Brian Robinson

Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Category: Humor

Cleese, Confusion, and the Toolbox Project

As Daily Nous and Open Culture both reported, the great John Cleese (of Monty Python and Faulty Towers fame, and so much more) recently recorded a series of public service announcements proclaiming the value of philosophy. Daily Nous also included this video of Cleese acting as a philosopher in terrific bit of comedy. While funny in its own right, the clip brought to mind one other way that philosophy can be of value. And it’s something we do at the Toolbox Project. But first, watch the video:

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Logic Joke

I wanted to start my logic class this semester with a good logic joke. Logic can sometimes feel dull and boring to students, so setting a humorous tone from the start of term can be helpful. So I told them this joke, which is a modified (and more morally and socially acceptable version of another you may know). Feel free to steal it.

Last week a new neighbor moved into the house across from mine. As one does with new neighbors, I went over to meet him and we got to talking. He asked what I did, and I told him I was a professor. When he inquired what I taught, I said, “Logic.”

He was curious and said, “Logic, what’s that?”

“Let me give you an example,” I said. “Do you own a lawnmower?”


“Well, I infer from this that you know how to use your lawnmower.”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Well, I infer from this that you learned how to use your lawnmower by reading the instruction manual.”

“Right again.”

“So then I can infer that you know how to read.”

“Of course.”

“There you go. That’s logic.”

My new neighbor was impressed. A few days later, he was talking with some old friends when he mentioned that one of his new neighbors was a logic professor. His friend then asked, “Logic, what’s that?”

My neighbor, full of confidence, said, “Let me give you an example. Do you own a lawnmower?”


“What are you, illiterate?”


Groucho Marxism

Marxism: Jokesters of the World Unite!I like the idea of Groucho Marxism as a theory of political philosophy. Though humorous, it isn’t a silly idea. The central claim is that often the most effective way of making your political point or realizing your political agenda is through humor, especially satire and mockery. As Mel Brooks said, “If you stand on a soapbox and trade rhetoric with a dictator you never win. That’s what they do so well; they seduce people. But if you ridicule them, bring them down with laughter–they can’t win. You show how crazy they are.” Groucho Marxism, the political theory of humor, is an idea that I want to explore and develop as my career progresses. I’ve long been interested in the philosophical analysis of humorous utterances. But to do that work in philosophy of language, one must recognize the political power humorous discourse can have. Humor can be, and had been, a powerful tool of social commentary and change.

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