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Humour

The Philosophy of Horace Rump

by Professor Horace Rump (as dictated to Ronald R. Johnson)

Some people say i am a idiot. In this, they are not correct. I am a professor of philosophy. They is a slight difference.

People say i cannot be a philosopher because i do not know too much. The truth is, all i know is that i know nothin. Every semester, I tell all my students that i know nothin an when they finish my class that’s what they’ll know too. And none of them ever prove me wrong yet.

I do try to teach the basics, like respect for the teacher and such. A student say to me, “My name is Reginald Williams III, but people call me ‘Bubba’.” I say to him, “Well, my name is Horace Rump and you may call me ‘Herr Professor’.”

One day a student come into my class and say, “Professor Rump, what is time?” I look at him a minute and then i say, “Time is 10:15 and you is late. So sit down and shut up cause we is talkin about Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic.”

Some of my student do try to impress me, i must confess. One day a student interrupt me an say, “Dr. Rump, I got to pee.” I say, “That is not right. You mean ‘If p, then q.’ But you is on the right track.”

I guess you probly wonder why i want to publish a paper like this. I tell you the whole truth: my department chairman he call me in his office an he say, “Horace, you ain’t publish nothin since we hire you.”

I say “No sir.”

“Horace,” he say, “you gots to publish. You know why?”

“No sir,” I say.

He say, “You either publish or you perish. That’s why.”

Now i don’t know exacly what he intend to do but i don’t like the sound of it so that why i want to publish. And beside that if people read this and get somethin from it, it will all be worth it.

So i set out to write somethin and that take time, i got to tell you. One day the chairman he make an announcement an he tell everbody, “Horace gots a paper he gonna present before the department nex week Friday. Everbody be there.”

Everbody say, “He do? How about that! Horace, what is yor paper gonna be about?”

I say, “Hell if i know. This the first i hear of it.”

So that right there decide it: i knew i had to do my paper on how we know things, cause i was sittin there wondrin how the chairman knew i was gonna read a paper when i didn’t.

Nex week jus like he say, i stand up in front of my department and read a paper i wrote. It was called, ‘Knowin How and Knowin That.’ My thesis was simple: i know that i gots to be up here presentin a paper, but i don’t know how.

It went okay, i thought, cause lots of people laugh, but my chairman he not satisfied. He say, “You gots to do it again, Horace, only this time you gots to put more philosophy in it.”

“How’m i gonna do that?” I say.

“You gots to talk about a philosopher,” he say. “Plato or Aristotle or somebody like that.”

“Okay,” i say, an i get back to work on it.

Pretty soon i was back up there again, talkin about ‘Plato and the Cave’.

“Once upon a time,” i say, “Plato got put in a cave. Somebody tie him up and sit him on his butt with his back to the fire. They was nothin for him to do but watch shadows of hisself on the wall of the cave. (This what poeple did with there spare time in the days before TV and film.)

“But lo and behole, they tie him too close to the fire, and his ropes burn off. He look around and find out they’s lots of other people down here too, but he don’t care bout them, he jus gots to get out of that cave. So that what he do. Out he go, and he can’t see a thing at first, what with the light so bright outdoors after he been in that cave so long.

“Finally he can see again and then he start thinkin about those other poor SOBs he left down in that cave. He realize that want the right thing to do, leavin those people sittin in that cave, ignorant and all. He decide he gots to go back into the cave and get those people to come up and join him in the sunlight. So back down he go and he try to untie people. Imagine his surprise when they tell him to mind his own business! They tell him to leave them alone and let them live however they want to live. He keep tryin but they say, ‘No, no,’ and then they say ‘You touch us again we gonna kill you.’ So he go off in a corner and set up an Academy for there children instead.

“That may not be a very happy ending, but that how the story ends, believe it or not. It’s a allegory, which means it has a secret meaning. If i told you what the meaning was, it wouldn’t be a secret no more, so i’ll just end my paper here and accept your applause. The end.”

But my chairman he still not satisfied. He say, “Horace, you gots to write me a decent paper bout philosophy, and you gots to have it on my desk by Monday mornin.”

