We are here to help you. Today we have five philosophical jokes that will need some explaining. By the time you’ve read them all, you’ll have both a few laughs and a better understanding of the philosophy and its importance.
What is reality made of?
Thales walks into a cafe and orders a cup. He takes a sip and immediately spits it out in disgust, he looks up at the barista and yells, “What’s that, water?”
Thales is commonly called “the first philosopher” because he is the first philosopher whose name we know. He was, however, much more than a philosopher; he also dabbled in business, engineering, astronomy, meteorology, and public policy.
His best-known idea is his metaphysics; he held that water was the basis of all other substances. No matter how non-aquatic something may seem (think dry dust or fire), Thales argued that because it comes from water, it remains water at the most fundamental level despite its characteristics. changing.
Aristotle tells us that this was the first time a thinker attempted to explain the world and how it works in terms of natural laws. To this day, all of science and philosophy that seeks to discover what reality is at its most fundamental level continue Thales’s work, although they have long since rejected his proposal.
How can I know something?
Descartes takes his date, Jeanne, to a restaurant for her birthday. The sommelier hands them the wine list, and Jeanne asks to order the most expensive Burgundy on the list. “I do not think so!” exclaims an indignant Descartes, and he disappears.
Descartes was a French philosopher who tried to find the basis of his knowledge, solve the mind-body problem and invented modern philosophy along the way. He also created that coordinate system that you used so much in high school geometry.
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His most famous quote, “I think; therefore, I am”, is taken from his book Meditations on First Philosophy. In this book, he tries to systematically doubt everything he thinks he knows until he finds the one thing he can’t doubt. Ultimately, that one thing is its own existence. Even if he doubts the accuracy of everything he sees, thinks and believes, he still has to exist to doubt it. He then used fairly weak arguments to be able to believe in everything again, but that’s another story.
Descartes continued a long line of philosophy that asked not only what exists but also how we can know. While he opted for the idea that we can trust our senses, others argue that we cannot or there is not even a real world for our senses to detect.
What is the right thing to do?
Jeremy Bentham walks up to a cafe counter, holding a $50 bill. “What’s the cheapest drink you have?” he asks. “That would be our decaffeinated roast, for just $1.99,” the barista explains. “Good,” Bentham says and hands her the $50. “I’ll buy them for the next twenty-five people who show up.”
Jeremy Bentham was the founder of Utilitarianism, a philosophy and ethical theory that holds that the only good is happiness and the right thing to do is to maximize it. He was also an eccentric, a social reformer and the mentor of some brilliant English thinkers.
Utilitarianism treats everyone’s happiness as equal. Therefore, the Bentham joke knows that he can create more happiness by buying coffee for everyone who comes after him rather than spending the money on himself. The idea that we should be charitable is still a big part of utilitarianism and central to the career of philosopher Peter Singer.
Other important ethical theories of Bentham include deontology, which is based on respect for universal laws, and virtue ethics, which argues for building strong character. Although these three systems agree on a lot of things, their minor differences can lead to some pretty big disagreements.
What is the right way to organize society?
Pierre Proudhon comes up to the counter and orders a Tazo green tea with caramel nut syrup, two shots of espresso and mixed pumpkin spice. The barista warns him that it will taste terrible. “Pah! mocks Proudhon. “Good tea is theft!” »
Pierre Proudhon was a French anarchist philosopher and the first to use the term “anarchist”. His political philosophy is the basis of modern anarchist thought and has influenced many other thinkers. In a rare twist for a political philosopher and even more so for an anarchist, he was once a legislator in the French government.
One of his most famous quotes is “Property is theft”. By “property” he doesn’t mean your shirt or your toothbrush, but rather things like land or factories. Owning, but not personally using, such things usually means that you hire other people to work for you and keep some of their work for your benefit. Proudhon sees this as an injustice. His ideal society would include co-operatives, communes, and fraternal benefit societies that would allow workers to keep the fruits of their labor for themselves.
Other thinkers have defended very different ways of organizing society. Robert Nozick argued that private property was fine and taxation was tyranny. John Rawls argued that social democracy was the pinnacle of justice. Hegel believed that constitutional monarchy was the last good idea in political philosophy anyone would have.
Even if they disagree, these philosophers ask essential questions about how the world works and how we might improve it.
Why these issues matter
Morty comes home to see his wife and best friend, Lou, naked together in bed. Just as Morty is about to open his mouth, Lou jumps out of bed and says, “Before you say anything, mate, what are you going to believe, me or your eyes?”
This joke is lovingly borrowed from Plato and a platypus walk into a bar….: Understanding philosophy through jokes, a book by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein that helps explain the history of philosophy through jokes.
As we saw with Descartes, the problem of what information we should believe and how we know it to be true is an important issue. While sensory input might be okay in this case, Morty will now have to move on to thinkers like Aristotle, Bentham, and Kant to decide what to do next.
This article was originally published in July 2019. It was updated in June 2022.