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The Enlightenment Philosophers’ Seven-A-Side Football Team
by Sarah Rochelle
It were Berkeley’s idea to develop a team,
To be the team captain had long been his dream;
He knew he’d have trouble assembling his squad,
But, being a bishop, he trusted in God.
For t’position of keeper he thought of Descartes;
It were him, after all, who had made a head-start
In solving the puzzle about what we know:
If we think, we exist; and that must be so.
For full-backs he thought first of Baruch Spinoza,
A bit of a rebel, a bit of a poser,
But solid in holding that all of us should
Make our own way through reason to find what is good.
Then Gottfried Leibniz would be strong in defence;
For him God was perfect; he argued from hence
That the world we are in is the best it can be,
And what God allows us is what we can see.
For wing-forward, Berkeley first thought of John Locke:
He’d be swift in attack and well able to block.
His obedience to t’captain would always be there
As long as t’captain’s demands remained fair.
The other wing-forward could be David Hume,
Tho’ his irreligion had made Berkeley fume.
Hume could use his impressions to follow the play,
And then form ideas that might help win the day.
And right at the front, then, Immanuel Kant
Though Berkeley’s perception of him was quite scant.
He believed things that we think that we know
Depend on us mentally conceiving them so.
The game had begun, and Berkeley kicked off,
But he missed the ball, and giving a cough,
Said, “It’s not really there – we should have asked God
To attend to our game and all of the squad.”
So he said a quick prayer before sending the ball
In a high backward pass to Descartes in goal.
Descartes, in two minds, sent the ball to his right,
But Locke wasn’t thinking, and lost it from sight.
Leibniz picked it up and prepared for a throw,
His knowledge innate about where it should go;
He aimed it to Kant, but he didn’t share
Leibniz’ space, time, or ball, and so it went spare.
The other side lost it, but then so did Hume,
For he tripped on the thought that he could not assume
That the ball always would reach the back of the net:
‘No principle says past behaviour is set.’
John Locke tackled then, and resumed the attack
With his own style of play, and sent the ball back
To George Berkeley, who dribbled it on to Spinoza,
Who signalled for Kant to come a bit closer.
Kant readied himself to receive a high pass;
Prepared for an ideal ball, but the mass
Of the ball on his head seemed to him more than real
A thing in itself – noumena he could feel!
This thought contradicted his long-held belief;
He stumbled – and though hesitation was brief,
The other side took up the chance that they saw
To reach the enlightenment goal and to score!
George Berkeley cried out, “Come on lads, get a grip,
You know you can do more than just stumble and trip;
Our ideas on knowledge may not all agree
But reason’s our strength and we’ll win yet, you’ll see!”
The other side reached the enlightenment end.
But Spinoza tackled, the ball took a bend.
An opponent appeared to make use of his hands.
Descartes cried, “There’s no cause for doubt, t’foul stands!”
The free kick was given which Spinoza took;
He sent it to Leibniz who darted a look
At John Locke before turning and heading to Hume
Who had run to the wing, where he’d plenty of room.
Hume kicked it to Kant, who was nearing the goal:
The enlightenment team was now on a roll.
The referee, running up, looked at his watch;
And Kant knew this one chance he must not now botch.
He was onside, the ball at his feet, and he saw
That reason alone now would not help him score.
The team’s universal approval was set –
His imperative kick reached the back of the net!
The team celebrated the traditional way
With kisses and hugs, then Berkeley said, “Hey!
We deserve some refreshment, I’ve got some right here.
It’s my healthy tar water, the drink that brings cheer!”
© Sarah Rochelle 2023
Sarah Rochelle is a social scientist, musician, and writer of philosophical poems, as featured in the book Eh-Up! Rhyme and Reason: An Alternative Guide to the History of Western Philosophy, available at Amazon. She can be seen and heard at notequalpress.com.