Monday, September 18, 2017

Socrates, Irony and Soulmates

Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.), the founder of the Socratic sect, the father of Philosophy, fundamentally a Skeptic, did not force his opinions on others. Instead, his method of questioning enabled others to walk through and share their opinions on philosophical constructs. According to Plutarch, Socrates considered the entire world a school of virtue, and therefore appropriate for teaching. He was the first to conceive of the soul existing within the body - prior to which, souls were commonly considered disembodied beings who hung out at the entrance of the otherworld. Recall, in Ancient Greece mythology, the otherworld was where souls went after death and was the Greek idea of an afterlife. At the moment of death, the soul was transported to the entrance of Hades. For all practical purposes, Socrates rescued the world's souls from Hades and gave them a new habitation and a name (cue author of the Shakespearean plays). 

Like other philosophers of his time, Socrates believed in the preexistence of the soul prior to its immersion inside the body. This soul, he felt, was endowed with all knowledge, but upon entering into material form it became confused and stupefied. Fortunately sensible discourse caused it to reawaken and recover its original knowledge. The only true evil in the world, in this sense, is ignorance. 

Socrates used the rhetorical device of irony to subtly and satirically (hilariously, for him) emphasize the contrast between what we think apparent and what we consider incongruous or irrational. It is through the absurd that Socrates' meaning is inferred.

claims to know nothing
demolishes your argument

Irony comes from the Greek comic character Eiron, a clever underdog who by his wit repeatedly triumphs over the boastful character Alazon. In humor studies, irony is often confused with sarcasm, cynicism, skepticism, or wordplay. For this reason many people fail to 'get' irony, or use the term incorrectly. Irony is a satirist's favorite technique, and one that is difficult to master. 

Image result for irony

Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is an excellent example of ironical love. The four young lovers (Helena, Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius) symbolize the arbitrariness of young love, from the perspective of everyone except the lovers. Hippolyta is a captive bride, while Oberon and Titania are so accustomed to mutual romantic betrayal that their conflict has nothing to do with passion, but instead with protocol of who is in charge of the changeling human child. In this sense, irony, as seen in this play, is when one's object of affection is not in love in return, or when the rejected lover returns, evermore, to bid for one's affections. The ironical dynamics are what give the play its charm.

When asked what Socrates thought of his brilliant satirical irony being used to convey the limiting perspectives found in cynicism and skepticism, as promulgated by his disciple, Antisthenes of Athens (444-365), who later founded the Cynics sect, Socrates had this to say: 

"Not to brag, but before me, souls were disembodied beings at the outskirts of Hades. I saved them by brining them into the body. Essentially speaking, the notion of soulmates would be nonexistent without me. You're welcome." 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Aristotle and the Seven Immortals Walk Into A Bar

The Metaphysics of Aristotle opens with these words: 

To satisfy this common urge the unfolding human intellect has explored the extremities of imaginable space outside and the extremities of imaginable space within, searching for a relationship between the one and the all; the grand effect and the cause; the spirit and the substance of the spirit; the illusion and that which we may effectively label as the reality. 

Regarding reality a little closer to home, Plato wrote: "He who has not even a knowledge of common things is a brute among men. He who has an accurate knowledge of human concerns alone is a man among brutes. But he who knows all that can be known by intellectual energy, is a God among men." 

Essentially our role in the natural world is determined by the quality of the thoughts we consider. If our minds are enslaved to bestial instincts we are on par with the brute. Those whose rational faculties ponder domestic human affairs belong to the category of common man or common woman (i.e., ordinary, average); but those whose intellects are elevated to the consideration of higher realities is already a demigod, for this individual's mind is in proximity to the luminosity his or her reason has considered. 

In other words, the grander our thoughts, the closer our minds to the grandeur we call existence. In his encomium of "the science of the sciences" Cicero exclaims: "O philosophy, life's guide! O searcher-out of virtue and expeller of vices! What could we and every age of men have been without thee? Thou has produced cities; thou hast called men scattered about into the social enjoyment of life." 

In other words, we would be lost without the ability to philosophize, organize, categorize, rationalize, consider, and then act in relation to those summations. But unless you're speaking with a professor of philosophy, the word philosophy has little meaning in modern society. Even among philosophers it has little meaning unless accompanied by some other qualifying term. 

