The holidays are coming up. What should you get the philosophers in your life? It depends, of course. Do you want to keep them in your life?
Let’s assume you do. So what do they want?
Unfortunately, more time cannot be purchased online. But you can get some gifts that may help their recipients make better use of their time. For example, there’s this multi-purpose device, which can be used to keep one’s distracting phone inaccessible and out of sight for a period of time (if that’s too pricey, this can be used in a similar fashion). It may also be a good place to store the TV remote, the last of the good chocolate, or that recent translation of The Odyssey that has been tempting you away from your work.
More conventionally, there’s also this Instant Pot thing that people say magically cooks, while you’re at work, ingredients you threw into it in the morning, making a delicious meal right there on your counter that somehow doesn’t give you food poisoning. So it’s safe to use. At least that’s what folks tell me.
One thing some philosophers like to do is read while walking. One of the downsides of this is the existence of walls. And other people. And various other hazards. But you can read and get a little exercise at the same time more safely with a treadmill for your office.
If the philosopher you’re shopping for works at a state school, or for a small but not especially prestigious college, or in the carrel in the sub-basement of the library, or any place where the heat isn’t reliably working, maybe they would appreciate a cozy blanket with a colorful print featuring the animal mascot of philosophy, the owl. If that’s not adequate, consider a small portable heater. This one has an infrared sensor that detects the presence and absence of your shivering body and turns on and off accordingly.
I often recommend some writing implements, and this year is no different. In the past I’ve suggested my go-to pen, the Uni Jetstream Alpha-Gel Grip, in orange. But this year you should also take a look at the very nice OHTO Horizon Aluminum Hexagon Barrel Needlepoint Ballpoint Pen. Pretty cool, and also available in orange. Pencils are more their thing? I understand. Check these out. (And this is still the best manual portable pencil sharpener I’ve come across.) Perhaps the most useful would be a bulk pack of dry-erase markers: here’s a colorful set of 60 and here’s a 72-pack of all black ones.
Just so I don’t come off as too much of a luddite, I’ll remind you that you can always get someone a Kindle—the new one is waterproof.
Philosophers are people, too, which means we need to eat. And philosophers have to deal with other people, too, which means we need to drink.
With the internet, who needs cookbooks? Only those people who love books, and good-looking ones at that. Though a few years old, I only recently learned of the gorgeous Geometry of Pasta by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kennedy. Its mod, black and white depictions of pasta shapes makes it fun to flip through, and it has lots of good recipes. Pair it with a colorful Bialetti pasta pot, which has a strainer built into the lid, and give someone the gift of one less piece of cookware to wash every time they make pasta.
What about drinks? It will be hard to beat the Aviary Cocktail Book, from Grant Achatz et al, on beauty and innovation—but also cost. More reasonably priced is The Cocktail Codex: Fundamentals, Formulas, Evolutions by the guys behind Death & Co. It starts with six basic recipes and maps out the variations in a systematic and informative way, bound to appeal to analytic types, with attractive visuals and design elements. You may need some tools: this looks like a good set (though I also like the looks of this Boston-style shaker).
Need caffeine more than you need alcohol? Consider this machine, which will grind and brew your beans at a time you can set in advance. And you can take your coffee to go in this leak-proof, good-looking, and reasonably-priced insulated travel mug.
Peace and Quiet.
How is a philosopher supposed to think with the kids running around making such a racket? Get your philosofriend some moments of silence by getting their children some books. One option is a beautifully illustrated kid-friendly vintage edition of Micromegas, Voltaire’s story of a space-traveling giant who visits earth and has a chat with some philosophers, adapted by Elizabeth Hall and illustrated by Don Freeman (yes, the author of the classic Corduroy books). Or maybe, for the rebel child, something practical, like the amusing How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler by Ryan North. Or perhaps get the imagination going with the evocative images of If… by Sarah Perry. (See this list of philosophical books for young kids, too.)
Not all philosophers have kids, of course, and admittedly the “shut up and read” strategy of attaining quiet in one’s home is of questionable reliability (maybe “go watch television” would work better; I can’t believe how cheap big TVs have gotten). In that case, a more direct option may be in order—noise-cancelling audio: big headphones for home, and wireless earbuds for out and about.
Now that I’ve done my part, all you have to do is shop. Or leave this page conspicuously open on your computer as a helpful hint to your friends and family.
You’re also welcome to make suggestions in the comments.
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