My introduction to philosophy was through conversations with my father about The Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. During my high school years we would have conversations about the nature of the self, consciousness, dharma, mind and body, science and religion, the meaning of life, and so on. When I started studying philosophy academically in college, a basic mode of life started to develop for me, something analogous to W.E.B. DuBois' idea of double consciousness. This was the separation of my home philosophy from my school philosophy; the separation of the conversations I would have with my father from the conversations I would have in my classes in college.
Often the topics were the same, or at least similar, but the texts, the cultural context, sometimes the language and the intonations were quite different. Even when the words used were the same ("the self", "consciousness", "material world", etc.), I often had the feeling that in the two contexts these words were being used in different ways, sometimes with the hint that they were being used in even contrary ways. As if when my father spoke of consciousness he was doing something called religion or spirituality, but when my teachers spoke of consciousness they were doing something called philosophy or meta-psychology or a version of science.
Sitting in class I would wonder to myself about the meaning and nature of this developing schism within myself, a schism which seemed partly a figment of my imagination since it was hardly mentioned by my teachers. In class there was a sense that the Gita is not philosophy, and that part of being attuned to philosophy was learning that the Gita is a different kind of text than Plato's Apology. That whereas the former was somehow parochial or communal, the later was universal. That while the former was part of religion, and so deemed to be generally dogmatic, the latter encouraged thinking for oneself. Repeatedly in class there was the sense that part of being a philosopher meant questioning one's own family, culture and community.
I took this to mean that the answer for why we were not studying the Gita in class was readily apparent: because my teachers were enabling my questioning my culture, and my taking a step back from it. The assumption in class seemed to be that it was the very difference between my father's mode of philosophy and my classes which enabled me to grow as a thinker, and to thereby grow into philosophy. Call this cultural reflective distance, as in the kind of thinking that enables one to gain distance from one's upbringing and so question its deepest assumptions. Anyone who has taken an introductory philosophy course can attest that this is how philosophy is often portrayed in the classroom: that it enables cultural reflective distance.
When I was in graduate school at Harvard, once in a while, at this or that event, I would see Elizabeth Harman. She was then a graduate student at MIT, having finished her undergraduate degree at Harvard. We were minimal acquaintances, the way graduates students in nearby departments can tend to be. I remember exchanging a few pleasantries at this or that gathering, never quite talking about philosophy. My sense was that she was a nice person, friendly and smart.
Given my sense of a schism, of keeping always my conversations with my father segregated from the conversations I was having in academia, naturally what was most intriguing to my mind about Harman was that she was the daughter of the Princeton philosopher Gilbert Harman. What I found interesting wasn't any issues of nepotism, as if she maybe got into MIT because of her connections. It seemed evident enough that the younger Harman possessed the skills valued by professional philosophy. Rather, what was much more interesting to me was the fact that here was someone who was being acknowledged as a philosopher, and a good one, even though, at least based on outward facts, she didn't have to break with her upbringing in the way in which I had to in order to be a philosopher.