Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes
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Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  6,214 ratings  ·  912 reviews
Here's a lively, hilarious, not-so-reverent crash course through the great philosophical traditions, schools, concepts, and thinkers. Its Philosophy 101 for everyone who knows not to take all this heavy stuff too seriously. Some of the Big Ideas are Existentialism (what do Hegel and Bette Midler have in common?), Philosophy of Language (how to express what its like being s...more
Hardcover, 200 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Harry N. Abrams (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Tieu uyen
Là thế này, một hôm 2 anh tác giả buồn đời vì hết tiền, vào quán bar tán láo và làm li giải sầu. lúc ngà ngà, anh Tom nói với anh Dan, "anh biết triết học là gì không?" "là dùng đám ngôn từ phức tạp để nói về những điều đơn giản." "Yeap, tôi có kế hoạch kiếm tiền để dành cho về hưu đây, tham gia ko?". Dan thì đang chật vật về tiền, nghe thế như bắt được vàng: "kế hoạch gì?" "dựa trên việc chúng ta có cái mác tốt nghiệp triết học Harvard và anh chuyên đi viết truyện cười." "ồ thế là chúng ta sưu...more
Sarah Sammis
Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar... Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Catchart and Daniel Klein is a beautifully constructed and deceptively short book. It's one of those books that is nice to hold, nice to flip through and nice to read random snippets from. The jokes come in handy for the random reading approach.

But... this book is also a very solid introduction to philosophy and logic. If read slowly and thoroughly, one can learn a solid foundation of the important principal...more
Andy
Feb 17, 2008 Andy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: amateur philosophers
Recommended to Andy by: My mother
This is definitely a "light read." It touches upon a lot of different philosophical ideas, sprinkled with jokes (most funny, some hilarious) that bear some link to the topic at hand. For example, in a discussion of existential angst, we get this zinger (p.120):
Norman began to hyperventilate when he saw the doctor. "I'm sure I've got liver disease."
"That's ridiculous," said the doctor. "You'd never know if you had liver disease. There's no discomfort of any kind."
"Exactly!" said Norman. "Those a...more
Ryan Louis
Although I appreciate the philosophical crash course, couldn't the authors consider more jokes (a rough eye-balling might equate about 90% of them) that aren't at the expense of women?

I suppose their section on "Feminist Philosophy" aims to answer nay-sayers. No answers for this reader, though. I don't appreciate jokesters who hide behind a cloud of "politically incorrect feminism" then chastise an audience they purport won't get their jokes.

Boo.

Not sure why it's still so acceptable to tell "Je...more
Anita
Love this book! Checked it out from the library but going to buy it for sure.

Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein are Harvard philosophy majors who understand that the rest of us don't know what the hell Nietzsche is talking about. They break the discipline down into its major strands, mixing clever and comical descriptions with hilarious jokes that show the true essence of each philosophy. Read below to see what I mean:

Phenomenology- understanding the human experience as it is lived rather than obj...more
Snowfire
This book has two critical flaws: it's not funny and it's not informative. This... is bad. I'd be fine with funny jokes that are kind of irrelevant in a humor-focused book, or not-all-that-funny jokes that nevertheless illustrated a philosophical point well in a "make learning fun!" textbook. Yet this book manages neither. It really should not have sold as well as it did.

Shame, because this *kind* of book is totally up my alley. Just... it's such a shallow overview of philosophies, and often tim...more
Chris
Like most Liberal Arts undergrads, I took a few philosophy courses while I was in college. In fact, my sophomore philosophy final has the distinction of being the only one I have ever actually slept through. My roommate woke me up at 11:30 and said, "Didn't you have a final this morning?" I don't remember anything between that moment and arriving in the professor's office, apologizing profusely.

The point is, philosophy never really made an impact on me. I mean, I get it - Philosophy is supposed...more
Mattomic
I was neither stunned nor utterly disappointed by this one. It's essentially a book full of some pretty awful jokes (lots of groaners in this one, folks) that will resonate most with those with a background in philosophy. It definitely will not teach the newbie/uninitiated enough about the various philosophical disciplines and schools to be able to use that knowledge in any intelligent manner in a conversation at the local bar or philosophy meet up. Nevertheless, this was a fairly quick, light-h...more
Petra SockieX
The jokes are a bit lame and the main premises of each philosopher are really skirted over. Nonetheless, a good gag-gift for a student embarking on a philosophy class, for any business-type person you can't think what to buy and to put in the bathroom, to glance at occasionally. (And then to come out and bore everyone with the latest old codswallop joke you've read).
William
Life is essentially absurd, and philosophy is not far behind.

That seems to be the impression one gets from reading "Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar", by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, who deliver a quick survey of western philosophy using jokes. Yes, those stupid, absurd expressions of illogic that can also be profound and meaningful.

