NEWARK, Delaware. When Mahlon Grenier got the call telling him he was the winner of the American Philosophical Society’s undergraduate essay prize, he says he was as surprised as the next fellow. “In my apartment the next fellow is my roommate, and he didn’t think it was that big a deal,” says Grenier.
“In a wet t-shirt contest, is the wetness of the shirt more important than the wetness of the bodacious body?”
The distinction comes with a benefit–a check for $1,000–that Grenier says he will use to buy beer as soon as he receives it to prove the truth of his theorem, as expressed in the title of his essay: “The Unexamined Life is Like Totally Worth Living, Dude!”
“We found Mr. Grenier’s approach to the essay topic to be unique and, all things considered, completely ‘balls to the walls’–if I may revive some undergraduate slang from my college days,” says Professor Wilmot Hastings of St. Olaf’s College. “Everybody else just regurgitated the same old self-regarding crap.”
A fundamental knowledge of the classics is essential.
This year’s theme was drawn from Plato’s Dialogue The Apology, in which Socrates states that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” While the majority of the budding philosophers praised Socrates’ call for every man to know himself, Grenier took a contrarian approach.
“With all due respect to the Soc-Man,” the essay begins, “the unexamined life is not only like totally worth living, it’s a hell of a lot more fun than the examined life, where you’re constantly worrying about trivial crap.”
“Another round of Hemlock Lite!”
“I found Mr. Grenier’s approach to be a novel blend of the Epicurean and Cynical Schools of philosophy,” noted Merlin Cohen, a member of the three-judge panel. “I’m not ready to say it represents a revolution in Western thought, but the frozen margaritas he made in that blender were awesome.”
The job market for philosophy majors is so grim that the APA recently decided to do away with the “Employment Opportunities” section of its web site, a fact that Grenier says contributed to the “live for today” theme of his winning paper. “Most of the positions were for cab drivers, anyway,” notes webmistress Kimberly Melville, “and those were the ones with health benefits.”
How did an unreflective sort such as Grenier end up majoring in such a rigorous and, to be candid, boring field as philosophy, this reporter asks. “I was going to major in psychology,” he says, “but I picked up the wrong syllabus at the book store.”
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Let’s Get Philosophical.”