Philosophy is the proverbial elephant one must eat one bite at a time. (Creighton William Abrams, Jr.), which means: Start small. 

The whole of philosophy is broken up into numerous isms; each more concerned with disproving each other's fallacies than considering the sublimer issues of cosmic order and humanity's role (or, lack thereof) in it. Ideally philosophy is to serve as the stabilizing influence in human thought. By virtue of its intrinsic nature philosophy should prevent the mind from establishing unreasonable codes of life. 

Genis Carreras

Philosophers and philosophy students delve headfirst into narrow paths which are supposed to illuminate the straight path of rational thinking, but really most just get lost in a Wonderland of their own making, without understanding the overall map and its outstanding systems of philosophic discipline which have kept philosophers questioning since ancient times (some twenty-seven centuries). 

So, Avatar Alice, where do we begin? 

Aristotle &
The Seven Immortals
Walk into a Bar

Or, so the story goes, according to the Greek busybody Diogenes Laertius: 

Feeling parched, Thales, Solon, Chilon, Pittacus, Bias, Cleobulus, and Periander decided to go to a local tavern in Turkey. Wet-blanket Thales wanted a glass of water, served in a tall glass with a little floating boat umbrella: "To replicate the primal principle or element, upon which the earth itself floats like a ship. Look ... If I shake my glass, the little quakes hitting the edges of my glass are the result of this universal sea."  
"Oh, Thales, give it a rest, already!" exclaims Anaximander, the first of the last Ionian philosophers (Anaximenes, Anaxogoras, and Archelaus). That joke was dead in the water when the Ionic school ended. 


The Greek school of philosophy had its inception when upon the seven immortalized thinkers the appellation of Sophos, "the wise" was first conferred. 

"Soph?" asked Avatar Alice, "Are you named after the Sophos?" 

"The Sophos had an empty spot on their bench, I just sat down," said Soph. "I guess you could say that my mind is in proximity to the luminosity their reason has considered." 

And with that, Soph laughed, and is still Laughing. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Avatar Alice & Wittgenstein's Humor Challenge

Plato regarded philosophy as the greatest good ever imparted by Divinity to man. And how could he not? The evolution of philosophy is the evolution of the history of human thought, in all its glory. 

In our last post, we compared the six (6) disciplines of philosophy (metaphysics, logic, ethics, psychology, epistemology, and aesthetics) to Transformers. Why, you ask? 

Just to see if we could, I say. 

Random Explanation:

If we imagine the process of coming into conscious awareness, and start with basic human curiosity, our questioning might land us in the realm of metaphysics, a place where early ruminations on what's actually going on start bubbling forth in our brains. 

We trace these thoughts through their many cycles, all the way from early childhood until middle life, a place where our experiences and relational viewpoints are typically heightened (or dulled), and then we arrive to a few final summations, sometimes remarking: "I better write this down before I die" - a meta-concept if ever there were one, that basically takes into account our most profound or relevant life epiphanies, transcribed with the flavor our lifetimes have afforded them. 

In this sense metaphysics are those first "why" questions we ask; then later on, those devastating "I'm actually going to die" recognitions and, if we're lucky, those "I might not know what's going on, but it doesn't mean I can't have fun" declarations.


It is here where we make a choice: "Steal the Declaration of Independence, or live our our lives wondering." 

This type of cognitive evaluation leads us to the domain of logic. With our THINKING CAPS fully fastened, we ponder about like a Classic Pong, wondering: "What is the right thing to do?" 

This is where our learned values, morals and judgments (ethics) chime in. Our opinions of right and wrong form the basis of our psychological judgments (psychology) of our self in relation to others. The systems and methods we adopt (epistemology) become the ways by which we engage with knowledge and the world. 

The longer we live, the more refined or stagnant our methods and responses become, the more our tastes, judgments, and modes of expression define our unicity. Our creative expression is what the world ultimately sees (aesthetics). 

That which we express can be a thing of beauty, a thing of truth, or a unique blend of authentic expressions packaged up into modernisms that convey a universe of sentiment onto a single apple. 

