Monday, March 28, 2016

How to Understand Monty Python Football

Socrates, the Captain, scores!
... the most important goal, of his career

As a starting point, an understanding of 
Philosophical thinkers is necessary 
to understand why Monty Python fans 
think this is funny

In Monty Python's skit, Beckenbauer, Der Kaiser ("The Emperor") "is a little bit of a surprise" on the playing field... says the commentator. But is he a surprise? 

He follows an impressive line up: 



Leibniz is known as the last "universal genius". He contributed to the fields of metaphysics, epistemology, logic, philosophy of religion, and also mathematics, physics, geology, jurisprudence, and history. 

If only he had Plato's flair for the written word (Oeuvres complètes, vol. 7, p. 709). "When one compares the talents one has with those of a Leibniz, one is tempted to throw away one's books and go die quietly in the dark of some forgotten corner." (Oeuvres complètes, vol. 7, p. 678). 

"In his writings, Leibniz threw out such a profusion of seeds of ideas that in this respect he is virtually in a class of his own." ("Boole's logical Calculus and the Concept-script" in Posthumous Writings, p. 9). 

Kantian Ethics vs Utilitarianism

Kant argued that human understanding is the source of the general laws of nature that structure all of our experience. 

Kant did not say "of all experience". 
Kant did say "laws of nature that structure all of our experience." 

That subjective experience is our reality; it is our understanding of the general laws of nature; and, consequently, the bottom line: that we cannot know anything beyond that which we first know within. 

He then goes on to say that all experiences, be them core beliefs (immortality, freedom) or learned concepts (scientific knowledge, morality), all stem from the same foundation of human autonomy. 

Hegel came later, he attempted to create a comprehensive and systematic philosophy based in logic as a starting point. The challenge with this is that human beings do not always behave logically. 

When we meet human beings who do behave logically, we often refer to them as "complex". 

Schopenhauer was among the first to publicize that the universe is not a rational place. He felt we should adjust our desires, for the sake of feeling at peace. He would be one of those people telling you to be happy and grateful for what you do have so that you do not desire more than you can achieve; doing so brings torment. 

In other words, if you're not feeling 100% happy with your life, do something creative or nice for someone else and you'll feel better. Basically, he stepped off the train to enjoy the scenery. 

Schelling couldn't really make up his mind, but he was impressively rigorous in the logic he applied to the endeavor. Unfortunately, while standing around trying to decide, other philosophers (who did not suffer from fear of idea commitment) passed him by, leaving him behind in their German Idealistic dust. 

Jaspers started out as a psychologist, and then switched camps. FEELING and BELIEVING got too heavy, so he decided to join the philosophers to THINK ABOUT STUFF instead. 

Reportedly, he was much HAPPIER once he did this. 

Schlegel was a literary critic who saw both sides of the same coin, though his insights were confined to a rather limited circle. The only literary critic on par with Schlegel is Harold Bloom. Both share a romanticized version of idealism in its many forms; letters, in particular. Striving for ideals, interested mostly in that which is unique or beautiful, or a characteristic of excellence, literary critics translate what is "novel" by first having the capacity to recognize it in themselves. Much of what we know of brilliance has not been garnered independently, first-hand; but second-hand, from intellectuals such as Schlegel. 

Wittgenstein brought together logic to metaphysics, via language, and in doing so, illuminated new insights into the very nature of philosophy. It's easy to buy into the idea that you've solved philosophy, that there's nothing left to consider, that everything that could be considered has been considered ... until, something new happens, and then we start considering things all over again. 

In the last few years, I've been hanging out in Wittgenstein's camp. Exploring his ideas because of the independent but related ideas I've entertained. 

Nietzsche was relentless in his enchantment of his readers' thoughts and emotions. His understanding of human nature is what enabled him to convey those worlds just beyond most people's articulation zones. His honest questioning, in prose, enabled others to follow along the journey, and to glimpse their humanity in the process. It is no wonder his ideas have inspired revolutionary-thinking people in all walks of life. 

Heidegger is one of those Schlegels, a modern-day Harold Bloom - only, funnier. Heidegger was witty and clever, and so very well expressed that it is difficult to draw the line where he influenced philosophy and where he merely made it comprehensible. From this platform, he emerges tall; on par with Kant, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, without Nietzsche's twisted self-importance. 

 Who, me? 

Heidegger is one of those philosopher's most of us would actually enjoy inviting to dinner. He wouldn't exactly be Chance (Chauncey Gardiner) in Being There, but in my mind, he'd exercise some of those old-fashioned and courtly manners in getting his point across, in a way that is simple, to the point, and cleverly disguised. 

Heidegger and a Hippo (Walk through those Pearly Gates) and Plato and a Platypus (Walk into a Bar) are the two books that opened my eyes to how very funny philosophizing can be (thank you Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein). 


It's no wonder one of the greatest defenders in the history of football would take the field, following such a line-up. A defensive, libero player who intervenes proactively in the offensive game of his team; it is no wonder Beckenbauer was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. 

Excellence in any category, be it footballing or philosophizing, is visibly recognized with gratitude by the world. Excellence is awarded for achievements and for the rebuilding of human thinking and doing. Whether our contribution comes in the fields of sports, entertainment, politics, or socio-economic or intellectual activity, our work toward excellence is invaluable to the world, and contributes to the peaceful rise of human potential. 

All the fumbles and fouls, mishaps and missed shots along the way are what make this experience so funny, and are precisely what makes this Monty Python clip funny; if only one is familiar with both teams and their players. 

So, why is this Monty Python skit funny? 

The answers is ... it's not really that funny.
It's mildly funny, at best.

What is funny is that Monty Python thought more people would know of these philosophers and their ideas, and then find the matching of wits funny.

The Monty Python Football skit is about as funny as this post (in comparison).
Therein lies the humor of both the skit and this post.
And like I said: mild, at best.

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