How to Talk to a Philosopher Without Driving Spikes Through Your Eyes to Ease the Pain
The time has come. Paltry advice for people like me: spouses, friends, loved ones, strangers, who find themselves muddied, bloodied, dirty, sobbing and pathetic in the corner of a room at a party because they were left to talk with The Philosopher.
I'm a smart woman. Really, it's true. My resume is pretty darned impressive (to some people) and I can string words together (I'm doing it right now! Left-handed and backwards!) but I still look like that pile of wet tissue in the corner we call a human being after I have a conversation with a philosopher.
Last night was no different. The conversation started with something seemingly innocuous. We were cooking pasta, which means we had to boil water. But somehow, the act of putting salt in the water turned into a discussion about causation and logical fallacies and how scientific data is just theory and not reliable. Words like “value” and “identity” and then next thing you know, I'm longing to dump the pot of boiling water over my head just to ease the pain.
“There has got to be a better way,” I thought, as I lay helpless in bed, shaking, alone, furtive and afraid. What if I post something tomorrow on Facebook that has more import? A political cartoon? A picture of a baboon? One ear of corn talking to another? Or a painting? By a painter? Who is French?
The sobbing got louder.
These tips might help you; if they save you, please call me and let me know – you can find me in the phone book. Just look under “Psychiatric Hospitals."
Tip #1: This will save your life. Listen politely to what The Philosopher is saying. Nod occasionally, raise your eyebrows. If you have it in you (and this takes some major cajones) put your hand under your chin with your index finger lying casually across your cheek and your thumb cradling your jaw... Feels good, right? It's supposed to. This is how Philosophers talk. It props their heavy brains. When they stop talking, look away for a minute (preferably at their feet) and take a deep breath. Say the following slowly: “I see. I think I understand what you're saying. Very interesting, but let me ask you...” Raise your eyes. Try not to be scared. Don't falter. “What does Heidegger say?”
Man, you are so good at this.
Helpful hints: If they smile and ask you what you think Heidegger would say, be The Philosopher. Reply, “I am really interested in your perspective.”
Heidegger is tough, even for philosophers. So they will either cower under your confident swagger and mention of Heidegger, or they will actually answer. What to do? Repeat. Why? Because they never stop at Heidegger. Never.
Tip #2: If you want to stop the conversation early and really don't give two sasquatches what they think of you, listen politely to what they have to say. Assume the pose in Tip #1 if you'd like (because you might as well have fun) and then say, “That's deep. Really. I think I have to Google it.” They will either smile and look around, wondering if someone with the mental capacity of a daffodil is at that freakin' party, or they will look at you with disdain, suggest you write it down so you don't forget (hey, maybe they'll spell it for you!), or if they're cool – maybe even a teacher who gets this a lot – they'll smile politely, shrug, and say that sometimes they get carried away. (Be thankful for this response. They never say this to their spouses. Never. In fact, if it happens to you, try to record it. I'd love to hear it. [I'm being totally freakin' optimistic].)
Tip #3: Maybe you made a remark about the guacamole and maybe you thought they should have added more salt. Three minutes later, you hear your party mate talking about Plato and the Greeks and ethos and some other such nonsense. Smile. Stand tall and say, “Wow. I haven't read Plato since college. Very rusty.” If you're in college, change it to high school. If you're in high school, leave the party and save yourself the trouble of becoming friends with philosophers. If it doesn't seem to work, refer to Tip #1.
Better yet, avoid talking about salt. I should have mentioned that first. (Or did I?)
Tip #4: The Philosopher is educated and charming. They love to tell you all about it. If you can, tamp down your ego and stare wide-eyed. Say nothing. Nod. Smile. Think “Gosh, you're so smart,” and never ask questions. You won't get it anyway (even their philosopher counterparts don't get it. It's true! Don't these tips look familiar? You think I pulled these tips out of thin air? No, no, my friends. These are based on observation. Pulling yourself together from a mass of wet tissues in the corner leaves you plenty of time to people-watch. This is what I do.)
Tip #5: Want to see a Philosopher run around in circles? Act like you don't get it (which shouldn't be too hard) and sit back. To get you started, say “That sounds like a straw man argument. How would you respond to that?” It makes no sense to us, but it makes sense to them. At every pause, repeat Tip #1. When you get tired, see Tip #6.
Tip #6: Repeat after me: “You want a beer?” All philosophers love booze. I've never met one that will say no. But be careful! They might marry you (it happened to me).
Philosophers are people too. They just want to be loved. (Understood? Not so much... they knew what they were getting into).