So now you know why i am writin this paper. I got to tell you about philosophy some way or other. I already said what i got to say about Plato, so now i got to move on to Aristotle.

Aristotle is the author of the Nickelodeon Ethics. He talk about a square of opposition. He make a lot a rules about what people can and cannot do on the square. Seem like he oughta let people do what they want, but i guess he think he can make the rules, since it’s his square.

He say if you move kitty-corner on the square of opposition, then you is contradictin yoself, but if you move side to side then you is just bein contrary. Now nobody should ever contradict hisself, Aristotle say, but it okay to be contrary now and then. Everbody get a little contrary sometime, even Aristotle.

Speakin of Aristotle’s square and such, i never been too good at logic, specially symbolic logic. It seem to me old Bertrand Russell get us all messed up, introducin his symbolic whatchamacallit. Nowadays philosophers so busy peein and queuin they forget about livin. Least i like to say that, since i’m not too good at logic.

As far as truth is concerned, ol Richard Rorty say they is no truth – least not with a capital ‘t’. But i don’t know what the size of the letter got to do with it. Seem to me if they ain’t no truth, i shouldn’t got to worry bout whether to capitalize it or not.

I got to say that Hegel is my favorite philosopher. I don’t know much about Hegel, but all i got to do is say the name “Hegel” and people start treatin me with respect. And people haven’t treated me with respect too often in my life. So i got to say, i sure get a kick out a talkin about Hegel.

It always a challenge teachin Hegel, i must confess. Most students they don’t know what he sayin. Sometime they don’t know what i’m sayin either, specially when i try to say “antississis” … “an-tiss-issis”… well, whatever that word is.

I know what to do, though – when i talk bout Hegel and i see students lookin blank and drooly like they ready to go comatose, i just say those two magic words: ‘master’ and ‘slave’. Then they all come to life and say, “Oh, yeah. Now we understands.” Students think Hegel make sense so long as you keep sayin ‘master’ and ‘slave’ to ’em. Least my students do. Anyone who sit in my class certainly know what those words mean.

Things get extra complicated when i mention left Hegelians and right Hegelians. Sometime i can’t remember which is which, specially since i never could tell left from right. Finally i think i figure out how to keep ’em separate in my head: they is one group that interpret Hegel right, and then they’s the group that’s left. That’s how i keep ’em straight.

One day a group of analytic philosophers come along and say, “We tired of talkin about Hegel’s Absolute and such. We been talkin for too long about ideal worlds. We want to talk about reality.” So that’s how we stopped talkin about ideal worlds, and ever since then we been talkin about ideal languages.

Anyway, i gots to wrap this up somehow, so i guess i’ll close by sharin my own philosophy with you. We professors got to be able to tell at least what our philosophy of teachin is, so here is my teachin philosophy in a nutshell, just the way Bertrand Russell tell us to do:

(∃x)(Mx & Ex),(∀x)(Ex→Wx),(∀x)(Wx→(Sx v Tx)), -Si ⊦Ti

This say that somethin exist and it’s me and i got to eat. And like anybody else, if i’m gonna eat unfortunately i got to work. Now that mean i either got to sweat for a livin or i got to teach, and they ain’t no way i want to sweat if i don’t haf to. So that mean i got to teach. And there you have my teachin philosophy, such as it is. The End.

p.s. I give this paper to my chairman and he shake his head and sigh a lot. Finally he make me a deal. He say if i get this paper published, then i can keep my job, and for years to come young poeple can benefit from my great ‘ear-yoo-dishon’. I don’t know what he mean by that, but it sound good to me. So i give it a try and guess what! Here is my paper in a real journal. It make me so proud i start to call my mama, but then i remember: some time back, mama prove she don’t know the difference between life and a box of chocolates, so we had to put her in a home.

© Ronald R. Johnson 1997

Ronald R. Johnson recently completed a PhD in philosophy at St Louis University. (The identity of Professor Rump’s department is being withheld at their own request).

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