Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar…chapter 1 Metaphysics.

Illustration Jason Ford. Design Paul Buckley.

This is proving to be a very useful book, not only is it helping my very basic understanding of taught philosophy but it’s full of jokes that deal with pretty absurd ideas…

The construction and payoff of jokes and the construction and payoff of philosophical concepts are made out of the same stuff. They tease the mind in similar ways. That’s because philosophy and jokes proceed from the same impulse: to confound our sense of the way things are, to flip our worlds upside down, and to ferret out hidden, often uncomfortable, truths about life. What the philosopher calls an insight, the gagster calls a zinger. (pg 2)

The first chapter looks at metaphysics (which deals with the really big questions that are beyond scientific observation) . The chapter is split into smaller sections

TeleologyAccording to Aristotle, everything has a telos, which is an inner goal it is meant to attain. An acorn has a telos: an oak tree. (pg8)

Essentialism – This is about the essential properties of something that if you took them away from something then the thing would be something else. So you could take away my clothes or cut my hair and I’d still be human but take away my rationality (which Aristotle considered essential to a human being) and I would no longer be human . I’d probably be an animal. A monkey that looks like a man. Monkeyman.

Rationalism – this is a good one as it may be seen as the complete opposite of the absurd. Where absurd is the absense of sense, in rationalism reason takes precedent over all other ways of thinking.

Jean-Michel Moreau. 1803. A scene from Candide where two monkeys are shot chasing two ladies who were actually the monkey’s lovers.

“this is the best of all possible worlds” Leibniz (pg15)

Gottfried Willheim Leibniz was a seventeenth century rationalist philosopher and he arrived by the idea that this is the best possible world by arguing with reason alone. his reasoning revolves around god creating the world and being all powerful and morally perfect… Leibniz was soundly ridiculed by people like Voltaire (Candide’s philosophical mentor insists everything is for the best as Candide encounters tragedies). This led to a film called Candy in which a naive young girl remains innocent and optomistic as she is exploited by all the men she encounters.




Paul Klee wrote that he discovered his artistic style whilst reading Candide and went on to Illustrate it himself.

Paul Klee 1920.

Rationalism is made as clear as glass by this joke.

The optimist says,”The glass is half full”. The pessimist says,”The glass is half empty”. The rationalist says,”This glass is twice as big as it needs to be.” (pg17)

What would the absurdist say? ,”This turnip is open for business”.or ‘Nothing, he just committed suicide’.

Infinity and Eternity

Two cows are standing in the pasture. One turns to the other and says,”Although pi is usually abbreviated to five numbers, it actually goes on into infinity.”

The other cow says,”Moo.” (pg20)

This joke reminds me of the ‘I keep thinking it’s tuesday’ joke I discussed earlier.

How can a day feel like an eternity?..

Determination versus free will – Do we have control over our own destiny?  If not we have no moral obligations because we have no free will.

Process philosophy – A god who is evolving and can surprise himself.

The principle of parsimony – Fourteenth century theologian William Occam ‘s principle of parsimony ‘ Occam’s razor’ This principle declares that “Theories should not be any more complex than necessary.” or as Occam put it metaphysically, theoriesshould not “multiply entities unnesessarily.” pg 24


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