So, you’re going to have a piece of furniture reupholstered, are you?  I’ll bet it’s your sofa, isn’t it?  It is?  Ha, I knew it!  How did I know?  We writers are practically psychic, that’s how I know.  It’s a professional talent, you might say — something acquired after many years of studying people.  Why, I can look into a person’s eyes and see his whole living room.  I’m seeing your living room right now, as a matter of fact.  What a mess!  Don’t you ever clean?  Open a window!  It stinks in here!  I can tell just by looking at your living room that you’re headed for disaster unless I save you.  What do I mean?  Why, just this: you are about to make one of the most important decisions of your life.  You have to choose an upholsterer!

    What difference does it make?  Listen, would you let just anybody pack your parachute?  I should hope not!  You don’t take chances when it comes to reupholstering a piece of furniture either.  You and your family may be sitting on it the rest of your lives (especially if you’re on welfare).

    Now let me show you the way.  Follow me and be safe.  Go your own way and step on a land mine.  Get my drift?  Good.

    Let us open the Yellow Pages and look under “Upholsterers.”  There are many to choose from, but I see red flags all over the place.  Keep a sharp eye out for listings like these:

    Acme Upholstery.  No street address given.  And why not?  Because they move around from place to place!  It’s a fly-by-night operation, don’t you see?  This is the sort of outfit that will lure a person to a fake address and then beat him and rob him!  They don’t pay their bills or their rent either, I’m sure of that.

    Joe Giganto Upholstery.  Never mind him.  He has a fat name.  You don’t want a fat upholsterer, do you?  He’s probably connected to the Mafia as well.

    Metro School of Upholstery.  What do we have here?  I’ll tell you: a bunch of slovenly immigrants who came here without any trade or education, and they think they can be upholsterers.  Are you going to trust a bunch of students?  You’ll be the guinea pig.  They’ll make their mistakes on your sofa.  “Oh, excuse us, please, we are just learning!” 

    Sam’s Upholstery, 443 Shuter St.   Bad neighborhood.  Stay away.  Let somebody who isn’t reading this go and get his throat cut.

    Tim & Damien, Fine Upholsterers.  A couple of homos, for sure.  Too prissy, too fussy, too expensive.  (And don’t rush them!  Upholstery is an art form!  It takes time!)

    Ilie Romanescu.  Gypsy.  Forget it.  Your sofa will come back with bedbugs in it.

    Wong Upholstery and Restoration.  NO CHINESE UPHOLSTERERS, OKAY?  Shoddy workmanship, cheap or even dangerous materials, and they put their garbage in the upholstery, figuring no one will ever know.  Some of them are abortionists as  well.

    Heinrich Zimmler.  Ad says, “In Business Since 1950.”  This guy’s a former Nazi concentration camp guard.  Trust me.  I used to do apartment-locating for Nazi war criminals. 

    Ram Upholstery.  Ad says, “Next door to Ram Bakery.”  I get it.  The upholstery shop is sharing the same building with the bakery.  These guys are Wogs, and their Indian bakery is barely paying the rent, so they’re trying to do a little upholstery on the side.  NO WOG UPHOLSTERERS, OKAY?

    All the others pass the first cut.

    Now you have to go visiting.  Don’t call first.  Pretend you were just walking in the neighborhood, saw the sign, and dropped in.  This way you catch them as they really are.  Look the place over carefully.  You want to see a busy shop, good lighting, good ventilation, a water cooler, a calendar, a sign that says “Fire Exit,” the business license prominently displayed, decals for major credit cards, and a few awards of some sort in frames mounted on the wall.  Workers must not look stoned.  Elaborate tattoos are bad.  No sneakers.  No earrings.  No women.  (This is a man’s trade.)  Classical music playing in the background is good; hip-hop is bad.  How does the place smell?  It should have normal upholstery smells.  Any weird smells and you should probably walk out.  (The clincher is the absence of pets in the shop.  Animals won’t stay where it doesn’t smell right.)  Is the boss single or married?  Never trust a single upholsterer.  There have been cases of serial killers who were upholsterers, and they were all single.  And how do you think they disposed of their victims?  They cut them up into small pieces and stuffed them into people’s furniture!

