When Philosophers Tell Jokes

Suppose that someone tells the following story: An Indian at an Englishman’s table in Surat saw a bottle of ale opened, and all the beer turned into froth and flowing out. The repeated exclamations of the Indian showed great astonishment. ‘Well, what is so wonderful in that?’ asked the Englishman. ‘Oh, I’m not surprised myself,’ said the Indian, ‘at its getting out, but at how you ever managed to get it all in.’

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, tran. James Creed Meredith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 161.

Kant 101

“The celebrated Locke, for want of due reflection on these points, and because he met with pure conceptions of understanding in experience, sought also to deduce them from experience, and yet proceeded so inconsequently as to attempt, with their aid, to arrive at cognitions which lie far beyond the limits of all experience. David Hume perceived that, to render this possible, it was necessary that the conceptions should have a priori origin. But as he could not explain how it was possible that conceptions which are not connected with each other in the understanding, must nevertheless be thought as necessarily connected in the object–and it never occurred to him that the understanding itself might, perhaps, by means of these conceptions, be the author of the experience in which its objects were presented to it.”

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Reason (New York: Barnes and Nobel, 2004), 59.

Quotable: Kant

Rhetoric, so far as this is taken to mean the art of persuasion, i.e. the art of deluding by means of such beautiful semblance (as ars oratoria), and not merely excellence of speech (eloquence and style), is a dialect, which borrows from poetry only so much as is necessary to win over people’s minds to the side of the speaker before they have weighed the matter, and to rob their verdict of its freedom. Hence, it can be recommended neither for the bar nor the pulpit.

Kant, Critique of Judgement, 155

Classic Plantinga

“Immanuel Kant was a virtual titan of philosophy, with an absolutely enormous influence upon subsequent philosophy and theology. This is no doubt due to his great insight and raw philosophical power; it is perhaps also due to the grave hermeneutical difficulties that attend study of his work. The British philosopher David Hume writes with a certain surface clarity that disappointingly disappears on closer inspection. With Kant, there is good news and bad news: the good news is that we don’t suffer that disappointment; the bad news is that it’s because there isn’t any surface clarity to begin with.”

Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, pg 9

Quotable: Kant

To know what question one should, reasonably, ask is already a great and necessary proof of one’s sagacity and insight. For if the question is in itself absurd and demands answers that are unnecessary, then it not only embarrasses the person raising it, but sometimes has the further disadvantage of misleading the incautious listener: it may prompt him to give absurd answers and to provide us with the ridiculous spectacle (as the ancients said) one person milks the ram while the other holds a sieve underneath.”*

*Reference works characterize this saying as a Greco-Roman proverb quoted (e.g.) in Sameul Hieron, Works (1616), i, 586; and in John Hales, Several Tracts (1656), 40. Milking of rams is mentioned also in Vergil’s Eclogues, iii, 91.