I imagine both Socrates and Plato would have laughed had they the opportunity to see a painting of this nature. Instead, they laughed at Sophists. Even though philosophy eventually became a ponderous and complicated structure of arbitrary and irreconcilable notions, each was indeed substantiated by almost incontestable logic. The lofty theorems of the old Academy which Iamblichus liked to the nectar and ambrosia of the gods, have been re-molded by Play-Toh resembling opinion - 

which, of course, Heraclitus declared to be a failing sickness of the mind. Convincing evidence of the increasing superficiality of modern scientific and philosophic thought is persistent throughout this blog, as well as in philosophy's formal drift towards materialism. 

When Napoleon called out that great astronomer Laplace for not mentioning God in his Traité de la Méchanique Céleste, the mathematician brilliantly replied: 

"Sire, I had no need for that hypothesis!" 

Brilliant or naïve, 
we may never know.

In his treatise on Atheism, Sir Francis Bacon tersely summarizes the situation thus: "A little philosophy inclineth a man's mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." 

In 2011, when I conceived: 'The Punchline Theory of Humor', I had no idea that six years later I would return to it, to take up Wittgenstein's humor challenge. Before, I demolished it in sprinkles, unicorns, and rainbows - just because I could. 

Armed with the map of where my own thoughts and experiences on the philosophy of humor have traveled, follow me if you want to take a deeper dive. 

Just for giggles

Alice from the Looking Glass is a charming and fearless girl explorer. The Avatar is an enlightened being that aims to bring unity to opposing thought systems, if only to make clear what seems irreconcilable. Together, Avatar Alice sees Wittgenstein's Humor Challenge and raises him her entire court. 

Avatar Alice

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Six Transformers of Philosophy

There are six headings under which the disciplines of philosophy are commonly classified. This post associates those disciplines with the personality types of known Transformers.

Metaphysics, which deals with such abstract subjects as cosmology, theology, and the nature of being; 

is the founder of the Decepticon uprising, and their most well-known and feared leader. As a young charismatic leader forged in battle and the heritage of war, he began to believe in a grand purpose for his race - it is the Transformers' glorious destiny to rule an empire which will span the universe. The opposite of his mortal enemy Optimus Prime, he feels great contempt for other Transformers who, he feels, betray their proud heritage by demanding peace and cooperation with weaker life forms. It is the destiny of the Decepticons to bring order to the universe through conquest, though in the millions of years since coining this purpose it remains to be seen how much of his mission statement is altruistic ... and how much of it is mere words built to fuel warriors to further his desire for personal power. 

Logic, which deals with the laws governing rational thinking, or, as it has been called, "the doctrine of fallacies";

is an Autobot and the resident medical officer of Team Prime. Ratchet is known as the doctor and scientist of the Autobots. Ratchet usually stays behind at the base to work on his projects, or on a case when one of the team members gets injured. On Earth, Ratchet wasn't fond of humans at first. However he was able to work and learn with them, and began accepting them as a noble species and as friends. Ratchet us usually the cranky old bot but Ratchet is the best medic and friend to have. Ratchet is clear-minded and would do whatever it takes to aid his team/family, and defend them against any threat that came their way.

Ethics, which is the science of morality, individual responsibility, and character - concerned chiefly with an effort to determine the nature of good; 

is consistently depicted as having a strong moral character, excellent leadership, and sound decision-making skills, and possesses brilliant military tactics, powerful martial arts, and advanced alien weaponry. 

Psychology, which is devoted to investigation and classification of those forms of phenomena referable to a mental origin; 

is one of Optimum Prime's most trusted lieutenants. Although he is not the strongest or most powerful of the Autobots, Bumblebee more than makes up for this with a bottomless well of luck, determination and bravery. He would gladly give his life to protect others and stop the Decepticons. He is also the ally of humans.

Epistemology, which is the science concerned primarily with the nature of knowledge itself and the question of whether it may exist in an absolute form; 

is one of the oldest and toughest Autobots, and has been on Optimus Prime's team for a long time. "They don't make them like they used to" is an apt description of Ironhide - he's yesterday's model, but he's built to last.

and, finally, Aesthetics, which is the science of the nature of and the reactions awakened by the beautiful, the harmonious, the elegant, and the noble. 

