Jocular, ergo sum

From Harvard Magazine:

Cathcart_klein From their freshman year in college they were inseparable pals, once called “the Mutt and Jeff of post-Kantian idealism.” That epithet somehow failed to catch on, even though both were philosophy concentrators and Tom Cathcart ’61 and Daniel Klein ’61 do stand six-foot-five and five-foot-eight, respectively. Both studied with Paul Tillich and Willard van Orman Quine, and took a junior tutorial with classmate and current U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Together they bucked the fashion of Harvard’s philosophy department, which considered existentialism softheaded, and got onto a jag of existential ethics for a time. “We were going around being obnoxious about what was an ‘authentic’ life versus an ‘inauthentic’ life,” says Klein.

Nearly half a century later, those epistemological theories, truth tables, and falsifiable propositions have borne fruit in Cathcart and Klein’s new book, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar…: Understanding Philosophy through Jokes (Abrams). Consider it Philosophy 101 as taught by Jackie Mason. A philosophical fallacy like post hoc ergo propter hoc—assigning a causal role to something simply because it preceded something else—becomes more engaging when illustrated:

A New York boy is being led through the swamps of Louisiana by his cousin. “Is it true that an alligator won’t attack you if you carry a flashlight?” asks the city boy.

His cousin replies, “Depends on how fast you carry the flashlight.”

More here.