    Picking the wrong upholsterer can lead to a tragic outcome, as Mr. G. Wilson of 73 The Bridle Path, Toronto, can attest: “I came home from work to find my wife raped and murdered, my valuables stolen, and my house wrecked.  To add insult to injury, my reupholstered sofa was returned with scratches on it, the workmanship was poor, and the bill was far above the original estimate.”

    Such upholstery tragedies often go unreported in the media because the families are too ashamed to talk about them.  But they do happen — far too often.  I asked Toronto Police Chief William Blair about the problem of bad upholsterers.  Here’s what he said: “It’s certainly a sad state of affairs when a minority of upholsterers do bad things that make the whole profession look bad, which it isn’t.  Someday these bad characters will learn that it’s wrong to kill their customers and cheat them and steal from them.  I wish there were some way we could get that message across to them.  I’m not sure what we can do.  I just think somebody should do something to stop it.”

    Until somebody does put a stop to it, you, the consumer, are your own first (and last) line of defense.  Go ahead and reupholster that sofa if you have to.  (If you just suffer with it in its present state, the evildoers win.)  But for God’s sake, take heed of everything I’ve written, and keep your wits about you!

    Copyright@ 2008 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

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Six wanna-be Knights of the Round Table were rejected for membership by the King after failing to carry out the tasks assigned to them to test their courage.  Each one gave a different lame excuse for not carrying out his assigned task.  From the clues given, match each knight with his home town, task, and excuse.

1. Either A or B is true, but not both:

    A. Sir Tepid was told to carve his initials in the Cave of Fire.

    B. The knight from Rexdale couldn’t carry out his task because his horse was tired.

2. The six knights are: the one from Nottingham, the one who was supposed to strangle the Gorgon Medusa, Sir Mifflin, the one who was told to steal an egg from the nest of the Flying Serpent, the one who couldn’t go because he had to do his laundry, and the one who couldn’t go because there was no one to mind his cat.

3. The knight from Somerset was not the one whose horse was tired.

4. The knight from Chatham and the knight who was supposed to strangle the Gorgon Medusa are, in some order, the one whose horse was tired, and the one who had to visit his mother.

5. Neither the knight from Somerset nor Sir Eggsley had to cross the Bog of Death or begged off because he had to do his laundry.

6. Sir Doofus, who wasn’t from Rexdale or Flamboro, was told to slay the Dragon of Thoth.

7. The knight who was told to climb the Mountain of Ice (who wasn’t Sir Potts or Sir Eggsley) couldn’t find it because he had lost his map.

8. The knights from Chatham, Flamboro, and Somerset are, in some order, Sir Dingle, Sir Eggsley, and Sir Tepid.

9. The knight who couldn’t go because he had to visit his mother was neither Sir Mifflin nor the one who was told to cross the Bog of Death.

10. The knight from Uxbridge was neither the one who couldn’t go because he had a headache, nor the one who was told to climb the Mountain of Ice.

11. Sir Potts, who was not from Nottingham, was neither the knight who had to visit his mother, nor the one who was supposed to carve his initials in the Cave of Fire.

12. The knight from Flamboro, who had no one to mind his cat, was neither Sir Dingle nor the one who was told to cross the Bog of Death.

Try another puzzle? — https://cradkilodney.wordpress.com/2008/12/04/

    Copyright@ 2008 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

When people say, “How are you?”

Or “How’s it going?”

The only appropriate response is:

“Fine.”

Nobody wants to hear about

What happened yesterday at the airport

Or how you waited in agony by the phone.

They don’t want to know about

The truth you had to learn too late

And from a third party,

Or what came in the mail.

Likewise, the problem at home,

The misunderstanding at work,

And your recent emotional upheaval

Are of no interest to people

And are beyond their comprehension anyway.

To answer a simple greeting with complete honesty

Is an inexcusable breach of etiquette.

