Best Philosophy Jokes

A brief history of philosophical humor

students laughing in a classroom
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There are plenty of hilarious philosophy jokes out there, some of which could easily be incorporated into teaching materials for both children and adults. From three books on the topic by Tom Cathcart and Dan Klein to the back pages of the internet, philosophy has borne the brunt of many a joke through the ages, offering both truth and humor to a rather grim observation of the human condition. The history of philosophy is, in fact, riddled with humor.

Cathcart and Klein

Since 2007, the dynamic philosophy comedic duo of Tom Cathcart and Dan Klein have used humor to observe some basic truths around human psychology and ancient and modern philosophies. They famously taught the work you may even begin to understand philosophy through jokes, penning three books on the topic. Largely their structures hinged on telling a joke then explaining its relevance to the broader science.

Their first book, "Plato and Platypus Walk Into A Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes" premiered in 2007 and was a major commercial hit, breaking down jokes according to philosophical branches or broad topics such as relativity. In it, it picks apart such jokes as "what is the sound of one hand clapping," as they compare to Plato's observations on topics like religion, logic, and reasoning.

"Aristotle and an Aardvark Go To Washington" was their second book, published in 2008 and utilized politicians' most awkward talk to take up philosophical issues. Their third book "Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between" (2009) is devoted to a single philosophical topic: immortality.

Some of History's Greatest Jokes

Some notable and unsourceable jokes date all the way back to Plato's time, in fact, "The First Law of Philosophy" is that for every philosopher, there exists an equal and opposite philosopher and the "Second Law of Philosophy" states that they're both wrong. A common joke overheard in 18th-century England was told as "Did you hear that George Berkeley died? His girlfriend stopped seeing him!" And more recently, you may have seen this gem plastered on bathroom stalls: "God is dead - Nietzsche; Nietzsche is dead: God."

Nothing is safe in the realm of philosophy jokes, especially not religion. Have you heard this one? "What did the Buddhist say to the hot-dog vendor? 'Make me one with everything;' What did the vendor then say to the Buddhist when he asked for change? 'Change comes from within!'"

Ethics also hasn't avoided ridicule, as is the case with this famous joke. In it, a thoroughly secular young attorney and a philosopher were engaged in a fierce theological debate. "Heaven and hell, you will agree, may very well be separated by a wall," contended the lawyer. "Should it happen that this wall would fall down, who would you say must rebuild it?" He posits that the righteous would insist that the wicked do it and the latter would likely refuse. He continues, "If this case came before a judge, which do you believe would emerge the winner?" The philosopher replied, "It seems to me that any fair-minded judge would render a verdict against the wicked since the likelihood is that the wall should crumble from the fires of hell rather than from the bliss of Paradise, but on the other hand, I fully realize that hell surely contains a full quota of glib-tongued lawyers, and I should therefore not be surprised if they won the case."