Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar

 

Philosophy is no joke. Or, maybe it is …


If you need a good read to round out your celebration of Friedrich Nietzsche’s birthday on Oct. 15 (What, everyone doesn’t mark that occasion?) then look no further. Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes is not your typical philosophy guide. Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein’s slim tome is more than a quickie tutorial in metaphysical meaning. The duo has devised an ingenious method for introducing those who are curious to the main disciplines of philosophy through jokes.

Philosophy majors, who are often the brunt of jokes themselves, Cathcart and Klein use sometimes bawdy humor to illustrate the main points of a variety of philosophical topics, from metaphysics and ethics to existentialism and relativity. And the jokes are actually funny. Really.

There’s more than one aspect of the book that appeals: it’s a quick read, which means it can be reread – as many times as necessary – to get the full meaning of some of the points. But make no mistake: despite being clothed in one-liners and puns, they’re still mind-boggling topics. Just to make sure that you’re taking the subject seriously enough, the writers have included a summation and exam, helpful for checking your retention. Also, the glossary and “Further Reading” suggestions in the back are great information-builders for those whose interest is piqued by what the book has introduced.

Whether you’re a philosophy student trying get a grip on what you’re learning, or just a regular human being who wants to ponder serious questions such as “What does it all mean?” without going bonkers, Plato and a Platypus fits the bill for a gentle way to get your feet wet. Because sometimes making light of a weighty subject is the best way to understand it.

 

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