On Our Bookshelves – Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar


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BOOK: Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar–Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes

AUTHOR: Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein

YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2006

REVIEW:

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Equal parts smart and ridiculous, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar is one of those books that does exactly what it sets out to do…illustrate philosophical concepts through humor.  If you’re well versed in the classics, or have dim memories of Introduction to Philosophical Thought 101, or if you just want to be entertained (and possibly enlightened), this accessible book may appeal to you.

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The authors (two friends who met in the 1950s as Philosophy majors at Harvard University) explain their project (which they call “philogagging”) thus:

The construction and payoff of jokes and the construction and payoff of philosophical concepts are made out of the same stuff.  They tease the mind in similar ways.  That’s because philosophy and jokes proceed from the same impulse: to confound our sense of the way things are, to flip our worlds upside down, and to ferret out hidden, often uncomfortable, truths about life.  What the philosopher calls an insight, the gagster calls a zinger.

What follows is a little bit of everything: corny jokes, metaphysics, Descartes, utilitarianism, the philosophy of language, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Dave Barry, Machiavelli, politically incorrect metajokes, Karl Marx, and Groucho Marx.  It’s a short book, but of course, there’s plenty more to learn, so there’s a suggested reading list with entries spanning from Plato through Peter Singer.  A surprise best seller when it was released (after first being rejected by over 40 publishers) Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar is both informative and amusing.  And if you can’t get enough of this particular brand of humor, the authors, thrilled by their unexpected success, put out two sequels, and have pursued their own solo writing projects as well.

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RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3 Whistles

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HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon

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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com

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Lead-In Image (From Book Cover) Courtesy of Penguin Random House

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Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar - Penguin Random House - Embed

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