Philosophy Titles: the good, the witty, the clever


Mike Otsuka (LSE) and friends have been collecting humorous titles of philosophy works. He gave me permission to share the project with Daily Nous readers. So, below is a list of titles selected from their collection, starting with a classic. Feel free to add more in the comments. 

Harry Frankfurt, “On Bullshit,” Raritan Quarterly Review (1986)

Susan Haack, “Is It True What They Say About Tarski?” Philosophy (1976)

Andy Egan and Adam Elga: “I Can’t Believe I’m Stupid,” Philosophical Perspectives (2005)

Hillel Steiner, ‘Can a Social Contract be Signed by an Invisible Hand?’ in Democracy, Consensus and Social Contract (Sage, 1978) [on part I of Anarchy, State and Utopia]

Hugh Lazenby, “One Kiss Too Many?” Journal of Political Philosophy (2010)

David Boonin, “Robbing PETA to Spay Paul: Do Animal Rights Include Reproductive Rights?” Between the Species, online edition, August 2003

Roger Higgs,”Mum’s the word: confidentiality and incest” Journal of Medical Ethics (1985)

Alastair Norcross, “Off Her Trolley? Frances Kamm and the Metaphysics of Morality”, Utilitas (2008).

Campbell Brown, “Better Never to Have Been Believed: Benatar on the Harm of Existence,” Economics and Philosophy (2011). [A critical notice of David Benetar’s Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence]

David Enoch, “Once You Start Using Slippery Slope Arguments, You’re on a Very Slippery Slope”, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies (2001)

David Enoch, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice If p, therefore p”, Utilitas (2009)

Neil Sinhababu, “Possible Girls,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (2008)

Hilary Putnam, “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, Journal of Philosophy  (1962)

David Kaplan, “Transworld Heir Lines” in The Actual and the Possible (Cornell, 1967)

Peter Vallentyne, “Of mice and men: equality and animals”, Journal of Ethics (2005)

David Boonin, “A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (1993) [on Susan Wolf’s ‘Moral Saints’]

Sebastian Köhler, “Do Expressivists Have an Attitude Problem?” Ethics (2013)

Peter Railton, “Locke, Stock, and Peril: Natural Property Rights, Pollution, and Risk,” in Facts, Values, and Norms (Cambridge, 1985)

Hilary Putnam, “A quick Read is a wrong Wright,” Analysis (1985) [a reply to Stephen Read and Crispin Wright]

Kent Bach, “The Emperor’s New ‘Knows’” in Contextualism in Philosophy (Oxford, 2005)

Kenneth Taylor, “Sex, Breakfast, and Descriptus Interruptus,” Synthese (2001)

Alan Hájek, “Waging War on Pascal’s Wager,” Philosophical Review (2003)

Jonathan Dancy, “Contemplating One’s Nagel,” [review of Nagel’s The View from Nowhere] Philosophical Books (1988)

Mark Hager, “Sex in the Original Position: A Restatement of Liberal Feminism,” Wisconsin Women’s Law Journal (1999)

Shlomi Segall, “If You’re a Luck Egalitarian, How Come You Read Bedtime Stories to Your Children?” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy (2011)

Nathan Salmon, “A Millian Heir Rejects the Wages of Sinn” in Propositional Attitudes: The Role of Content in Logic, Language, and Mind (CSLI, 1990)

Peter Unger, “I Do Not Exist” in Perception and Identity (Cornell, 1979)

Stephen Gardiner, “Are We the Scum of the Earth? Climate Change, Geoengineering, and Humanity’s Challenge” in Ethical Adaptation to Climate Change (MIT, 2012)

George Sher, In Praise of Blame (Oxford, 2007)

David Benatar, “The Unbearable Lightness of Bringing into Being,” Journal of Applied Philosophy (1999)

Christopher Stone, “Should Trees Have Standing?” in Law, Morality, and the Environment (Oxford, 2010)

David Wasserman, “Let them Eat Chances: Probability and Distributive Justice,” Economics and Philosophy (1996)

Alan Hájek, “The Reference Class Problem is Your Problem Too,” Synthese (2007)

John Roberts, “Lewis, Carroll, and Seeing Through the Looking Glass,” American Journal of Philosophy 1998 [on Lewis and Carroll’s views on Humean Supervenience, arguing against the success of the ‘Mirror Argument’]

Gerald Lang and Rob Lawlor, “In Defense of Batman,” Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (2013)

Hillel Steiner, “Silver spoons and golden genes: talent differentials and distributive justice” in The Moral and Political Status of Children (Oxford, 2002)

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Christy Mag Uidhir
7 years ago

The original title for my book Art & Art-Attempts was Why You Can’t Have a Theory of Art Without Really Trying. Alas, OUP was less fond of it than I.