    (This poem originally appeared in No More Masterpieces, Vol.1, April 1985)

    Ludwig Wittgenstein, the last philosopher in our series, was actually Austrian, but he deserves to be included with German philosophers because Hitler was also Austrian.  In fact, for a brief time they attended the same school.  Now, some people have tried to make something out of this, but it amounts to nothing.  I was at the University of Michigan for a brief time when Ted Kaczynski, the Unibomber, was there, but does that mean we knew each other?  No.  At any rate, no one can prove we did.  And even more far-fetched is the alleged connection between me and Madonna, just because we lived in the same apartment building, University Towers.  She was there ten years after me, okay?  Wittgenstein came from a genius family, although some of them were mental cases.  Three of his brothers committed suicide.  One of them shot himself in the head twice — a mystery that medical science has never been able to figure out.  Ludwig was interested in music, mathematics, and science.  At the age of 17, he went to Berlin to study mechanical engineering. The year after that, he was studying in Manchester, England.  While there, he designed numerous ingenious weapons that were later developed by the Nazis.  These included the wind cannon, the sound cannon, the sun cannon, the acoustic bomb, and the U-boat rotorkite.  In 1911 he went to Cambridge University to study philosophy under Bertrand Russell.  Russell was a poker expert, and he taught the game to Wittgenstein, who soon became the best poker player ever known at Cambridge.  He was inducted into a secret society known as the Cambridge Apostles, which has been linked to the famous secret society, the Illuminati.  Wittgenstein’s father, Karl, a wealthy steel and aluminum pie plate magnate, was a member.  Current members include Steve Wilkos, David Letterman, Alexander McQueen, Leonard Nimoy, and Conrad Black.  Wittgenstein got bored with the academic life, and when World War I broke out, he enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian army.  He was captured by the Italians, but when he demonstrated his talents for poker and playing the clarinet, they were nice to him.  It was during this time that he wrote his first book, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921).  In this book he said that the world consisted of “atomic facts.”  This is undoubtedly what gave Einstein the idea of atomic energy and the atomic bomb.  The similarity of the names “Wittgenstein” and “Einstein” is too eerie a coincidence to overlook.  Moreover, in later life, Wittgenstein endorsed the atomic bomb as a way to cleanse the earth.  Therefore, I hereby declare Ludwig Wittgenstein to be the Uncle of the Atomic Bomb.  Also in this book, Wittgenstein said that every proposition was either sense or nonsense, and if you weren’t sure which, you should keep your mouth shut about it.  He said that philosophy was an activity, not a doctrine.  That’s rather peculiar, I think.  If a philosopher and an idiot are sitting next to each other in a waiting room, and the philosopher is thinking about a philosophical problem, and the idiot is thinking about hockey, can you say the philosopher is being active and the idiot isn’t?  I don’t think so, but never mind.  Wittgenstein urged philosophers and tradespeople to think of the Tractatus as a ladder.  For instance, a roofer needs to climb a ladder to get to the roof; but once he’s on the roof, he should throw the ladder away and contemplate the world (or at least the neighborhood).  How does he get down?  His assistant stays on the ground, of course.  It doesn’t matter when the roofing job gets done, because the homeowner has already made a substantial down-payment and can’t fire the roofer in the middle of the job.  (Many contractors have obviously read the Tractatus.)  Cambridge University eventually awarded Wittgenstein a Doctorate for the Tractatus, even though nobody understood it.  After the war, Wittgenstein took a break from philosophy and went back to Austria to work as a schoolteacher in several backward villages.  He routinely smacked students who were stupid — an example that should be emulated today.  But parents complained, and he got fed up trying to educate stupid hillbillies, so he quit.  Then he went to work as a gardener at a monastery, which he enjoyed much better.  He created several hybrid vegetables that are known today, including the Delicata squash, the Purple Blush eggplant, and the Little Chicago beet.  This monastery also cultivated hemp for its oil and fiber, and some writers have suggested that Wittgenstein and the monks got stoned on marijuana.  However, the only marijuana that was known in Austria at the time was very weak because of all the shale-argillite clastic sediments in the soil.  Wittgenstein returned to Cambridge in 1929, surprised to learn that he had become a famous philosopher while he was away.  He was appointed lecturer and also agreed to coach the rowing team.  During the 1930’s, he began writing his second book, Philosophical Investigations, which was published two years after his death.  In this book he said basically that philosophers indulged in language games that took ordinary words out of any real-world context and treated them as metaphysical abstractions.  Questions like “What is truth?” could never be answered, because they were never intended to be answered.  They were intended to make work for philosophers so they could spend their entire careers as academics pretending to search for answers.  It was a racket, but the universities didn’t mind, because liberal arts students needed credits in humanities anyway.  (And as I said in a previous essay, it’s much safer to keep the philosophers tucked away in universities than to turn them loose on the world, where they can only get into trouble.)  Obviously, Wittgenstein didn’t want to publish this book while he was still alive, or it would piss off a lot of people.  Today, Philosophical Investigations is considered an important book, and pretentious writers like to refer to it in their writing because it makes them sound smarter than they really are.  There is no doubt that Wittgenstein is the trendiest of all dead philosophers. In fact, the Yorkdale Shopping Centre, in suburban Toronto, is to be renamed the Ludwig Wittgenstein Shopping Centre in 2009.  Wittgenstein liked western movies and detective novels, which I give him bonus points for.  I’m willing to overlook the fact that he was gay, because he wasn’t like the flaming fairies over at Church and Wellesley, who hold hands and kiss on the street and whose heads I’d like to smash.  He sure as hell wouldn’t be marching in the Gay Pride Parade.  He would regard it as vulgar and degenerate.  If he lived here today, he’d probably be working as a gardener for Toronto Parks.  His co-workers would dislike him for being aloof and intellectual.  They’d play tricks on him and call him names like “Sour Kraut” and “Wiggy Wits.”  And he’d just look up from his flower bed and say, “That’s Doctor Wittgenstein to you.  Now fuck off and die.”

