Saturday, January 23, 2010

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar - by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein

Philosophy is normally "not my thing." In general, I am not a "big thinker" and my interests lie more in the details of how things work rather than in questions such as "why do they exist?" or "what is the greater purpose or meaning?." I do enjoy humor, however, and to me, even a corny joke can be quite enjoyable. This offering, then, which frames philosophical concepts in terms of jokes, is my kind of philosophy book. The authors present philosophy and comedy in a manner they term "philogagging." From Aristotle to Augustine, Nietzsche, Descartes, and Sartre, the concepts of many philosophers are illustrated in a lighthearted and amazingly comprehensible manner through jokes. If you're not into deep philosphical thinking, this book offers some exposure to some weighty thoughts in a very light manner.

There are a number of reasons one may want to read this book. The authors are real philosophy majors with a Harvard academic pedigree. This book could be used as a tool to help one learn and better understand philosophy. The presentation of concepts in the context of jokes was, for my simple brain, very helpful to better understanding and comprehension. While I certainly learned from this book, however, I did not treat it as a textbook. Enjoyment and entertainment was my objective and I was a satisfied customer. While stand-up comics would probably be hard pressed to find material in this book, I found it quite humorous. While what is funny and what is not can be a very subjective opinion, I found this book funny enough to keep me hooked and wanting to read more. I enjoyed this book in both its concept and its organization. I recommend it. Cathcart and Klein also have a new book: Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between
which looks to be in a similar vein. If you enjoy politics, you may consider Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington. Look for either or both of these in a future review. I intend to check them out when I get the chance.

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