Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar…

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar...

No, I don’t know the punchline. Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar… is actually the title of a book written by Harvard philosophy majors Tom Cathcart and Dan Klein, and is summed up by its subtitle: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes. Each topic, that is, contains a number of jokes that demonstrate the application, or more commonly, the misapplication of it.

Because certain members of my audience are acquainted with a certain Theory of Knowledge, I shall pull one out from Chapter 3: Epistemology. The book’s definition:

How do you know that you know the stuff you think you know? Take away the option of answering, “I just do!” and what’s left is epistemology.

One theme is reason versus faith.

A man stumbles into a deep well and plummets a hundred feet before grasping a spindly root, stopping his fall. His grip grows weaker and weaker, and in his desperation he cries out, “Is there anybody up there?”

He looks up, and all he can see is a circle of sky. Suddenly, the clouds part and a beam of bright light shines down on him. A deep voice thunders, “I, the Lord, am here. Let go of the root, and I shall save you.”

The man thinks for a moment, and then yells, “Is there anybody else up there?”

The book then wisecracks: “Hanging by the root has a tendency to tip the scales toward reason.”

Another interesting point is what we can know by reason alone. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant called this the ding an sich, the thing-in-itself. Here is a ding an sich joke:

Secretary: Herr Doktor, there’s a ding an sich in the waiting room.

Urologist: A ding an sich! If I see one more today, I think I’m screaming! Who is it?

Secretary: How would I know?

Urologist: Describe him.

Secretary: You must be kidding!

This one is actually REALLY funny when you get the philosophy.