References

1. German Secret Weapons of World War II, by Christof Friedrich, 1978, Samisdat Publishing.

2. From Dogma to Delray Beach, and Beyond, by Jack Saunders, 2002, Doinky Books.

3. Analytic Philosophy and Its Therapeutic Applications, by Ethel Mertz, 1986, Univ. of Toronto Press.

    Copyright@ 2008 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com.

    Edmund “Gus” Husserl is the father of phenomenology.  Phenomenology is the study of phenomena.  Phenomena are things you can perceive with your senses.  Some examples: squirrels, sandwiches, volcanoes, breasts, fog, smells, locomotives, people getting stabbed, people screaming, people throwing up, junkies shooting up, car accidents, grass, lawn mowers, geese, television, laundry, buzzing noises, ticking noises, weird voices telling you to kill people when you’re off your meds, cobwebs, ice cubes, hockey fights, everything in stock rooms, and everything that happens in the school cafeteria.  These are not to be confused with the reality of these things in themselves, because that would get us into ontology, and we’re not doing ontology today.  Now, before Husserl came along (on a Thursday), people just saw phenomena and kept walking because they had other things to do.  (Or if they were Canadians, they stopped and stared dumbly for a long time because their lives were so unspeakably dull, and especially if it was an illegally parked car getting towed away, they’d be so fascinated they couldn’t move, and later on they’d be talking about it endlessly to their friends and co-workers.)  But Husserl said no, you have to study this stuff.  Why?  I don’t know why.  It’s just philosophy, that’s all.  And what is it specifically that you’re supposed to study?  And how are you supposed to study it?  And then what do you do after that?  Beats me.  But Husserl is the second- or third-trendiest dead German philosopher (the trendiest comes in Part Ten), so I have to gather my scattered wits and deal with him somehow.  He started out as a mathematician and then got into philosophy, and that’s where he lost me.  But people are absolutely in awe of mathematicians, that’s for sure.  I mean, most people who majored in philosophy can’t even do their own tax returns.  Show them a philosopher who got a Ph.D. with a thesis titled Contributions to the Calculus of Variations and he’s automatically up there with God.  Also, it helps to have a name that you can make a zippy adjective with.  Husserlian.  There’s an adjective you can really bash somebody in the head with.  The best one of all is Hegelian, and I think that’s why Hegel has such an appeal to intellectuals.  But Husserlian is pretty close.  In fact, there’s a Husserlian Society right here in Toronto.  It consists of a bunch of Somali cab drivers, and they congregate every day at the Baker’s Dozen donut shop at Sherbourne and Wellesley, where the Beaver gas station is.  That’s only two blocks from where I live, so I figured I’d go down there and have them explain Husserl to me.

