A Philosophical Discourse

This one is probably funnier if you know about the Pre-Socratic philosophers of ancient Greece. But it’s gotten a few laughs from non-philosophers anyway.
Copyright © 2009 by Richard S. Crawford




Richard S. Crawford

“Archimedes would never have done such a thing!” protested Pythagoras.

Plato sniffed. “Well, he ain’t here is he. So get on with it.”

“He’s right,” Diogenes said. “We should just put this lever down and wait for Archimedes to tell us where to put it. Besides, where’s Zeno?”

“About halfway here,” said Gorgias. “At least, that’s what I heard. Not that you’d believe me if I said it. Cause you can’t hear me say it, because neither of us is here. God I’m depressed.”

“Oh, come on!” Plato stood up to his full height, all five foot two of it, and stood before the others, toga flapping in the wind. “We have got to get this stone moved. Otherwise, how can I show you that what’s inside is more real than what’s out here?”

“Water’s the ticket,” said Thales. “Just pour some water on it, and everything will be fine.”

“Oh, pfft,” Anaximenes. “You can’t solve every problem with water.”

“Water is the essence of all things,” said Thales. “Everything comes down to water in the end. You’re just blowing hot air.”

Anaximenes sat down with a harumph. “That’s not fair. Where’s Zeno?”

“About three quarters of the way here,”said Plato. “Now come on, help me figure out how this lever thing is supposed to work.”

“That’s not the same cave, you know,” said Heraclitus.

“Bugger that,” said Plato. “Help me with this lever!”

“It’s not the same lever, either.”

“Would you shut up! Someone tell me where Zeno is!”

Anaximenes licked his finger and lifted it to the air. “The winds tell me that Zeno is about seven eights of the way here.”

“See?” said Thales. “Water’s at the heart of all of it.”

“You idiot!” shouted Anaximenes. He leaped to his feet and tackled Thales. “Admit it! Air is the base of all being! Admit it!”

“Never!” shouted Thales. He grabbed Anaximenes around the neck and threw him to the ground. “It’s water! Water is the ground of all being! You wouldn’t have known that if you hadn’t licked your finger!”

“Guys, hey,” said Democritus. “Can’t we just vote on it?”

“Shut up!” said Thales and Anaximenes in unison.

“Oh, what harmony,” said Parmenides. “See? I told you guys, it’s all about unity.”

“Now, now,” said Socrates. “We can’t say that until we have definitively proven exactly what the nature of unity is. May I ask you a question, Parmenides?”

“Bugger off,” replied Parminedes.

“Where’s Zeno?” Plato asked. “We can’t do this without him.”

“He’s about fifteen sixteenths of the way here,” said Gorgias. “Not that you’d know what I just said. Or that I said anything at all.”

Plato turned his fury upon Gorgias. “Stop saying that! I know exactly what you said.”

Gorgias wiped his eyes. “Oh, if only I could believe that you existed, Plato, so that I could take some comfort in your reassurance.”

Plato ignored Gorgias and lifted the lever again. “Here, Diogenes, help me put this thing on top of this rock.”

“That’s not the same rock, you know,” said Heraclitus.

“Tell me exactly what you mean by that,” said Socrates.

“Fuck off.”

“I suppose that’s not the same word you used before?” Socrates smirked.

“Dammit, Socrates, stop teasing Heraclitus! Come here and help us with this lever.”

“What exactly do you mean by lever?”

Plato swore. “How much longer until Zeno gets here?”

“About thirty-one thirty-seconds of the way here,” said Democritus. “He’s on atomic distances, and as we all know atoms are the fundamental unit of matter.”

“Water!” shouted Thales.

“Air!” shouted Anaximenes at exactly the same moment. The two of them began to wrestle again, Thales biting Anaximenes hard on the ankle.

Plato threw the lever down on the ground in disgust. “That’s it. I’m out of here. I can’t work with you people anymore.” He turned his back on his fellow philosophers and marched away.

“Hey, what about Zeno?” shouted Thales. “He’s just sixty-three sixty-fourths of the way here!”

“Everyone just go away. He’ll never make it anyway.”

Thales and Anaximenes disengaged from each other. “Hey! Plato! Wait up!”

“That’s not the same Plato, you know,” said Heraclitus.

Socrates picked up his satchel and rushed after Plato. “Hang on! You haven’t finished inventing me yet!”

The others ran off after Plato, one by one, until finally the valley was clear of all philosophers.


“Hey!” shouted Zeno. “I’m almost there! Wait for me!”


Watch out, I have a degree in philosophy, and I’m not afraid to use it.

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