NSFW

Did you know that Oprah Winfrey has 20 things that she knows for sure? Really. She does. She absolutely, positively knows at least 20 things (although I suspect that Oprah knows a great deal more than she’s letting on). Personally, I don’t know much. Honestly I don’t know jack.

But of all the things that I don’t know (and there are plenty), I know this one thing: If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that philosophers are full of shit (and they do), I wouldn’t be worried about how I’m going to make money doing philosophy for a living.

I’m not really worried. I’d say I’m concerned about the fiscal future of my chosen profession.

In addition to being broke, I’m also a bad liar.

It’s time, as they say, to face the truth.

There’s something called the truth out there. But there’s also something out there called the bitter truth. The bitter truth is, every time I tell someone who I non only have a philosophy degree, but I also intend to make a “living” doing so, some joker ends up emailing a supposedly “funny” picture like this:

It seems that everybody and their high school dropout best buddy with an opinion has got something funny to say about philosophy.

The funny thing is, pictures like the one above (see: above picture) is just about the only time that you ever see philosophy being funny. Take any area of philosophy. The result will always be the same. You’ll find plenty of stuff about reality and the meaning of life, monads, and Hegelian alienation, but you know what you ain’t gonna find? Anything funny.

Not to say that philosophy should be anything like watching Lisa Lampanelli do her stand-up routine or anything like that, but I’ve been around philosophers. Epistemologists aren’t funny. Neither are philosophers of religion, Transcendental Idealists, people who take Derrida seriously, or Randian Objectivists. And feminist philosophers are absolutely no fun at all.

While you’re thinking about other kinds of philosophers who induce sleepiness, watch this (NSFW):

I know, I know. The reason why Lisa Lampanelli is funny is because her humor is rooted in an appeal to the emotion. Not only that, but it’s also easy to be funny when the inherent quality that makes humor funny is its logical incongruity.

Philosophy is supposed to be all about reason.

I know this because philosophers of humor know this.

Really, there is a philosophy of humor.

You know, I’ve read a lot of philosophy, and I’ve seen some philosophers say some pretty amazing and controversial stuff. But I have never once seen a philosopher say in the title an email “NSFW”.

I don’t think I ever will.

Well, maybe Wittgenstein would have. I’m sure  if there was such a thing as social networking in his day, his Facebook status updates would have been very…

entertaining.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “NSFW

  1. Bertrand Russell, Isaiah Berlin and Karl Popper were very funny men, in the 1920’s and 1930’s at Cambridge Russell and Maynard Keynes had lavish parties where they would entertain their friends to satirical songs and skits, sadly a Cambridge before my time. Isaiah Berlin, I met twice in 1992, he was fabulously witty and dry, Berlin really was Christopher Hitchens’ inspiration and had a huge influence on Stephen Fry. Karl and Hennie Popper were good friends of my maternal grandparents, they were very funny indeed and when Karl got a little drunk and went too far (which he often did) Hennie would say “You’ll have to forgive Karl, he’s a philosopher”. Most of the jokes told by Russell, Popper, Berlin would have been not safe for work.

    I think that in the UK we have these quirky traditions, probably due to the insitutional nature of English establishment, young children are packed off to school at a very young age, then off to Oxbridge, then into one of the professions: Law, Medicine, the Civil Service, the Press, Business and Finance or Academia, where they are forced to entertain themselves and their peers. One could easily imagine Peter Cook, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Dudley Moore, Stephen Fry, Hugh Lawrie, David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Jimmy Carr, Alexander Armstrong, Ben Miller or David Baddiel holding some obscure Oxbridge chair. Ben Miller has a PhD in Quantum Electro-dynamics, David Baddiel in English Literature, Terry Jones is a medieval historian of great renown, they are all more than capable of attaining the glittering prizes of academia, they just choose a different path. Stephen Fry is every bit the intellectual equal of anyone doing philosophy, lingusitics, literary criticism or political science today, heaven help the American apologists if Fry decides that he wants to debate them, Swinburne hasn’t recovered from his debate with Fry where he was pubically bitchslapped.

    If one needs to see a prime example one only needs to look to Jonathan Miller, he studied medicine at Cambridge, qualified as a doctor, before embarking on a very successful comedy career alongside Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennet. Miller made significant contributions to the understanding of neuroscience, became one of the worlds great opera directors and has written upon a multitude subjects. Miller is everybit the polymath that Russell was.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Miller

    George Carlin, Bill Maher, Bill Hicks, Sarah Silverman, Larry David and many more I’m sure are all of the same ilk, fabulous minds weaving and interweaving, with logic, truth and observation to create something powerfully funny. In a sense they all deal with philosophy, their humour is rooted deeply in the human experience. I can easily imagine Kant, Locke, Spinoza, Hume or any of the great philosophers choosing the path of entertainment, when the only form of entertainment was the written word, one had no choice but to write. In our technologically advanced contemporary world we have more options and if humour is a way of getting your message accross then use it.

    Ideas are dangerous things and they aren’t safe for work, Albert Camus said:

    “A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”

    My heart was first opened by this and images of naked women and it may or may not be safe for work:

  2. Of course, my take on philosophy is from an American point of view, where we notoriously hold the idea that thinking should not be a part of the national passtime. We haven’t an intellectual tradition (actually we have a fine tradition of anti-intellectualism), so of course, the average philosophy student, let alone the average American, would not be aware of the fact that Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper had magnificient senses of humor. There are people who are aware of the late Christopher Hitchens, but I think they know of him less for his reputation as a public intellectual than as an adversary of Christianity. So far as the likes of Stephen Fry, I’d bet that most Americans would be likely to say “who?” than anything. Alhough the few who are regular watchers of PBS might know him from Jeeves and Wooster. There are Monty Python fans, but I suspect that few appreciate the show for any deeper, dare we say, philosophical significance.

    George Carlin, BIll Maher, Jeanane Garafalo, Bill Hicks, etc. are known almost strictly for their comedic skills rather than as social commentators. Of course, doing so diminishes their social influence. Since so many popular commedians tend to lean towards the Left of the political spectrum, it’s quite easy to dismiss their comments if one disagrees with their politics.

    Although I’d imagine that some philosophers would take advantage of the medium, somehow, I can’t imagine that Kant would have his own TV show.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s