    There are six of them huddled around two tables when I walk in, and they’re jabbering in Somali, which sounds like hagda haggalaga kalagga bagga, which I think qualifies as a phenomenon, if not a real thing in itself.  But if they can understand it, I guess they can fathom Husserl as well as anyone.

    Mohammed invites me to pull up a chair.  “Look all these donuts!” he says, gesturing toward the trays behind the counter.  “These all phenomena!  You can eat them!”  The others grunt in agreement.  “You are intentionally directed toward the donut, so you eat it!”

    “Before it eats you,” I quip.  No reaction.

    “The reality of the donut is, how you say….” (looking toward Hamid, seated next to him)”…hogda hochta.”

    “Bracketed,” says Hamid.

    “Yes, bracketed,” says Mohammed.  “It is bracketed as a way we regard the donut, not as an inherent quality of the donut itself.”

    “Explain him about the logic,” says Yasmina from behind the counter.

    “Yes, yes,” says Mohammed.  He picks up his tea biscuit.  “What is the logical knowledge of this?  You must have categorical intuition, along with categorical abstraction and eidetic intuition.  You understand?”

    “No,” I confess.  Much chuckling.  Hogda makla bakla gaga!

    “Wait, I show you better,” says Mohammed, picking up Hamid’s Boston cream donut.  “Logic has three strata.”  He points to the chocolate frosting.  “First is morphology of meanings, which is the logical syntax, or, how you say…bagada wegdi orga.”

    “Formation rules,” says Hamid.

    “Yes, formation rules.  Then, second,” he goes on, pointing to the cake part of the donut, “you have logic of consequence.  This includes the syllogistic logic and propositional logic.  Okay?”  I shrug.  He continues: “The third stratum is the cream filling, which is the meta-logical stratum.  Here is where we explore all possible forms of theories.”  He gestures with a wide sweep of his arms toward the trays of donuts.  “All the donuts are theories.  You see?  They are all theories to be investigated in their logical relations.”

    Just then another cabbie walks in.  “Salaam!”

    “Salaam, Ismail!” the others respond, happy to see him.

    Ismail says to Yasmina, “Black tea, please, Yasmina.  One sugar.  And a toasted bagel.”

    Mohammed says to him, “Help me explain to this man about Husserl.”

    “Husserl!  Husserl!  My hero!” says Ismail, raising his hands toward heaven.  When his jacket opens, I see a huge knife tucked into his belt.  “Husserl climb the Matterhorn all by himself!  You know that?” he says to me.

    “No, I didn’t know that.”

    “You know Matterhorn?”

    “Yes,” I say.

    “Husserl climb it, all alone!  Sixteen years old!  What you think of that?”

    “That’s good,” I say.

    “He go to top of Matterhorn, and God put the wisdom in his head!  When he come back down, he give the world the first idea of the donut shop!”

    “The donut shop?”

    “Yes!  Like thees one!  Every donut shop is Husserl idea!…Boogda magalaga,” he says to Yasmina, whereupon she disappears in the back and comes out seconds later with a beautiful framed portrait, which she holds up for the admiration of all.  “Husserl!” proclaims Ismail.  “You find thees picture in the back of every donut shop in the world!  You know that?”

    “I had no idea.”

    The cabbies chuckle at my ignorance.  Ismail gets his tea and bagel.

    “Why do you have that knife?” I ask nervously.

    “Thees?”  He opens his jacket, showing off the knife.  “Because I am Husserlian!  We are all Husserlians!  It is part of our belief system!”  The other cabbies open their jackets.  They all have similar knives.

    “Are those legal?” I ask.  The cabbies laugh.

    “Is legal!” says Ismail.  “Because we are Husserlians!  Husserl is the only true philosopher!  We will defend his name, and we will defend his ideas!”  He pulls out the knife and holds it high.  “Moogda hakalaka hajemadi!”

