Friday, September 21, 2012

Ministry of Radical Philosophy (not Silly Walks) Sketch

 (A man dressed in suit complete with bowler hat comes into shop. He is holding a cat with his arms outstretched, with the cat facing him.)

Minister: ‘Times’ please.

Shopkeeper: Oh yes sir, here you are.

Minister: Thank you.

Shopkeeper: Cheers.

(The Minister takes the paper with some difficulty, keeping the cat in position. He leaves the shop, and walks off. Cut to him proceeding along Whitehall, and into a building labeled ‘Ministry of Radical Philosophy’. For a moment the cat looks away, and the Minister freezes in place. Then the cat returns to looking at him, and he continues on. Inside the building he passes three other people, each behaving in indescribably strange ways. Cut to an office; a man is sitting waiting. The minister enters, still holding his cat.)

Minister: Good morning. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting, but I'm afraid my philosophy has become rather more radical recently and so it takes me rather longer to get to work. (Places cat on table facing him. Leans forward conspiratorially) Vicarious solipsism. I argue my cat, Snowball, is the only fully existing entity in the universe. The rest of us only exist when she is observing us. (Leans back in chair.) Now then, what was it again?

Mr Pudey: Well sir, I have a radical philosophy and I'd like to obtain a Government grant to help me develop it.

Minister: I see. (Keeping one eye on the cat.) May I hear your radical philosophy?

Mr Pudey: Yes, certainly, yes. Here it is. (Pudey stands) Ahem. First Premise: In our society, we believe in certain moral rules – like respecting human rights. Second Premise: In other societies, they believe in different moral rules. For instance they may not believe in human rights. The conclusion is –

Minister: (Sees the cat about to get distracted by licking itself.) Wait! (The cat licks its privates for a moment, and the Minister freezes in place. It then looks up again.) Right, continue.

Mr Pudey: Right. So – first premise, we have certain moral rules. Second premise, other cultures have different moral rules. Conclusion: (he pauses triumphantly) Other societies are wrong. (Pause. Minister waits cautiously.) Wrong in their moral beliefs.

Minister: That’s it, is it?

Mr Pudey: Yes, that’s it, yes.

Minister: It’s not particularly radical, is it? I mean, the premises aren’t radical at all, and the logic merely performs a low-level reification and a standard is-ought fallacy.

Mr Pudey: Yes, but I think that with Government backing I could make it very radical.

Minister: (rising) Mr Pudey,  the very real problem is one of money. I’m afraid that the Ministry of Radical Philosophy is no longer getting the kind of support it needs. You see there's Defence, Social Security, Health, Housing, Education, Radical Philosophy ... they’re all supposed to get the same. But last year, the Government spent less on the Ministry of Radical Philosophy than it did on National Defence! Now we get $348,000,000 a year, which is supposed to be spent on all our available research projects. (he sits down) Coffee?

Mr Pudey: Yes please.

Minister: (pressing intercom) Ms Wendt, would you bring us in two coffees please?

Intercom Voice: You bastard.

Minister: ... (Smiles indulgently) Now the Japanese have a man who believes in panpsychism and psychological behaviourism at one and the same time; everything both has and has not got mental states. While the Israelis, at least, whenever Snowball is paying attention to them, the Israelis have – Ah, here is the coffee.  (Enter secretary with tray with two cups on it. Puts it down on table.) Thank you for getting that. (Secretary slaps him hard. Minister smiles understandingly. She leaves. Minister leans forward to explain.) PhD Candidate. Radical ethical philosophy of language, you know. Any use of verbs counts as patriarchal marginalization. Promising stuff. (Leans backYou’re really interested in radical philosophy, aren’t you?

Mr Pudey: Oh rather. Yes.

Minister: Well, I’ve told you about the Japanese. The Israelis have a girl who argues the Pythagorean commandment not to touch a white cock follows necessarily from his mathematical theorem. Could neuter entire mathematics departments. For their part, on the continent there’s a fellow who shows beyond dispute that computer viruses must be accorded basic moral considerability and constitutional rights. (Frowns and looks at computer.) Still haven’t received that email from him. And the Russians – well! (Leans forward and whispers.) Don’t spread this one around. Very hush-hush. But the Russians have a thinktank who – building ambitiously on Cartesian arguments for external world skepticism – are daring to question the metaphysical reality of government funded research grants!

Mr Pudey: Oh my God! (Falls off chair in shock.)


Bunnitos said...

Haha! Wonderful. I shall now take my cat everywhere with me. Because Philosophy, that's why. =)

Hugh Breakey said...

It's only logical. My cat has been assuring me for years that he's the centre of the universe!