Also, I like to think that P.D. Magnus, while writing his now published book Scientific Enquiry and Natural Kinds: From Planets to Mallards (Palgrave Macmillan 2012) at least considered, if only for the briefest moment, my suggestion that he instead title his book Hey Nature, What Makes You Think I Won’t Cut You!?Report

David Taylor
David Taylor
7 years ago

J. L. Austin’s Sense and Sensibilia always struck me as humorous.

Then there’s Nancy Cartwright’s How the Laws of Physics Lie, which trades on the ambiguity of the two meaning of “lie”.

It’s not solely the title alone, but the fact that Gustav Bergmann’s “The Philosophical Significance of Modal Logic” begins with the line “Modal logic is of no philosophical significance whatsoever.” always cracks me up.Report

JPL
JPL
Reply to  David Taylor
7 years ago

I’m rereading Sense and Sensibilia right now, it’s right in front of me. The unique thing about that one is that the misdirection involves the name of the author as well. When I went to buy it in a bookshop that had a good philosophy section and couldn’t find it, I told the clerk I couldn’t find Sense and Sensibilia by Austin, and he led me over to the fiction section to find it.

And the other one (Bergmann): That’s a great first sentence! And another interesting topic: best opening sentences.Report

Sara L. Uckelman
Reply to  JPL
3 years ago

I was shocked not to see Sense and Sensibilia in the main list! It’s the canonical one.Report

Neil Sinhababu
7 years ago

Laura Ruetsche’s “Johnny’s So Long at the Ferromagnet” is excellent.Report

Jonathan Cohen
7 years ago

Can I immodestly self-nominate my paper, “The Grand Grand Illusion Illusion”?Report

praymont
7 years ago

Word play rather than humour: Nagel’s View From Nowhere (with the pun on ‘now here’).Report

Jim
Jim
7 years ago

This Godel is killing me

A. Hutton
Philosophia 3 (March):135-44 (1976)Report

John Dougherty
7 years ago

I’ve always been amused by Quine’s nod to Roaring Lion with “From a Logical Point of View”. There’s another article from around the same time that also takes its title from a calypso song, but I can’t remember what it is. Others:

Frank Arntzenius, “Is Quantum Mechanics Pointless?” Philosophy of Science (2003) [on gunk in QM]
John Earman “Thoroughly Modern McTaggart” Philosophers’ Imprint (2002)Report

Brock
7 years ago

David Lewis, “Whether Report”.Report

Anna Alexandrova
Anna Alexandrova
7 years ago

John Dupre “You Must Have Thought this Book Was about You: Reply to Daniel Dennett”,
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 70, 2005, p. 691-5.Report

Mathieu Doucet
7 years ago

G.A. Cohen, *If You’re An Egalitarian, how Come You’re So Rich?*Report

Daniel Munoz
Daniel Munoz
7 years ago

Yablo, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Thinkers” (about epiphenomenalism and mental causation)Report

John Protevi
7 years ago

“The Geology of Morals (Who does the earth think it is?)” — Ch 3 of Deleuze and Guattari’s _A Thousand Plateaus_.Report

Shannon
Shannon
7 years ago

“How to Russell a Frege-Church” David KaplanReport

Alan White
Alan White
7 years ago

Best self reference in titling?

Popper Had a Brand New Bag, by James Brown.Report

Jerry Dworkin
Jerry Dworkin
7 years ago

Some more titles from my e-reader “Philosophy: A Commonplace Book”

The Very Thought of Grue (Fain)

Fodors Guide to Mental Representations (Fodor)

Original Sinn (Benacerref)

How to Become A Millian Heir (Salmon)

A Site for Sorites (Priest)

Calvin and Hobbes: Trinity, Authority, and Community (J.J. Edwards)

Feeling William James’s But (Mark Johnson)

Paradox Lost (Cogburn)

Ought Implies Kant (Joel Marx)

Faking Munchausen’s Syndrome (Sorenson)

Three proposed titles for articles yet to be written
Phantom of the A Priori
Delusions of Reference
The Dark Satanic MillsReport

as
as
7 years ago

though a popular pub. “Penetrating Keanu: New Holes, but the Same Old Shit” Cynthia FreelandReport

Christy Mag Uidhir
7 years ago

Cynthia FTW!!!Report

Nathan Kellen
Nathan Kellen
7 years ago

Not quite funny, but amusing:

Roy Cook – “Should Anti-Realists be Anti-Realists about Anti-Realism?”
Andrew Sepielli – “What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do…”Report

Franz Huber
7 years ago

What You Can’t Expect When You’re Expecting, L.A. Paul. http://www.pdcnet.org/pdfs/forthcoming/ResPhil_92-2_1.pdf

Diamonds Are a Philosopher’s Best Friends, H. Wansing. ftp://ftp.cle.unicamp.br/pub/e-prints/Wansing.pdf