    “Moogda hakalaka hajemadi!” the others chime in.

    And then an idea hits me.  “I know a librarian who is against Husserl.  She is stopping people from reading his books.”

    “Who is it?  Tell me!” demands Ismail.

    “I’ll write down her name for you,” I say, reaching for my pad and pen.  “Her name is…Phyllis…Jacklin…She’s the manager of the Metro Reference Library.  You know, the big one?”

    “Yes!  I know it!”

    I hand Ismail the paper.  He looks at it, then folds it several times and does a very slick sleight of hand, holding up his empty palm.  The paper has disappeared!  “Thees how we take care of her!” he says.

    “Wow!” I say appreciatively.  “Say, are there any Husserlians in Vancouver?”  Yes, yes, the cabbies say.  We have friends there.  “That’s good,” I say, “because there’s a literary magazine in Vancouver that is very anti-Husserl.  They hate Husserl.  They write bad things about him.”

    “You write down,” says Ismail.

    I write another note.  “It’s called…Geist…Magazine…”  I hand him the paper.  He nods, lips compressed in a sinister smile, and puts it in his shirt pocket.  He winks at me.  “No problem….And thank you.”

    I get up to leave.  “This has been very interesting.  I may not understand everything yet, but I’m on your side!”

    “Good!  Good!  You come back and we talk again!” they say.

    So that’s all I can tell you about Husserl.  Now, if you ever hear anyone refer to Husserl or describe something as “Husserlian,” just nod knowingly to be polite.  And if you ever get into a cab driven by a Somali, for God’s sake, don’t say anything to piss him off!

References

1. The New Revised Infinite Wisdom, by Shane Churla, 2004, Goonluca Mini-Books.

2. Phenomenology Workbook, by Mike Peluso and Gino Odjick, 2003, Barugon’s Educational Series.

3. Ten Seconds to Death, by Tonya Harding, 1999, Tularemia House.

    Copyright@ 2008 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com  

   

 

  

   

   

