100 Greatest Philosophical Spoilers (guest post by Richard Greene)


The less a work has to offer us besides information about happens in the end, the more reason we have to avoid spoilers for it. When it comes to philosophy, knowing what happens in the end usually doesn’t spoil much at all: the real entertainment is in seeing how the author got there. 

So I don’t think I have to issue a spoiler alert for this guest post* by Richard V. Greene, professor of philosophy at Weber State University, which sums up in one-liners the works of 100 philosophers. He wrote it as an appendix to his new book, Spoiler Alert! (It’s a Book About the Philosophy of Spoilers). You’re welcome to add your own spoilers in the comments.


Jake Fried, “Brainwave” (detail)

100 Greatest Philosophical Spoilers
by Richard V. Greene

Theodor Adorno: Art was much better a long time ago.

Anaximander of Miletus: Goodness, gracious, it all starts with great balls of fire.

G.E.M. Anscombe: The road to Hell is paved with good intentionality.

Anselm of Canterbury: Necessarily there must exist a spoiler of which no greater spoiler can be conceived.

Thomas Aquinas: Divine revelation is mostly dispensed by Aristotle.

Aristotle: All things said by Plato are wrong. The Theory of Forms is a thing said by Plato. Therefore, The Theory of Forms is wrong.

Hannah Arendt: Bring it on, Government!

Mary Astell: Educate women, and then watch them win debates.

Augustine of Hippo: Original sin is gonna get you.

Averroes: Philosophy trumps scripture.

Alfred Jules Ayer: Spoilers can be verified and hence are not meaningless.

Simone de Beauvoir: It takes a village to construct female identity.

Jeremy Bentham: Spread a little sunshine.

George Berkeley: What you see is what you get.

Sissela Bok: If you are in the public sphere, try not to lie.

George Boole: Aristotle was wrong about syllogisms.

F.H. Bradley: God can help you be the best darned you that you can be.

Judith Butler: If you want to be a particular gender, then act like it.

Albert Camus: It’s absurd to try to reduce Camus’s work to a single sentence.

Rudolf Carnap: If it can’t be verified, it sucks.

Margaret Cavendish: It’s Alive!

Confucius: The Golden Rule is actually a Silver Rule.

Nicolas Copernicus: What goes around comes around.

Democritus: Ultimately everything is really small.

Augustus De Morgan: Every “or” is an “and” at heart (and vice versa).

René Descartes: Magic happens in the pineal gland.

Fred Dretske: It’s probably a zebra, but one never knows.

Duns Scotus: Essence is both existence and really weird.

Elisabeth of Bohemia: Substance Dualism is for suckers.

Epicurus: It’s good to relax, perhaps with a nice snack.

Epictetus: Whatever happens, happens. Just roll with it.

Euclid of Alexandria: The longest distance from the point where you buy your tickets to the point where you purchase your popcorn is that winding line marked off by the red velvet ropes.

Harry Frankfurt: The Principle of Alternative Possibilities is bullshit!

Edmund Gettier: Know problem!

Kurt Gödel: Logic, you don’t complete me.

Nelson Goodman: In the future, some colors will be gruesome.

Georg Willhelm Friedrich Hegel: Nothing is truly at odds with anything else; rather, everything is just on some big transcendent joy ride.

Heraclitus of Ephesus: One can’t spoil the same story twice.

Martin Heidegger: Being is good, not by accident, but by dasein.

Hippocrates: If it is broke, you must fix it.

Thomas Hobbes: Don’t ever go camping, because in nature things really suck.

David Hume: I don’t believe in miracles. Awww, where you from, you sexy thing?

Edmund Husserl: There are more things in consciousness, than are dreamt of in your natural philosophy, Horatio.

Hypatia of Alexandria: She contributed greatly to Ptolemy’s work, just how much is unknown. Your Almagest is as good as mine.

Luce Irigaray: Men and women are different.

Frank Jackson: There’s something (different) about Mary.

William James: Truth is ultimately whatever will get you published.

Immanuel Kant: What if everyone did that? (I’m pretty sure he lifted this from his mother.)

Søren Kierkegaard: Might as well jump.

Christine Korsgaard: To know thyself, is to practically identify thyself.

Saul Kripke: Things in France are exactly the length that they are.

Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz: It’s monads all the way down.

Lao Tzu: Gotta get back to (human) nature.

David Lewis: If it’s possible, it’s real.

John Locke: The mind is a blank slate that eventually gets filled up with stuff, only some of which is real.

Lucretius: Don’t worry about death, you won’t be there for it.

Niccolò Machiavelli: Whenever possible, be a total bastard.

Nicolas Malbranche: I didn’t do it, God did it.

Ruth Barcan Marcus: Whatever Kripke said much later is true.

Karl Marx: Religion is totally dope.

Alexius Meinong: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Michel de Montaigne: I don’t know jack!

John Stuart Mill: If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.

Montesquieu: Power corrupts.

Thomas Nagel: Don’t even think about what it is like to be a bat.

Friedrich Nietzsche: What doesn’t kill God makes him stronger, except something did kill him.

Robert Nozick: None for all and all for none.

Martha Nussbaum: Good things break easily.

William of Ockham: Don’t multiply spoilers unnecessarily.

Parmenides: It’s all one big something, and whatever it is, it doesn’t move much.

Blaise Pascal: I’ll wager that you can guess this one.

Plato: Philosopher kings!!! ‘Nuff said.

Plotinus: There is just one thing, and it ain’t a thing, and it ain’t everything, either.

Hilary Putnam: Dude, you like totally might be in the Matrix.

Pyrhho of Elis: Don’t worry, but don’t exactly be happy either.

Pythagoras of Samos: Everything is made of math.

W.V.O. Quine: Two dogmas walk into a bar…

John Rawls: All kinds of good stuff might happen, if you find yourself behind the right veil.

Thomas Reid: Skepticism bad, common sense good.

William David Ross: Always let your conscience be your guide.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Every child left behind.

Bertrand Russell: If you are a barber, there is a good chance that you will have to go to another town to get a decent shave.

Gilbert Ryle: Machines are not all that spooky.

Jean-Paul Sartre: Other people are nauseating.

Arthur Schopenhauer: It’s best to neither desire, nor act.

Peter Singer: Be kind to your web-footed friends.

Socrates: I don’t know anything, also know thyself, and if you can’t pull off both of those simultaneously, just relax with a refreshing glass of ice-cold hemlock.

Baruch Spinoza: Everything is God (which, by the way comes as great news to my ego).

P.F. Strawson: I know what Russell was referring to, but he doesn’t.

Sun Tzu: Trick your enemy.

Alfred Tarski: Finally, the logicians and mathematicians get to talk about truth, too.

Thales of Miletus: You’re gonna get wet.

Judith Jarvis Thomson: Nine months is, frankly, just too long to be hooked up to a violinist (or any musician, for that matter!).

Alan Turing: Computers can fool some of the people some of the time…

Voltaire: Accentuate the negative, eliminate the positive.

Mary Anne Warren: Perhaps infanticide is not as bad as you think.

Alfred North Whitehead: All of philosophy is either a footnote to Plato, or an over-used platitude about a footnote to Plato.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: Don’t quit your day job, unless your day job is being a professional philosopher.

Mary Wollstonecraft: If you properly educate women, you just might give birth to a Frankenstein.

Zeno of Elea: Before you reveal a spoiler, you must reveal half a spoiler, and before that a quarter of a spoiler, etc. Thus, it is impossible to spoil anything.


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