My History tutor was a thin man with a black beard. He wore a navy blue V-neck jersey and a plain white collared shirt. He spoke expressively. From time to time, he would make wide, excited movements with his hands. The spirit of the tutor, the design of the buildings and the tutorial itself smacked of Cambridge or something foreign.

‘We will be discussing Historiography and Historicism today’, our tutor exclaimed in a jerky, nervous way. ‘We’ll be taking a look at Interdisciplinary Studies and History’, he added. Then he posed what appeared to be an innocuous question to the students, ‘What is science?’ The initial responses to this question seemed to bes from the perspective of natural science, physics and chemistry. A girl put up her hand, ‘Science is the observation of phenomena based on experimentation and concomittant results’. ‘Yeeesss’ he coaxed. ‘Go on’.

I offered an explanation, on the basis of our Latin Intensive course: ‘The word ‘science’ comes from the Latin word ‘scientiae’ which means ‘knowledge’. ‘Knowledge’, itself, is all-embracing. ‘Knowledge’, in its broad sense, cannot be compartamentalized’. While I was saying this, an image of the British neoclassical architecture fixed itself in my mind. It was very Oxford, the whole setting. Even the discussion. Institutions like Oxford and Cambridge had systematized and comparmentalized knowledge into highly specialized faculties. My tutor’s eyes lit up, and his face rumpled into a satisfied smile. ‘Good’, he said, ‘we are trying to see how different branches or sciences are all basically part of a broader definition of ‘knowledge” At that moment I thought of Cicero’s definition of the word ‘abstract’. Cicero defines ‘abstract’ as ‘that which can only be grasped in thought’. We had connected intellectually.

I still couldn’t really see the point of these tutorials, however. They were never conclusive. A topic would be introduced. We would have to read a whole bunch of articles. And then we’d discuss them in a roundabout way, without getting to the heart of the matter. But what was the heart of the matter? I had yet to resolve this question. When would the elusive truth I was seeking manifest to me?

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