Plato and a platypus walk into a bar…

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Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. It is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. The word “philosophy” comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means “love of wisdom”.

Metaphilosophy, also called philosophy of philosophy, is the study of the nature, aims, and methods of philosophy. The term is derived from Greek word meta μετά (“after”, “beyond”, “with”) and philosophía φιλοσοφία (“love of wisdom”).


In Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, Thomas Gray said “ignorance is bliss”.

I think I tend to agree. Especially when it comes to philosophy. It seems to more I learn about different philosophies, the more questions I have. Very frustrating.

If you’ve ever studied philosophy, or even if you haven’t, I want to recommend a book I read over the weekend: Plato and a platypus walk into a bar: Understanding philosophy through jokes. It addresses several philosophies, but two of my favorites concern religious philosophy:

Determinism versus Free Will

There are some determinists who say, “God made me do it. In fact, God has determined everything in the universe down to the last detail.”

Baruch Spinoza, the seventeenth-century philosopher, and Jonathan Edwards, the eighteenth-century American theologian, were proponents of this sort of theological determinism. The eagle, the frog and the truck driver in the following story all probably thought they chose and executed their actions freely.

Moses, Jesus and a bearded old man are playing golf. Moses drives a long one, which lands on the fairway but rolls directly toward the pond. Moses raises his club, parts the water, and the ball rolls safely to the other side.

Jesus also hits a long one toward the same pond, but just as it’s about to land in the center, it hovers above the surface. Jesus casually walks out on the pond and chips it onto the green.

The bearded man’s drive hits a fence and bounces out onto the street, where it caroms off an oncoming truck and back onto the fairway. It’s headed directly for the pond, but it lands on a lily pad, where a frog sees it and snatches it into its mouth. An eagle swoops down, grabs the frog, and flies away. As the eagle and frog pass over the green, the frog drops the ball, and it lands in the cup for a hole-in-one.

Moses turns to Jesus and says, “I hate playing golf with your dad.”

At the opposite end of the religious philosophy spectrum is something called process philosophy:

Process philosophy

A philosopher came along who took exception this notion of a compulsive God who had his finger in everything. Twentieth-century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead argues that not only is God incapable of determining the future–the future will determine him. According to Whitehead’s process philosophy, God is neither omnipotent or omniscient, but is changed by events as they unfold.

Alvin is working in his store when he hears a booming voice from above that says, “Alvin, sell your business!” He ignores it. The voice goes on for days saying, “Alvin, sell your business for three million dollars!” After weeks of this, he relents and sells his store.

The voice says, “Alvin, go to Las Vegas!”

Alvin asks why.

“Alvin, just take the three million dollars and go to Las Vegas.” Alvin obeys, goes to Las Vegas and visits a casino.

The voice says, “Alvin, go to the blackjack table and put it all down on one hand!”

Alvin hesitates but gives in. He’s dealt an eighteen. The dealer has a six showing.

“Alvin, take a card!”

“What? The dealer has…”

“Take a card!”

Alvin tells the dealer to hit him, and gets an ace. Nineteen. He breathes easy.

“Alvin, take another card.”



“Hit me!” Alvin says. He gets another ace. He has twenty.

“Alvin, take another card!” the voice commands.

“I have twenty!” Alvin shouts.

“TAKE ANOTHER CARD!” booms the voice.

“Hit me!” Alvin says. He gets another ace. Twenty-one!

And the booming voice says,

“Un-freaking believable!”

My personal beliefs fall somewhere between the two philosophies…

What do you think? Do you think the study of philosophy is a bunch of hooey? Do you think understanding different types of philosophies weaken or strengthen your own personal beliefs? Would you rather not know? Is ignorance bliss?

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