Philo 2014

Something I like to share and discuss with my counterparts - the philosophy subjects of the Baccalauréat. This exam the majority French people has at around 18 years of age is actually mandatory to enter University and depending on your preferences and abilities, you can choose between 3 domains of speciality that you will get deeper into during the year: sciences, literature or economics and social sciences. But regardless of the specialty, everyone has to work on every discipline and get tested during this week-long exam (for instance I did sciences but still had French, history, geography, English, philosophy etc). For reasons I ignore, the kick off of the exam (which was this morning) is traditionally philosophy.

4 hours and 2 subjects (plus 1 text to comment) are being given to students across the country to pick and craft a dissertation about - and those subjects get nearly immediately published to give some food for thoughts for the entire nation. To be honest, I did not perform particularly well on this one and having picked Sciences as my main discipline, the philosophy teaching I received was pretty minimum. But I still very much like, as experience grows year by year (alongside white hair) reading the subjects and wonder what could be my interpretation of a possible response. And especially, how it can influence the generation that will be joining the workforce in the next 5 years.

This year's subjects were:

For the Sciences section

Is the artist the master of his piece? 

Do we live to be happy? 

For the Literature section

Do artworks educate our perception? 

Shall we do everything we can to be happy? 

For the Economics and Social Sciences section

Is it sufficient to have a choice to be considered free?

Why try to know yourself? 

What I find interesting is how the subjects - regardless of the specialty, always evolve around 1 or 2 common topics: and this year, in spite of a financial crisis and an alarming recent fascist vote, the concept of happiness seems to be the trendy one along with art perception (rather recurrent, one must admit).

While writing this post, I realize I passed my Baccalauréat 15 years ago this year (f***ing hell!!!) and while looking at the topics back then, 1999's subjects were all about labor and freedom, combined or individually - the subject I worked on was actually: is freedom limited by the necessity of working? I would be curious to read what I wrote back then (even if I got a so-so grade), with so little working experience and compare it with what I would actually write today from inside my cubicle. While I look back at this subject though, thinking I got all my brain cells focused on the topics of freedom and labor from a philosophical standpoint for 4 hours probably got me to spend far more time than any regular worker will ever do on the question. It gets me to also question whether this influenced me in any way - as after all, it is precisely work that opened me the doors of the USA 4 years ago, hereby, a certain form of freedom I would not have acquired without working.

Anyhow, I will not develop here all the angles and correlations that can exist between labor and freedom but I am happy to read comments about the subject. And if it turns out there is indeed a link between the topic you choose to write a dissertation on at the Baccalauréat and your life later on, I would hope we will get a bunch of happy people coming out of university in a few years. 

Aurelie DesmasComment