It was not yet common, in that illustrious college, that seminary of the learned, that ornament of knowledge for the metropolis—it was not yet common, I was saying, to teach modern philosophy there in all its aspects; its lecture halls still resonated with the ergos of Aristotle. There you could still hear debates over the Rational Being, the Hidden Properties, and the Prime Matter, which was defined in relation to Nothingness, nec est quid, and so on. Experimental physics had never been mentioned on that campus, and the great names of Descartes, Newton, Musschembroek, and others are scarcely known within the walls that had nurtured Portillo and other celebrated geniuses. In short, the Aristotelian system that dominated the loftiest intellects of Europe for so many centuries had not yet been entirely abandoned when my wise teacher first dared to show us the path of truth, while trying not to stick out too much, for he selected the best in Aristotle’s logic and what he felt was most probable in the modern authors, through whom he taught us the rudiments of physics; and in this way, we became true eclectics, who would not stick capriciously to any one opinion nor defer to any system simply because we were well disposed toward its author.
I could fool my friends as easily with Barbara as with Ferison, since I produced nothing but barbarities with each word. I learned to create sophisms rather than to recognize and dispel them; to obscure the truth rather than investigate it; a natural outcome, given the obsessions of schools and the pomposity of boys.
In the midst of this hubbub of shouting and exoticized wordplay, I learned to distinguish between a syllogism, an enthymeme, a sorites, and a dilemma.
Believe me, my children, whenever you see great crowds drawn to a fiesta, whether a wedding, a baptism, or any other ceremony, what attracts most people is the chow. Yes, free grub, free grub is the bell that calls the crowds to visit, and the flag that recruits so many friends of the moment.