Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Book: Plato & a Platypus Walk into a Bar

PLATO AND A PLATYPUS WALK INTO A BAR: UNDERSTANDING PHILOSOPHY THROUGH JOKES by Tom Cathcart and Dan Klein gives a very sketchy outline of such topics as metaphysics, logic, ethics, and so on. Each aspect of the topic is illustrated with jokes so, for example, a paragraph on utilitarianism is followed by a joke illustrating (or refuting) it. My problems with the book are that the philosophy is fairly superficial, and the jokes fairly old. It is clearly intended as a book intended to make people feel they are reading something edifying, while not taxing them too much. There is a brief (humorous) glossary, but no index.

I did notice a couple of errors. A housewife is told that a certain household appliance that would cut her work in half. "Great, I'll take two!" she says. The authors point out that this is wrong; two would only cut it by three-quarters. Fine, but then they say three would cut it by five-sixths. Bzzzt! But thank you for playing.

Another joke has a museum guard telling someone that the dinosaur bones on display are three million four years and six months old. How does he know so exactly? Well, when he started he was told they were three million years old, and that was four-and-a-half years ago. Since the dinosaurs died out sixty-five million years ago, this is way off.

This is okay for a quick read, but don't mistake it for a useful text on philosophy.

Grade: B

1 comment:

  1. Say it takes one ordinary vacuum an hour; a new vacuum will take 1/2 hour. Two of them will take 15 minutes, a 3/4 savings. But three of them will take 10 minutes, a reduction of 5/6 from the ordinary vacuum.

    Do we get a B+?

    Tom Cathcart and Dan Klein, authors of "Plato and a Platyus Walk into a Bar"


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