Tuesday, April 10, 2012

J is for Jokes and What You Can Learn from Them

Are you into philosphy? Me neither. Too obscure. Yawn.


Ever thought that jokes could clarify philosophy? I didn't either until I picked up Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes.
Makes it sound more interesting and fun, doesn't it?

Here are some examples:

Here's a joke to explain essentialism. What attributes make things what they are, or as philosophers put it, what attributes make things not what they aren't (Whew!)
"Why is an elephant big, gray and wrinkled?"
"Because if he were small, white and round, he'd be an aspirin."

Philosophers struggle with the concepts of eternity and infinity. Also relativity.
Here's a joke that explains two of them:
A woman is told by her doctor that she has six months to live. "Is there anything I can do?" she asks.
"Yes." says the doctor. "You could marry a tax accountant."
"How will that help my illness?" she asks.
"Oh, it won't help your illness," says the doctor,"but it will make that six months seem like an eternity."
(Sorry, tax accountants.)

Deductive logic is reasoning from the general to the particular. for example, using the famous syllogism: All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; Socrates is mortal. That's fine, unless you screw up the logic as in: All men are mortal; my kid's hamster is mortal; therefore my kid's hamster is a man.
Or you could srgue from a false premise:
An old cowboy goes into a bar. A young lady sits down next to him and asks, "Are you a real cowboy?"
He says, "Well, I've spent my whole life on a ranch, herding horses, mending fences and branding cattle, so I guess I am."
She says, "I'm a lesbian. I spend my whole day thinking about women. As soon as I get up in the morning, I think about women. When I go to work or watch TV, everything makes me think about women."
She wanders off, and a couple sits down. They turn to the old guy and ask, "Are you a real cowboy?"
He replies, "I always thought I was, but I just found out I'm a lesbian."

Analogies are often used in arguments, but sometimes they just don't work. Here are a few that failed:
John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
The little boat drifted gently across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

Stoicism involved emotional disengagement from life, acting from reason, never from passion. Here is a modern Stoic-by-proxy:
Mr. Cooper told the dentist he was in a big hurry. "No fancy stuff," he ordered. "No gas or needles or any of that stuff. Just pull the tooth and get it over with."
"I wish more of my patients were as stoic as you," said the dentist. "Which tooth is it?"
Mr. Cooper turned to his wife. "Open your mouth, honey."

The philosophy of language addresses the concept of "fuzziness," or vagueness in language as in the joke that follows:
A woman bursts into the men's day-room at the retirement home. Holding her clenched fist in the air, she announces, "Anyone who can guess what I have in my hand cam have sex with me tonight."
An old man shouts, "An elephant."
The woman things for a moment and says, "Close enough."

Check on Amazon for Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar. By the way, when it was published in 2008, it became a best seller. It's still #18,153 on Amazon's list. And remember, they have over a million books for sale.


Hallie said... [Reply to comment]

Adding this to my list of books to read! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am enjoying yours as well!

Jericha Senyak said... [Reply to comment]

ah, this is great! I love complex concepts explained via jokes.


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