The Philosopher as Joker
Peter Rickman on the unsettling similarities between jokes and philosophy.
Tell the average person – perhaps the proverbial man on the Clapham omnibus – that according to Plato, that bus is not real, is merely an appearance or an imitation or an intangible reality, the form or idea of a bus, the bus which “God made”. Or tell him, paraphrasing Descartes, that unless he was convinced of the existence of God he could not be sure of having a body. Or tell him, following Berkeley, that the existence of things merely consists of their being perceived. He will say “You must be joking.”
If joking means saying something to make you laugh, that traveller on the way to Clapham is, of course, wrong.