    John Fichte and Fred Schelling were minor philosophers in that they did not have the attributes of major philosophers.  That is, I never heard of them until recently.  Those who regard them as major are guilty of exaggeration.   If they had lived in, say, Iceland or Ecuador, they would have been major by default, since there wasn’t anyone else.  But Germany has always been overpopulated with philosophers, so there are bound to be minor ones as well as major ones.  Of course, no philosopher ever wants to admit that he’s minor (just as no Canadian poet ever wants to admit that he’s minor, even though they’re all minor).  But if you are one, your consolation lies in the fact that you’re still higher up than a major accountant, major janitor, or major telemarketer.  Fichte and Schelling were the Mutt and Jeff of German philosophy, since they seemed to make a natural pair.  They both taught at Jena and Berlin and were frequently seen together strolling on campus, smoking their pipes, and carrying on conversations that were deep, albeit ultimately pointless.  Fichte is regarded as the “bridge” between Kant and Hegel.  But since he is almost never mentioned, most commuters must be taking the tunnel instead.  If you should ever see anyone actually reading Fichte, they may be getting ready to jump from the bridge, so you must stop them.  Fichte got a lucky boost early in his career with his first book, Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation (1792).  It was accidentally published without his name on it, and everyone thought it had been written by Kant, because it was a load of gibberish in Kant’s style.   When people found out Fichte had written it, he was instantly hailed as a brilliant philosopher.  Fichte originated the argument that consciousness is not grounded in anything outside itself, which, I think you’ll agree, is pretty stupid, even for a minor philosopher.  I mean, just try that out at a job interview.  “Hi, I’m Jack Smith, and my consciousness is not grounded in anything outside myself.”  Good luck.  In Foundations of Natural Right (1796) he wrote that self-awareness requires the existence of other rational subjects — i.e., other self-aware people.  That’s also pretty stupid.  I live in a neighborhood of brain-dead idiots, and I manage to be self-aware without their help.  In 1808, Fichte gave speeches in Berlin to promote German nationalism, so he is considered by some people to be the “father of German nationalism.”  (The mother, of course, would be Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S.)  Now, I’m sure Fichte meant well, but a philosopher should never give speeches on political subjects, because people might think he knows what he’s talking about, which is rarely the case.  This is why philosophers are kept closeted in universities, away from the real world, so that they do not do any harm to others or to themselves.  Fichte was Schelling’s mentor for a while, until they had a falling out.  Blame Schelling for that.  He couldn’t take criticism.  And anyone who goes around with four names is obviously masking an inferiority complex.  Schelling’s roommate in seminary was Hegel, which proves my point.  Schelling was very handsome, and Hegel was ugly.  But Schelling was insecure about his attractiveness to women, so he needed an ugly roommate, get it?  But ugly or not, Hegel was a terrible influence.  If Schelling could have found a roommate like Donald Trump or Hugh Hefner — the two greatest Americans of the 20th Century — he not only would have learned some useful philosophy, but he would have learned how to make money, too.  Instead, his mind made a hard left turn on the Road to Enlightenment and careened into a ditch.  Schelling developed a “philosophy of identity,” in which subject and object become one.  This is much like Fichte’s philosophy, and it’s a non-starter.  Now, boys and girls, Uncle Crad would like to clear up this whole business once and for all, so you don’t waste your time reading a lot of bad philosophy.  An “object” is something that exists independently of any perception of it, and whose attributes are inherent to it and  independent of any perception of them.  A “subject” is something that is perceived, and its attributes are those that are perceived.  That’s it.  End of lecture.  Two sentences and you know all you need to know.  Of course, our Muslim enemies don’t make any distinction between subject and object.  If a cartoon offends them, we are infidels and deserve to die.  Needless to say, there have never been any Muslim philosophers.  Schelling also said that matter was “spirit in equilibrium,” and spirit was “matter in the process of becoming.”  This is an example of the Boldly Meaningless school of philosophy.  Schelling really should have done better, since he liked to go out and enjoy nature — trees, flowers, birds, and that sort of thing.  Fichte criticized him for that.  He said, “Stay out of the park.  Concentrate on philosophy.”  And  then they disagreed on Spinoza.  Schelling liked him; Fichte hated him.  And they argued about beer, women, and football.  In 1806, Schelling published a book in which he criticized Fichte by name.  But the following year, when Hegel published a book that poked fun at Schelling’s philosophy, he blew a gasket, just like some dickhead Canadian poet (“Hey, I thought we were friends! Why did you give me a bad review?”).  Schelling’s main books were Ideas For a Philosophy of Nature (1797) and System of Transcendental Idealism (1800).  Both have been translated by David Bowie for Cambridge University Press.  American philosopher Ken Wilber of East Texas Baptist University has called Schelling one of the two most influential philosophers since Plato, but he was drunk when he said it and now wishes he hadn’t.  There is an unused hockey rink in Bebenhausen named after Schelling, and there is a pub in Jena that is said to be haunted by Fichte’s ghost.  Glasses fall on the floor for no reason, and the men’s room has a bad smell.  These are not exactly the sort of things a philosopher would want to be remembered by, but if you’re a minor one, they’re not too bad.

References

1. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling — Minnow Among the Whales, by Ermentrude Maulwurf, 1961, Univ. of Tasmania Press.