From Metaphysics to Meta-Philosophy, Cathcart and Klein explain the simple nuances and wrinkles of thought. Each philosophical concept gets its own punch...more
Marvin
An eighty year old woman burst into the men's room at the retirement home. She holds her clenched fist in the air and announces "Anyone who can guess what I have in my hand can have sex with me tonight"!

An old man in the back shouts "An elephant."

The old woman thinks for a moment and says "Close enough!"


I wish I had this fast and easy read when I took my first college philosophy class. The professor droned through the subject like he was on downers (he probably was) and the only thing of substan...more
Doug
This delivers all that it promises. On Existentialism:
you haven't lived until you think about death all the time".

Customer in a restaurant: How do you prepare your chickens?
Cook: Oh, nothing special really. We just tell them they're gonna die. Joke:>)
Pg 125

On the philosophy of religion:

Jesus was walking through the streets when he noticed a crowd of people throwing stones at an adulteress. Jesus said/"Let whosoever is without sin cast the first stone." Suddenly a rock flew through the air....more
Reggia
A new favorite. This little book is not a deep philosophical probe, after all, there is that small poke at philosophy itself at the end. But it is told with humor, as with the rest of the book's philosophical look at logic, ethics, religion, existentialism and more. Jokes are spread throughout the book to teach the concepts -- a strategy that worked well for me. I recognized a few of them, and others seemed tailor-made just for this purpose of relaying a point to others. A small and very enjoyab...more
Timothy
It's a lot easier to learn something tough when you are joking around... your mind is too distracted to know it is picking up knowledge along the way.
Bruce
Oct 07, 2012 Bruce rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 5th graders and grad students
My 10 year old loved the fact that I read this book. How good I think it is depends on my current brain blood-sugar level; chock full of jokes, this book's a literary Twinkie, irreverent and something of a whirlwind Cliff's Notes catalogue of philosophy's Big Ideas. If you want Schopenhauer shorthand, you could do worse than to have this small book within easy reach of your toilet. The only problem is that distilling philosophy into single-sentence epigrams that are in turn loosely illustrated w...more
Rebecca
Not as good as the concept promises, still I enjoyed this quick read. I like to think about jokes this way, ever since that Woody Allen movie in which he explains his life by way of two jokes. Maybe that was Annie Hall?

The intro: Abrupt medium close-up of Alvy Singer doing a comedy monologue. He is
wearing a crumbled sports jacket and tieless shirt; the background is stark.

ALVY
There's an old joke. Uh, two elderly
women are at a Catskills mountain
resort, and one of 'em says: "Boy, the
food...more
Lady Entropy

Comecei a ler enquanto via TV às 8 da noite, parei para jantar e arrumar a cozinha, peguei outra vez e ia lendo enquanto falava com amigos no MSN, e à uma da manhã estava acabado e estava eu a dormir na minha caminha a sonhar com o Daniel Craig de calções de banho.

É um livro pequeno, com cerca de 250 páginas, e capa dura - termos visuais é muito bonito, mas tem muitas imagens, letras grandes, e espaços brancos -- o livro poderia ter facilmente metade do tamanho com letra mais pequena e menos esp...more
Pierre
Feb 25, 2009 Pierre rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Loved ones with a corney sense of humor
Recommended to Pierre by: Jess Katz
My fiancee bought this book for me for Valentines day. It was the best gift I could have gotten, even better than chocolate.

I can't believe that the authors didn't include my favorite philosophical joke, which ponders the meaning of existence:

A Farmer and his wife walk into the Doctors office. The wife is clucking like a chicken.

Doctor: "What's wrong with your wife?"
Farmer: "She thinks she is a chicken."
Doctor: "How long has she been like this?"
The Farmer replies casually: "About two years."...more
Elisabeth Sepulveda
I was really hoping for great amusement from this book...I mean, the title itself is promising.

Yet, even though I knew it wasn't written as jokes launched from a philosophical understanding, but rather a layperson's philosophical understanding achieved through jokes, I felt that it accomplished neither (which is truly a tragedy of platpi proportions). In regards to providing a basic overview, philosophy is developed, not in solitary concepts, but in those concepts entering into conversation with...more
Nấm Hương
Sách rất khùng, rất dui, đã thổi tan đám mây u ám về triết học ngày xưa... bị ép học.
Nửa đầu tương đối dễ hiểu, có khúc hiểu khúc không, hiểu được là mừng ròi =))). Nửa sau thì nhiều cái không hiểu quá nên không nhớ mình đã hiểu cái gì, mà áp dụng "khó quá bỏ qua đi" nên cũng không thấy bi thảm lắm, ha ha ha ha.

