By the time your philosopher reaches graduate school, she/he will have a false idea that absolutely no one cares about what they are studying. Usually, this attitude comes about after repeated shut-downs from people they care about and/or members of the community who ask them the dreaded question, “So what do you do?” (glazed-over eyes and subject changes—very uncomfortable).
Perhaps you were the instigator of a shut-down philosopher without even realizing you were doing so. Remember, philosophers are extremely sensitive in this area.
Working against this attitude can sometimes be tricky, because philosophers have their defenses up. Once you can get your philosopher to move past this attitude, they will (1) share (very excitedly) all of the interesting philosophy stuff they are working on or reading with you and (2) they will feel like you care about them and think that philosophy is important.
How can you get your philosopher to open up?
One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask your philosopher questions.
Now, I know you’re thinking that these questions will have to be super-sophisticated questions about this philosophy-stuff, but they really don’t. Philosophers LOVE to talk about philosophy. Really. They also understand that you know nothing about philosophy and will be so surprised and excited if you even ask them a very simple question about their work. They do not have the same expectations for you that they do for their philosophy peers.
Here are some questions that I’ve found work pretty well on my philosopher:
1. 1. What are some of the more interesting things you are learning about and/or teaching in your philosophy classes?
2. 2. Who do you think is the most influential philosopher of all time? Why?
3. 3. What does [philosophical term you’ve heard them mention] mean?
4. 4. Do you have any current research projects? What are they?
5. 5. [Go to your philosopher’s library. Pick up one of their books]. What is this book about? Do you agree with her/him?
When your philosopher is answering these questions, she/he will be inspecting you very closely for signs of boredom, glazed-over eyes, and disinterest. Either pay attention when they answer or really try hard to pretend (only try this in darkness). Any sign of glazed-over eyes will just shut them down again.
If you listen carefully to your philosopher when she/he shares things with you, then you can begin to ask them more specific questions about their work, which will make them even happier.