2. Sparks From the Torch: Essays on German Idealism, by Tie Domi, 1997, Bangalore Publishing.

3. Under the Avalanche, by Nigel Rinde-Clamato, 1980, Pterodactyl Press.

    Copyright@ 2008 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

    Gottfried Leibniz could have been many things — a carpet salesman, tuba player, astrologer, wrestler, ship captain, or even a cake decorator.  Instead, he chose to become a philosopher.  And the world is not any worse for it.  Carpet salesman would have been good.  But it’s water under the bridge, as they say.  Leibniz’s main contribution to philosophy was the belief, set forth in Theodicee (1710), that we must be living in the best of all possible worlds, because God would only create the best.  Such optimism so revolted Voltaire that he wrote Candide as a thinly-veiled attack on Leibniz.  (And punks think they invented cynicism!)  The Saxony Times-Herald, which noted that the title Theodicee was a clever homonym of The Odyssey, gave it a lukewarm review, calling it “just okay.”  It got remaindered after six months.  So Leibniz put aside philosophy for a while and got into mathematics.  He eventually developed what we now know as calculus.  Unfortunately, Sir Isaac Newton also devised calculus at the same time, and he accused Leibniz of plagiarism.  Everyone sided with Newton because he was regarded as the smartest man in the world, and they couldn’t believe that Leibniz, who had been educated in law, could invent calculus.  Leibniz had been in London in 1676 and allegedly got a quick look at Newton’s calculus in unfinished draft form.  And when he presented his calculus to the world, it was almost the same as Newton’s.  But does all this prove plagiarism?  No.  In the first place, it takes science and engineering students at least two years to  learn calculus out of textbooks, so how is somebody supposed to produce an entirely new mathematics after having a brief look at somebody else’s unfinished draft?  And in the second place, if I invent long division, and you invent long division, can they turn out different in any significant way?  After all the bad publicity, Leibniz would have sunk into oblivion, but fortunately he had some rich, highly-placed patrons — Johann Philipp von Schonborn, Elector of Mainz, the Duke of Brunswick, and the Electress Sophia of Hanover.  The Elector of Mainz sent Leibniz to Paris so he could persuade the French to invade Egypt and leave Germany alone.  The French were hesitant, preferring to wait for Napoleon to invade Egypt in 1798.  But they appreciated the suggestion and invited Leibniz to stay in Paris.  There he met Christiaan Huygens, who had perfected the making of telescopes, as well as the major French philosophers and mathematicians, many of whom were his contemporaries.  In 1711, he met the Russian Tsar Peter the Great, in Hanover, with whom he discussed China, topology, aerobics, alchemy, and agrarian reform, and then played the tuba for him.  The Tsar was so impressed by Leibniz’s breadth of learning that he presented him with a fur hat.  Current advanced theories of cosmology and quantum mechanics were made possible by Leibniz’s precursors, which may be seen in several German museums.  However, his hypothesis that the sun was full of kinetic energy was rejected by Pope Clement XI and denounced by George I.  Leibniz devised a calculating machine, which impressed the Royal Society of England, even though it only calculated up to one million.  (This was considered sufficient, as respectable gentlemen of the day did not have any occasion to count higher than that; and the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic had not yet happened.)  When the Elector of Mainz died, Leibniz moved to Hanover and became the personal librarian of the Duke of Brunswick.  There he introduced the concept of fines for overdue books, and even made the Duke pay fines on his own books.  But Leibniz delivered much service to his patron.  He traveled all over Hanover, collecting historical documents which confirmed the Duke’s legitimacy, and he also inspected the Duke’s silver and uranium mines.  In addition, he created the first public health board and designed a network of jogging paths for the Holy Roman Empire, which he hoped would promote ecumenism and heal the rift caused by the Reformation.  Despite his onerous duties, Leibniz found time to write thousands of manuscripts on mathematics, science, and philosophy, and maintain voluminous correspondence with people all over Europe.  He also designed lamps, propellers, submarines, a roulette wheel, an espresso machine, and the first mechanical pin-setter for bowling alleys.  Today we are most indebted to Leibniz for the discovery of monads, which, although microscopic, are widely used in lawn mowers, energy drinks, video games, atomic warheads, and lingerie.  If there is one criticism to be made of Leibniz, it is that he left the vast bulk of his writings unpublished, which caused him to be forgotten for many years after his death.  It is a lucky thing that he lived in a civilized country like Germany in the 18th Century, because his thousands of manuscripts and piles of correspondence were saved for posterity.  (This is why we have Dead White European Males to remember.)  If he were living in Toronto, Canada, in the present day and died in an apartment full of personal papers, his multicultural landlord, Mr. Goomparooma, would bag everything without looking at it and haul it out to the curb for the garbage men.

References

1. The Bobbsey Twins At the Earth’s Core, by Laura Lee Hope, 1973, Grosset & Dunlap.

2. A Slug In Valhalla, by Darwinder Gupta, 1966, Outhouse Editions.

3. Discourses on Calculus and Differential Equations, by Krzysztof Oliwa, 2002, Univ. of Gdansk Press.

    Copyright@ 2008 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com