Tác dụng tích cực đầu tiên của cuốn này là khiến mình muốn đọc một loạt cuốn khác về triết học. Nói vậy thôi chớ làm biếng quá không có đọc đâu =))). Tác dụng tích cực thứ hai là bỗng nhi...more
Blendi
HaHaHa!!! :):)

This books makes you laugh really loud and has some of the best clean jokes ever. It is a very light read and easily makes you think about real things. If you like philosophy and don't mind talking about grand ideas or try to ask the eternal questions like:"Why we are here ?" or similar things you will not find it in this book but you are guaranteed a good read and some fun in the process while educating yourself or at least refresh philosophical concepts you might have forgotten...more
Hannah
Maybe my hopes were too high for this book. The jokes were funny for the most part, and they did connect remarkably with the subject matter in question. I think the real problem was that listening to this on audiobook was like listening to someone read the dictionary to you. Yes, it was a dictionary that included lots and lots of jokes, but it was still a smattering of ideas that weren't directly connected to each other by a progression of logic or storyline or anything. This might be a good boo...more
Ken Moten


I found this book a good supplement if one had a basic level of philosophy but I got this before that so while I had a little insight I had to read this book repeatedly and gain a good insight into philosophy before I got all the jokes and riddles.

That being said I was amused but still not totally satisfied with the book, but with philosophy (and especially with those "experts" on philosophy) one is somewhat let down.

Update 11/02/12: Now THIS was an early review! The book was not that bad but...more
Joanne
Sep 27, 2008 Joanne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Philosophers-in-training and gophers.
Recommended to Joanne by: Mom
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura
Very light introduction to many schools of philosophy, from epistemology to existentialism. If you're going to read a primer on philosophy, this one is actually pretty thorough, if basic, and probably a lot more fun than actually slogging through Critique of Pure Reason or Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Several of the jokes don't seem to be the best examples of the particular philosophy they're supposed to be illustrating, but I don't suppose it's terribly easy to come up with jokes that concisely illu...more
Eustacia Tan
Ah, airport bookshops. Like I said in my Teaser Tuesday, I get strangely drawn to non-fiction there. And I try to make it a habit to buy at least one book while passing through an airport.

Now, the main question for this book is 'can you really understand philosophy through jokes like the subtitle claims?'. And the answer is what I learnt in Theory of Knowledge, history and just about every humanities class "Yes, to a certain extent."

Yes because this book does contain many jokes and they do expla...more
Keith Kendall
This book is a fun read with jokes that illustrate the points.

I am not a philosopher. I am not asking the fundamental questions: Whay am I here? Where did I come from? I already have answers to those questions. I don't wonder if everything I see and hear is an illusion. I am not a philosopher. I have moved from such questions to working on what should I do? What should I be?

I remember when I was a youth I read a scholarly article in Scientific American reporting on research that showed that to s...more
Rebecca
While certainly not 'outrageously funny' I did find this book informative. Yes, yes, the jokes they use to illustrate the philosophical points of view they are talking about are not the best, but they are jokes that are understandable. It makes for much quicker grasping of concepts. I also found just the fact that such types of thinking are so readily found in jokes a quite interesting fact. Overall a very good, and relatively quick read which is both entertaining and informative.
Ara
This book illustrates exactly how I learn philosophy: through humor. I adore the study, don't get me wrong, but there is always a funny edge one can add to it, in my case to better understand it, and this book captures that perfectly. The jokes are endearing and actually do correspond with the philosophical thoughts presented, which is lovely. Because, of course, the only thing better than making philosophy funny is doing it when you're actually right.
Elly Sands
I absolutely loved this book!! It's been my experience in life that at the end of any "serious" in depth philosophical discussion I've had with friends that we always end up laughing. This book was informative and just plain hilarious and oh so very clever. I wish I was in the room with the two authors as they wrote it. Just remember that there are three kinds of mathematicians, those that can count and those that can't!
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Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein wrote the bestselling Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, which will be translated into more than a dozen languages. Not bad for a couple of philosophy majors from Harvard who tried on various careers after graduation. Tom worked with street gangs in Chicago, doctors at Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and dropped in and out of...more
More about Thomas Cathcart...
Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington The Trolley Problem, or Would You Throw the Fat Guy Off the Bridge?: A Philosophical Conundrum Plato and a Platypus / Aristotle and an Aardvark Boxed Set Macho Meditations

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“Some have argued that because the universe is like a clock, there must be a Clockmaker. As the eighteenth-century British empiricist David Hume pointed out, this is a slippery argument, because there is nothing that is really perfectly analogous to the universe as a whole, unless it's another universe, so we shouldn't try to pass off anything that is just a part of this universe. Why a clock anyhow? Hume asks. Why not say the universe is analogous to a kangaroo? After all, both are organically interconnected systems. But the kangaroo analogy would lead to a very different conclusion about the origin of the universe: namely, that it was born of another universe after that universe had sex with a third universe. ” 19 likes
“Sorting out what's good and bad is the province of ethics. It is also what keeps priests, pundits, and parents busy. Unfortunately, what keeps children and philosophers busy is asking the priests, pundits and parents, "Why?” 2 likes
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