Philosophy and Humor (“Very funny.”) 1903 “ Damn the Absolute!”
"Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing."
Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits. It works in the minutest crannies and it opens out the widest vistas. It 'bakes no bread,' as has been said, but it can inspire our souls with courage; and repugnant as its manners, its doubting and challenging, its quibbling and dialectics, often are to common people, no one of us can get along without the far-flashing beams of light it sends over the world's perspectives. These illuminations at least, and the contrast effects of darkness and mystery that accompany them, give to what it says an interest that is much more than professional. --William James, Pragmatism
It gets funnier... but just notice the intrinsically funny aspect of philosophy, of trying (as James put it) to “settle the universe's hash” even as we concede the futility and ultimate absurdity of the attempt. Still, some of us become passionate about it all, and this must strike the disinterested observer as much ado about very little. Another comic aspect of this enterprise occurs when philosophers talk with intellectuals of other stripes. A case in point is the perpetual, playful, but occasionally biting dialogue through their years of William his brother Henry concerning Henry' allusive style. Some philosophers are also stylistically complex, and William was impatient with them too. But it was to his brother that he wrote: [___]
James believed in philosophy... but he also complained about the absurdity of trying to put everything important into words: "What an awful trade that of professor is - paid to talk, talk, talk ! It would be an awful universe if everything could be converted into words, words, words. " But thanks to the words, we can easily notice and share and enjoy the funny side of serious thinking.
Plato and a Platypus...
"We certainly won't have a complete explanation of consciousness until we have accounted for its role in permitting us to have fun," philosopher Daniel Dennett once wrote. It turns out that philosophers have contributed more than you might have thought to the world's net supply of fun, or at least of humor.
Philosophy and Humor-- This course will explore the lighter side of a subject too often shrouded in dark solemnity. In fact, humor and reflection drink from the same springs, and what makes you grin can also make you think! We’ll learn how Woody Allen cheated on his metaphysics exam, what happens when Monty Python’s “Mrs. Premise” and “Mrs. Conclusion” visit the legendary existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, and whether Douglas Adams’ answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is worth waiting for.
Woody Allen Cheating, Dr. Flicker, Marshall McLuhan, swimming & drowning, My Apology I was thrown out of there during my freshman year, for cheating on my metaphysics final. You know, I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me. I don't want to be immortal through my work. I want to be immortal through not dying.
Why are you depressed, Alvy? (“Annie Hall”)
...Well, the universe is everything, and if it's expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything! Alvy's Mom: What is that your business? He stopped doing his homework! Alvy: What's the point? Alvy's Mom: What has the universe got to do with it? You're here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!
“ Dr. Flicker”
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
They are worried about something much more mundane, or it may merely be bad digestion; but nobody is really seriously rendered unhappy by the thought of something that is going to happen in this world millions and millions of years hence. Therefore, although it is of course a gloomy view to suppose that life will die out -- at least I suppose we may say so, although sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with their lives I think it is almost a consolation -- it is not such as to render life miserable. It merely makes you turn your attention to other things. --Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian
This Modern World. Scan & send Philosophers on Strike et al
The great thinkers of the past certainly did not think that they were adding footnotes
to Plato's text. Had Kant thought he was adding one, he would surely have kept the
Critique of Pure Reason under 500 pages. And should Wittgenstein have suspected that
he was producing scholia, he would have spent at least a little time reading the text.
... Does Descartes, who subverted the starting-point of ancient philosophy, constitute no
more than an afterthought to it? Should Hume, who rejected both its premisses and its
conclusions in favour of his own original views, get no credit beyond having discovered
a new wrinkle on wisdom's old face? Can we even think that in his stunning synthesis of
everything ancient and modern, Hegel rehearsed only what Plato had always known?
A.N. Whitehead once wrote that
"the safest general characterization"
of Western thought is that "it consists
of a series of footnotes to Plato".
The safest way to deal with the history of Western thought is not to characterize it in general terms at all. --From John Lachs' entry on "footnotes to Plato," Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy [JL pic] [Whitehead pic]
Links to some phil-joke websites
http://www.workjoke.com/projoke70.htm -- funnier than my Nietzsche paper
http://jamaica.u.arizona.edu/~chalmers/phil-humor.html -- David Chalmers seems to be a droll fellow;
links to lots of joke sites, philosophers' break-up lines, etc
http://www.dar.cam.ac.uk/~dhm11/DeathIndex.html -- list of causes of death of philosophers
http://www.miami.edu/phi/jokes.htm -- more jokes
http://www.mindspring.com/~mfpatton/phumor.htm -- yet more jokes
http://www.radisol.com/cows/concepts.htm -- if you're desperate for a laugh
The behaviorism joke
Two behaviorists finish up after a robust session.
One turns to the other and says,
"That was good for you: how was it for me?".