sometimes I feel as if the way I see life is completely different from how everyone else sees it. For example, I structure my life in a way that I can focus on developing my passions. Other people, specifically among the Asian community, structure their lives around financial stability.
Being a reflective person, I tend to analyze many things, including myself. I think about what experiences that I have had in the past that made me the way I am in the present. So naturally, I ask myself why I am different and why I think the way I do.
I believe I have found the answer - your class.
One of the fundamental ways that I am different is the high value that I place on developing passion and independent thinking. The importance of these two concepts first entered into my mind while I was taking your class. The significance of the former I learned from Marx's Alienated Labor and the latter from Mill's On Liberty.
From my analysis of Marx's essay, I realized the role that passion plays in man's life-activity. Passion, I believe, is crucial in productive labor and productive labor is necessary for man to be happy. Or as Wilhelm von Humboldt puts it, “The true end of man...is the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole.” There is no productive labor without passion and there is no happiness without productive labor.
This concept changed my life. Understanding the significance of passion in attaining happiness naturally led me to devalue the role of money. This has made me an outsider of my own community and to some extent even my own family. I remind my mom constantly that money does not buy happiness. I try to explain to her in many ways why money should not be valued as much as it is. As a result, I have had some success in convincing her.
Reading Mill's On Liberty made me realize how important independent thinking is in developing society as a whole. Progress depends on people who question the status quo, who challenge what has already been accepted. Progress depends on the unreasonable man, the man who tries to adapt the world to himself and not the other way around. It is because of the people who think independently that blacks and women can vote today. And it will be because of these same people that gays will be allowed to get married in the future.
You do not understand how much this idea has changed my life. My like of dissidence and dislike of blind obedience composes such a large part of my basic beliefs that it has led me to paint my finger nails. Why is it that women can paint their nails but not men? Is society better for it? Certainly, whether or not men can wear nail polish is insignificant, but it is symbolic. I have been unable to make my mom understand this concept.
Development of the self and of society. What can be more important that those two things?
In conclusion, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I cannot even begin to show you my appreciation for your class; it has made me the person I am today.