The Utility of Pleasure is a Pain for Decision Theory, A. Kusser & W. Spohn.
http://www.uni-konstanz.de/philosophie/files/19_spohn_the__1cc0f5.pdf

Best title of a talk: What’s So Special About General Relativity? by C. WuethrichReport

anonymous
anonymous
7 years ago

‘Every Now and Then, no-futurism faces no sceptical problems’ and ‘There’s no Time like the Present’ by Tim Button.Report

Anna Alexandrova
Anna Alexandrova
7 years ago

Huw Price “Where Would We Be Without Counterfactuals?” Inaugural Lecture at the University of Cambridge, 1 November 2012.Report

Filippo C
Filippo C
7 years ago

“The Death of the Author: An analytical autopsy”, British Journal of Aesthetics 30 (1990)Report

Filippo C
Filippo C
Reply to  Filippo C
7 years ago

Ops: Peter Lamarque, “The Death of the Author: An analytical autopsy”, British Journal of Aesthetics 30 (1990)!Report

anon grad
anon grad
7 years ago

I kind of like Timothy Bays’ “On Floyd and Putnam on Wittgenstein on Godel”.Report

anon grad
anon grad
7 years ago

I forgot: John Greco’s “How to Reid Moore”.Report

Ben
Ben
7 years ago

Sinnott-Armstrong’s “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had: A Reply to Marquis on Abortion” Philosophical Studies 96: 1 (1999).Report

Avi
Avi
6 years ago

Peter Singer’s “Heavy Petting” (on the ethics of bestiality).Report

Bradley
Bradley
6 years ago

My favorites:

Ryan Wasserman – “The Standard Objection to the Standard Account”

Ben Caplan – “Why So Tense about the Copula?”

Carrie Jenkins and Daniel Nolan – “Disposition Impossible”Report

David Taylor
David Taylor
Reply to  Bradley
6 years ago

I think the tense pun has been used several times in the philosophy of time. Another one that comes to mind is Craig Bourne’s “When am I? A Tense Time for Some Tense Theorists”.Report

Michael Bernstein
Michael Bernstein
6 years ago

Aviv Hoffmann – “It’s Not the End of the World: When a Subtraction Argument for Metaphysical Nihilism Fails”Report

jmugg
6 years ago

Peter Carruthers: ‘HOP over FOR, HOT theory’, which is on phenomenal consciousness (HOP=higher-order perception, FOR=first-order thought, HOT=higher-order thought).Report

Jeff Heikkinen
Jeff Heikkinen
6 years ago

George Boolos’ book, “Logic, Logic and Logic”.Report

Josh Parsons
6 years ago

At the risk of blowing my own trumpet, my “I have not now, nor have I ever been, a turnip” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (1): 1–14. (Being a reply to a paper by Achille Varzi that tried to show that perdurantism (plus some other assumptions) entails “Some tenor was a turnip”Report

Tom Bunce
Tom Bunce
6 years ago

Two of my favourites -Alan Musgrave -:”Noa’s Ark–Fine for Realism” (on Arthur Fine’s NOA )
Robin Findlay Hendry : “Substantial Confusion” (on chemical substance)Report

vojko
vojko
6 years ago

Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons – Copping Out on Moral Twin Earth
George Graham and Terry Horgan – Mary, Mary, Quite ContraryReport

John Collins
John Collins
6 years ago

Graham Priest (1998) “To be and not to be—that is the answer. On Aristotle on the Law of Non-Contradiction.” Philosophiegeschichte und Logische Analyse I: 91–130.Report

ben w
ben w
6 years ago

“This Article Should Not Be Rejected By Mind”Report

Dean Booth
Dean Booth
3 years ago

In response to Proudhon’s “The Philosophy of Poverty,” Marx wrote “The Poverty of Philosophy.”

I also remember an article about Gödel’s proof called “This Gödel Is Killing Me.”Report

Sum
Sum
3 years ago

The Dogma that Didn’t Bark (A Fragment of a Naturalized Epistemology)
Jerry A. Fodor
Mind, New Series, Vol. 100, No. 2 (Apr., 1991), pp. 201-220 Report

Sum
Sum
3 years ago

What Is Universally Quantified and Necessary and a Posteriori and It Flies South in the Winter?
Jerry Fodor
Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, Vol. 80, No. 2 (Nov., 2006), pp. 11-24 Report

Andrew Stephenson
3 years ago

“All the worl’s a stage” Ted Sider Report

KS
KS
3 years ago

This is a classic, but Ibn Rushd (“Averroes”), The Incoherence of the Incoherence. Which, of course, was written in response to Al-Ghazali’s The Incoherence of the Philosophers.Report

Michael Otsuka
3 years ago

Since someone has just tweeted this ost, here’s a link to my original FB post, whose comments thread has collected some more titles in the meantime: https://www.facebook.com/mike.otsuka.9/posts/226305187569748Report