(Tigre in Italy) is the "very cool, very stylish, very competent" member of the Autobots. His original vehicle mode is a Martini Porsche 935 turbo racing car. Self-possessed, calm, and utterly collected, Jazz is Prime's subordinate and first lieutenant of the Autobots, as well as head of Special Operations, with his own dedicated roster of agents. He often gives the most dangerous assignments to himself; not as a matter of ego, but because he has the coolest head for the toughest missions. Jazz's ease extends to his environment, no matter how weird or wonderful. He effortlessly tunes into the local culture, assimilating and improvising, and making creative command decisions, making him an indispensable right-hand bot to Optimus Prime.

Helpful Infographic

A Fine Line between Philosophy and Humor

There's a fine line between being philosophical and being funny. Philosophy is the science of estimating values. Humor is the art of revealing them. The superiority of any state or substance over another is determined by philosophy, and yet the author of this blog registers all states and substances as equal in their existence, just not in their time/space/location/position along the rope of destiny. 

By assigning a position of primary importance to what remains when all that is secondary has been removed, philosophy becomes the true index of priority or emphasis in the realm of speculative thought. By walking that rope for yourself, the primary importance shifts to one single, solitary, a priori focus:

Don't fall!

The mission of philosophy a priori is to establish the relation of manifested things to their invisible ultimate cause or nature. The mission of humor is to point out the relationship in relation to something else, i.e., the absurdity of an elephant showing off his extraordinary balance.

If you consult philosophy's giants on the matter, "Philosophy," writes Sir William Hamilton, "has been defined [as]: The science of things divine and human, and the causes in which they are contained [Cicero]; The science of effects by their causes [Hobbes]; The science of sufficient reasons [Leibnitz]; The science of things possible [Wolf]; The science of things evidently deduced from first principles [Descartes]; The science of truths, sensible and abstract [de Condillac]; The application of reason to its legitimate object [Tennemann]; The science of the relations of all knowledge to the necessary ends of human reason [Kant]; The science of the original form of the ego or mental self [Krug]; The science of sciences [Fichte]; The science of the absolute [von Schelling]; The science of the absolute indifference of the ideal and real [von Schelling, again]; The identity of identity and non-identity [Hegel]; Trying is the first step towards failure [Homer Simpson]. 

just beause

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Precept of Happy Hour

Time is a circus always packing up and moving away

Numerous happy hours have been spent writing commentaries upon humor and philosophy, the art of writing and the finer arts, but the ageless truths of life, like many of the world's greatest thinkers, have usually been clothed in shabby garments or wild displays of ostentatious attire. This blog is an attempt to supply a tome worthy of those insights and the individuals whose thoughts are the substance of these virtual pages. 

To bring about a coalescence of Beauty, Truth and Humor has been my absolute pleasure, and I hope that the result will produce a positive effect upon the minds of the many readers who have found their way here, and especially those who return. 

Work upon this blog was begun on the 17th of April, 2011, and has continued mostly uninterruptedly for over six years. The last few years other professional activities and personal hobbies occupied my time and my writing waned, but I continue to return, time permitting, for the sake of clarity, for the sheer joy of writing, and for the pleasure of sharing with an audience - which at Google+ Classic's heyday reached an astonishing forty million pageviews. 

Scholars with specificity on the topics herein will immediately note the lack of quotations and references. There is no bibliography nor collections of reference materials upon which to examine the authorities dealing with philosophy and symbolism. Instead my goal was to make accessible the deeper and/or superficial sentiments expressed in abstruse philosphical information, with a rich, visual, or otherwise playful mode of creative expression. Given the one million or so direct pageviews (beyond Google+), arriving via Blogger, I see that my penning and the images chosen to enhance the aesthetic value are working. Not that I would have changed my mode of writing had my blog not received pageviews, but it is nice to know that people appreciate the intuitive sensibilities involved in researching pleasing images, in addition to the independent thinking that serves as the cornerstone of my writing. 

