Have you ever seen the Rolling Stones movie Cocksucker Blues? No? Don’t worry, no one has. The story on the movie goes that the Rolling Stones wanted to make a movie about life on the road, so they hired up a film crew to document (ON FILM) what they saw. Apparently what was filmed was so heinously debaucherous that the Rolling Stones actually went to court to legally prohibit anyone from ever seeing the movie. In a world where many films are marketed as “the movie THEY don’t want you to see” (See: Faces of Death, The Wicker Man (1973), Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom), The Rolling Stones’ Cocksucker Blues is truly that movie.
* for more info on Cocksucker Blues see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocksucker_Blues
You see, the reason why I bothered to bring up the Rolling Stones movie (don’t worry, I’m not going to repeat the title again) is because there are two kinds of unseen things in the world: the things people don’t want you to see, and the things that people (themselves) don’t see.
What am I getting at, right?
Hold on a minute, I’ll make a point soon enough.
I think that every young philosopher starts off with a mission. The mission is always this: I am going to make philosophy popular.
It’s a pretty noble goal, really. But it’s also a terribly lofty one.
I think we’d all agree (most of us, anyway) that learning to think critically is important and that people should think about and question everything (I conclude this only because I hear at least once a day someone say that there are too many “stupid” people on the planet), but there’s one big problem with wanting to make philosophy popular and actually making philosophy popular. Namely, is anyone out there actually interested in philosophy — you know the kind with a capital P?
I’m not talking about that small “p” philosophy. You know, the stuff that Oprah talks about or some soul-rattling enlightenment you’d find thumbing through a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s The New Earth. I ain’t talking about that. I’m not talking about anything of the “philosophy” you’ll find in the religion/philosophy section at Walden Books (wait, is that even a chain of bookstores anymore?) or on the New York Times best seller list. I’m talking about Russellian definite descriptions, Hegelian alienation, Sartre’s existentialism, Nietzsche’s master and slave morality, Marx’s class struggle, and Kierkegaard’s leap of faith. I’m talking about Derrida, Foucault, Kant, Hume, Bacon, Rawls, Plato, Descartes, Chomsky, Carnap, Heidegger, Lao-zi, Pascal, Nozick, Rousseau, Ryle, Turing, and Strawson.
THAT kind of philosophy.
And here’s where philosophy hits the brick wall. Here it goes:
Although philosophers won’t admit this, the reason why philosophy isn’t and ain’t gonna be as popular as Oprah or Snooki from Jersey Shore; the reason why you won’t hear a song about philosophy ever be as popular as that “Call Me, Maybe” song is this: philosophy is not entertaining.
Here’s a short quiz. Which would you rather watch? This:
I think I’m a fairly entertaining person (I better be or I’ve got serious trouble). I’ve been told by at least a few people who I know that I have a sense of humor. And being funny and entertaining, I thought that my dynamic sense to entertain, coupled with my sense of well-timed snark could (perhaps) at last bring philosophy to the masses. I envisioned myself the Oprah Winfrey of the Bertrand Russell-reading set. I wanted to make philosophy popular — and I used to think that I could. The thing I realize now is that there is no way on God’s green earth to make philosophy funny, snarky or entertaining (I would emphasize my point by throwing in an “at all” but that would be too definite).
Wait, before you argue my point, allow me to share a philosophy joke.
You might want to grab a bag… just in case.
Question: How many Kantians does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Two to change the phenomenal bulb; and one to explain that we might not have actually changed the bulb-an-sich at all.
Did you laugh at all at that? Or are you feeling right about now that you just wasted 48 seconds of your life that you know you’re never getting back? The thing is, philosophers find that joke funny. Now, I know you’re asking, how could someone who laughs at that joke possibly manage to make philosophy entertaining to anyone outside of a lecture hall?
By the way, if you did laugh at that joke, 1) God help you, and 2) you can find more knee-slappers just like that one at: http://consc.net/phil-humor.html.
I know that we really need to think critically, if not philosophically, at the world and our lives in (or is it on?) it. And I know that there is an audience of lovers of wisdom out there (Lord knows that there are countless numbers of Facebook pages dedicated to philosophy, including my own *
shameless plug* the Mindless Philosopher), but is it possible to make that audience everybody? Is it possible to make philosophy — capital “P” philosophy — as popular as Oprah or reality shows on MTV?
If not, I’m gonna have to figure out a way to get Alvin Plantinga to snort coke off a groupie’s boobs.
Wait a minute, is there such a thing as a philosophy groupie?