In a college introductory Philosophy course, my professor stood before the class and displayed the following words on the projection screen: “The Ontological Argument by St. Anselm.”
He spent the next two class periods carefully elucidating an 11th century theologian’s reasoning process about the existence of God.
The presentation was quite abstract, but eventually the other students and I began to understand and appreciate the intricacies of St. Anselm’s proofs.
Then, the professor, taking no more than five minutes, pointed out several flaws and logical fallacies in St. Anselm’s argument.
In the same amount of time it would have taken me to run to the bathroom and back, he managed to confidently refute a philosophical position that he spent two class sessions trying to explain.
His surprising final remarks: Even though I completely disagree with St. Anselm’s conclusion, it remains one of the most brilliant pieces of work I’ve ever analyzed.
Befuddled, I asked, “but how can you say that about something you refuted in five minutes?”
He replied, “My job was easy. I only had to find the errors. It takes more time, creativity, and intellectual sophistication to build a new idea from scratch than it does to just tear it down. In introduction to philosophy classes 20 years from now, they won’t be discussing my disagreements with St. Anselm. They’ll be discussing St. Anselm.
You can’t create your legacy solely by being the person who tears down other people’s work.
That privilege is reserved for the builders.
Are you building what matters to you or are you tearing down what once mattered to someone else?