Since my recent post ‘My Top Four Asian/Pan-Pacific Rimmer Philosophers… and why!’, I have been inundated with literally a million emails saying, “Hey Jon, you articulate and definitely not gay stud you, that was a great article, but why you be hatin’ on the great thinkers of the European tradition? I sure would love to see you rock about Locke, talk blue about Camus, and preach-a about Nietzsche. P.S. You are definitely not gay.” Seriously, all one million of them said exactly that.
So, never one to disappoint the loyal and always pleasantly commenting Humourisms fanbase, here are my Top Five European Philosophers In The World Ever, Now That’s What I Call Rational!
(Disclaimer: While I do have a degree in Philosophy, it’s been some time since I used it. Some facts may be incorrect, as my memory is a bit fuzzy on everything from Habermas to around Frichte. I could read them all again to fact check, but no-one actually cares.)
Number 4 – Jean Paul Sartre
No, you’re not looking at the real-life basis for James Bond, and no, that isn’t Groucho Marx without the grease-paint moustache. This is muthafuckin’ JP Sartre, and he’s here to blow minds and screw bitches – and he just ran out of bitches.
Ol’ JP is one of the finest minds and greatest perverts ever to grace France, and that’s saying something. A notorious womanizer, Sartre had among his string of lovers the also brilliant Simone de Beauvoir, who at one stage would seduce her underage secondary-school students, before introducing them to Sartre. SARTRE HAD HIS GIRLFRIEND FIND HIM UNDERAGE LOVERS. If that isn’t the kind of behavior that gets you a centre-stage exhibit in the Sexual Weirdo Hall Of Fame, then my name isn’t long and unnecessarily pompous. As a brief aside, the left stage exhibit in the Sexual Weirdo Hall of Fame is Woody Allen, and the whole right side is soley devoted to pictures of Kevin Lockard.
As for his philosophy, it continues to be some of the most influential writing for emo kids everywhere. ‘Meaning in existence is absurd’, crossed with ‘existence preceding essence’, with a dash of ‘we are condemned to be free’, basically means we’re all essentially boned. There is no God, no meaning to existence, we simply are, and here’s the kicker; that being is in itself a form of slavery. Boy howdy, I may as well just kill myself. I mean, why wouldn’t I? Oh, because here comes -
Number 3 – Albert Camus
Two quick fun facts about Albert Camus – 1) he played in goals for Racing Universitaire d’Algiers, winning two major North African football championships, and 2) he was the inspiration for the fictional character of Max Payne. They certainly got his look down, but some commentators have griped that they never quite captured Camus’ ability to go into Bullet Time.
While Camus starts just as My Chemical Romance-y as his aforementioned compatriot, Albert has the good grace to ‘dig up’ at the end of his essays. For example, he describes the Absurdist Paradox, which is to say, all happiness will be followed by unhappiness, there is ultimately no meaning in a secular world, and the nature of the realisation of this meaningless draws us to the conclusion that existence itself is absurd. But if all existence is absurd, shouldn’t we all kill ourselves and be done with it?
While JPS (also the name of my colour coded cover band) answered this question with an enthusiastic “boy howdy yes, snuff out this brief candle, let’s all suck a tailpipe and catch the self-harm train bound for razor blade station”, Camus took a more tactful approach. Sure, a natural meaning, even a divine or profound meaning, doesn’t exist, but he invites us all to the ‘creation of meaning’, basically saying that life is naturally pointless, and much like the unsharpened self-flagellation spear that came free with every copy of Sartre’s books, it is up to us to give it a point.
Even a man such a Sisyphus, Camus hypothesizes, who is destined to roll a giant boulder up a hill, only for it roll down the other side, and then do it all again for all eternity, can find meaning in the pointlessness of his task. Every time old Sissy sees that boulder roll down the hill, he can take meaning from that accomplishment, whether it is naturally imbued with meaning or not. It’s a sweet thought, although, to be fair, I would be knackered after one round. Existential meaning or not, I like to take a nice sit down mid-way through unloading the shopping from the car.
Number 2 – Rene Descartes
At this stage, you might be wondering why this entitled ‘European philosophers’ rather than ‘French’, as it would clearly be more accurate. Well, I was going to change it, but I liked the gag about Socrates having his wang out at the very top, so I left it in. Oh yeah, it was Socrates who had his wang out. Partial credit if you said Zeno of Elia, but that’s just his hand in a weird position.
Anyway, on to the good Captain Rene, who, it could be argued, really opened the door for a lot of enlightenment thinkers. In fact, he is up there with Emmanuel Kant as the mainstage instigators of the enlightenment, but I didn’t do this bit about Kant, because the only funny thing about him is that his name sounds like a swear word. Also, his Categorical Imperative has the word ‘maxim’ in it, which is a magazine that has nudey ladies in it.
Descartes is also up there with John Locke as the best stoner philosophers of all time. Not that they were stoners, but that they thought up the exact same crap some stoners say every goddamn time they take a puff of marijuana at some party thinking they are SO cool, except several hundred years beforehand. Locke coined the classic, “what if what I see as red, you see as blue” line, while Descartes quickly moved away from the gentle ruminations on his hands looking weird, and moved straight to trying to totally mess up stoned peoples’ buzz by forcing them to think about whether their body exists or not.
How do you know when you’re awake and when you’re dreaming? You have the same sensory perceptions after all, and if you can exist, even temporarily, in the dream world that your senses are convincing you is real, then your senses must be some eejits, and can be fooled quite easily. So, if you know your senses can be fooled, what makes you know for certain that the waking world is real? How do you know anything and everything isn’t just false sensory perception?
So, casting a hyperbolic doubt and assuming everything could be false information, how do we know that we exist? Well, my senses tell me I have a body, so my body might not be real. My senses don’t tell me I have a mind, and I can question whether I have a mind or not, and if I am questioning I know something must exist that is questioning, so the mind is more certainly known than the body, and I know that I, albeit not necessarily my body, exists (exhale).
It’s been two whole paragraphs since the last joke, so here’s a Descartes themed gag for you.
DESCARTES: “Knock Knock.”
DESCARTES’ BELEAGUERED GIRLFRIEND: *sigh* “Who’s there?”
DESCARTES: Probably no-one.
BOOM, that is why they pay me the big bucks. Should you need any other philosophy jokes based on a rudimentary knowledge of philosophy, tweet at me.
Number 1 – My friend Kelan
My friend Kelan is nothing short of a philosophical genius. Sure, in this photo he looks like the inspiration for the most recent iteration of Max Payne, or someone who is desperately trying to trade you cash for gold, but trust me, the man is like if Buddha could grow a beard.
One time I was giving him a lift, and as I was driving I was eating a croissant. I got frustrated because I was getting delicious flaky pastry all over my suit, and calm as a mountain stream running through a Bounty advert, Kelan turns to me and says, “Do not worry. Like in life, when you stand, the crumbs will fall.” What the fuck is that? The man is like Obi Wan Kenobi, but wouldn’t have cried like a girl when Anakin got all chip pan-y. One time, he argued with me at length about how buying his girlfriend a birthday card would be immoral. I say we all accept him as our leader now, as it will only save us time in the long run.
Jon Hozier-Byrne is a journalist and comedy writer. He can be heard every Friday at 6pm on Dublin’s Sunshine 106.8, talking about films and things he thinks are nice. You can also listen to his mighty fine podcast, the Film Show. He would be much obliged to y’all if you followed him on Twitter, here. Also, he is speaking like a cowboy today.