Writing for any extended period of time produces patterns. There are over a thousand articles herein. The patterns produced are aesthetic, playful, philosophical, exploratory, light-hearted, and family-oriented. That tells me to which thought continents my brain travels and the subjects readers find illuminating, enjoyable, or simply visually appealing. 

I make no claim for the infallibility of any statement herein contained, but I do lay claim to most of the originality. As an individual who read over 4000 books by my 30th birthday, I have a lightening-fast ability to digest copious amounts of information and a large working memory. This enables my prolificacy. While there are over a thousand articles posted on HTTF, I have responded to at least three thousand or so sincere notes from people from all around the world, from a variety of diverse backgrounds and cultures. Because I am a professional and maintain a career, I haven't always the luxury of time necessary to respond to all the responses this blog generates, but I do try to incorporate my responses in actual posts, if only to address the topics that people bring to my attention. 

Academically I have studied the complete and also fragmentary writings of the ancients sufficiently to realize that dogmatic utterances concerning any of their tenets are worse than foolhardy. Traditionalism is the curse of modern society, particularly that of academic institutions. While many of the statements contained in this blogesque treatise may appear at first wildly fantastic, I have sincerely endeavored to refrain from haphazard metaphysical speculation, presenting material for pleasure and consideration, and whenever possible, in the spirit of the original authors rather than the letter. 

By assuming responsibility only for the mistakes which may appear herein, I hope to escape the accusation of plagiarism which has been directed against nearly every writer since the beginning of written documents. Having no particular ism of my own to promulgate, I do not try to twist the original concepts to substantiate preconceived notions, but I do tweek it a bit, playfully engaging with or painting doctrines in fresh new packaging in an effort to reconcile the often irreconcilable differences present in what passes for humorous, philosophical thinking, or even sound thinking. 

The entire theory of this blog is that humor is a healthy device for expressing the myriad of human sentiment. Sarcasm is diametrically opposed to my mode of thinking, for this reason the humor contained herein mostly falls into the "laugh-at-life" category - though, I do have a tendency to poke fun at those who market themselves as paths to enlightenment. But that is only because they get on my last nerve with their holier-than-thou "I have the answer for all of you" attitude and self-promulgation. Yes, it is a personal bias. 

Rich as language is in media of expression, it is woefully lacking in terms suitable to the conveyance of abstract philosophical or humorous premises. Therefore, a certain intuitive grasp of the subtler meanings concealed within tales of Pacmanien migration and UFO spotting for fun is necessary therefore to a deeper understanding of what makes people laugh. 

Although a thousand or so of the thinkers I reference are in my own library, I wish to acknowledge gratefully the access given to me by international archival institutions and the collections of private individuals. Without referencing by name those books and or patrons, I have endeavored to do justice by writing in a way that appeals to a very exclusive audience. In this sense a number of my posts are eclectic-sounding. That suits me fine because life itself is a hodgepodge of eclectic experiences, with the familiar ones categorized as personal or subjective. 

The editorial work in this blog is virtually non-existent. I simply don't have time for it. I write from the top of my head and whatever emerges is what you read here. As it is, I have no distinct plans for the point I wish to make herein, other than the knowledge that the Reader's patience grew thin after the first paragraph and maybe only two or three people are still reading, and would be most appreciative if I drew this post to a natural conclusion - which I shall do, soon. 

But not without acknowledging gratefully my daughter to whom I am indebted for many of the articles, which she has read or asked that I read aloud to her. My son is not as interested in his mother's fleeting literary contributions to the world, but will no doubt someday make his way through a few of my favorites; if only because I have stipulated it in my estate that he do so in order to receive his inheritance. [Insert wicked laughter] 

I do sincerely hope that each reader who visits Happy Thoughts Travel Fast, if they read not a single word of the many articles herein, at least read the title. Therein lies my premise that happy thoughts do travel fast. If any of the concepts herein bring additional joy or even illumination, then that is sprinkles upon my already nicely frosted cake. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Joys of Outdated Language


A Fuddy-duddy is a Stick-in-the-mud. A real wanker. For those who have never heard this word uttered in common parlance, it implies that the individual upon whom the label is hoist, is someone very old fashioned, indeed - or, someone who enjoys novel parlance. Of course, if one grew up in a time when this expression was common, say in the 1950s or 1960s, it is more nostalgic than novel. For those born in later years, discovering the word for the first time, it sounds avant-guard. In this way, calling one's parent a fuddy-duddy has a certain appeal, though from the parents' side, not so much. 


If you are surprised to see this word appear on a list of outdated language, you probably remember the days when the internet was new. You may still suffer from nightmares from this sound, as you clicked your way around (and waited F O R E V E R  for a page to load in). This was called web-surfing (such as that displayed by this adorable little hamster in brightly colored trunks and sunglasses). Since the internet is no longer considered novel, it does not require its own extreme sports reference. 

The "Dear John" Letter

The "Dear John" letter isn't merely a letter written to a man named John. Despite Nicolas Sparks' revival of the term, this expression was actually coined by Americans in World War II. It was the letter every soldier dreaded; a note from his sweetheart saying their romance was coming to an end. John was the most popular name for boys 1880 through 1923, so whoever coined the phrase clearly gave it some thought. Occasionally a rapper or pop singer might shout out the let-down letter, but that is rare, and usually because they were raised in a multi-generational family, with influences from older relatives. Today the term could be updated to a "Dear Josh text" - or, a simple heartbreak emoji. 

How's tricks? 

The vinyl record (above) by The Jack Bruce Band references the 1950s and '60s expression for, "What's up?" This was an expression uttered by men when they wanted to know what their buddies were "up to" - women did not say it. No doubt this is because of its earlier reference, dating back to the 1930s, or according to some sources, to the beginning of time. In Latin "trick" is tricae, meaning "trifles, toys." You do the math. 

Davenport & Chesterfield 

If you refer to your "sofa" or "couch" as a davenport or chesterfield you're either (1) From England; (2) A parent of a Baby Boomer; (3) An antique dealer. These expressions were popular in the early and mid-20th century, and both are eponyms, chesterfield after the 19th century Earl of Chesterfield (the fourth), who commissioned the first leather sofa, and davenport, after the late 19th century furniture maker Alfred H. Davenport of Boston. Now that you know these words, you might also drop into casual conversation: baccarat crystal & *chippendale furniture. 

Long Distance Call

The advent of mobile phone technology and apps like WhatsApp and WeChat has made "long distance call" a meaningless phrase. If you still have a landline, no matter your excuse - "it's connected to my alarm system" - you've already given away your age. 

VCR and Videotape

Even Millennial Hipsters find this habit hard to break. Watching Little Nemo and Toy Story on "tape" in the 90s and early 2000s makes this nostalgic expression something difficult to let go of. This format is obsolete in a digital world. Simply put, it's time to break the habit. 

Little Black Book

Today's "Little Black Book" is the fact that you have to Bing your way to troubleshooting forums to figure out how to delete a contact from your messenger app. The actual expression pushed up daisies the day smartphones took over. Prior to that, a little black book was an actual paper notebook with names and phone numbers of current and potential dating candidates. One interesting addition to the Chicago History Museum is Playboy magazine powerhouse Hugh Hefner's "little black book" - filled with codes and secret phone numbers. 

Wet Blanket

A wet blanket - named for the very thing that might smother a flame - was an expression previously associated with a concern with decorum or consequences when others were not, putting a "damper" on a party. This expression was used in the 1800s as a verb: "She would often wet-blanket her friend's proposals to swim au naturel." Not to be confused with a wet sock, which is like saying that someone is basically useless, and who probably wouldn't get invited to the party in the first place. If someone calls you a wet blanket, they are a) probably older than your chippendale grandparents' chippendale furniture, and, b) not very nice. 

Making whoopee

As much fun as it might be to say it, making whoopee will raise many eyebrows. It refers to romantic intimacy, and was sprung onto an unsuspecting public in the 1920s by Eddie Cantor's frisky tune, "Makin' Whoopee!" Today the expression is "hook up" - but beware, using this expression may indeed ensure that "makin' whoopee' is the last thing you'll get in return. 

*My sincere apologies for painting the chippendale furniture placed in our weekend get-away condo. I did not particularly resonate with the style at the time, but now have a much grander appreciation for its craftsmanship - and cost! Mea culpa.