What Makes Philosophers Laugh???


I love brilliant people. I really do.

I love to watch them think. I love to watch them in the throws of their brilliance. This is of course, the process by which they solve problems. They way they interact with others and even themselves.

But sometimes, the truly gifted–the ones that MENSA members take one look at and are rendered non-plussed thanks to utter intimidation–can be quite lacking in the personality department.

Case in point: go out for a drink with some philosophy professors. Seriously–just try it once. This is an experience. I did that once-with some instructors of the discipline from Rice University. They had a couple of beers and that loosened them up a bit and and when they let down their hair, THAT’S when”the hilarity” ensued.

But I gotta tell you, what philosophy profs think is funny defies description. Why? I’ll answer that question with a questions: you can take a philosophy professor out of an academic setting, but can you EVER take the academic setting out of the philosophy professor?

I think not, therefore, I am right.

Here are a few “knee-slappers” that had the table rolling with existential laughter and beyond.



“Hey guys? What’s the first Law of Philosophy?”

(Everyone shakes their head in the negative)

For every philosopher, there exists an equal and opposite philosopher.

(A response of ribald laughter)

“OK..OK, now what’s the Second Law of Philosophy?”

(Anticipatory silence which prefaces the punchline)

“They’re both wrong!!!!”

(More laughter with me nodding my head and smiling as if I “got it”, then immediately drinking my beer in long, languid gulps  to keep from feigning a chuckle that would have had absolutely no basis in cognizance)

It just got worse from there:


(This one I got, but it was lame)

Question: What do you get when you cross the Godfather with a philosopher?
Answer: An offer you can’t understand.


(And this one, I got)

Question: What is a recent philosophy Ph.D.’s usual question in his or her first job?
Answer: “Would you like French fries with that, sir?”


(And this one, too!)

Question: How do you get a philosopher off your porch?
Answer: Pay for the pizza.


(But not this one)

Question: What do you get when you cross an aesthete with a phenomenologist?
Answer: An interior daseiner.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ll be the first to admit I had NO idea what “dasein” meant, much less the definition of “one who “daseins”. So, I looked it up so you wouldn’t have to. Dasein is a German word used by Martin Heidegger, who in my brief dalliances with college level philosophy was known as the heap big daddy of existentialism. Anyway, Marty referred to it frequently and often in his opus, Being and Time. But the word Dasein was used by several philosophers before Heidegger, with the meaning of “existence” or “presence”. It’s derived from da-sein, which literally means being-there/here, though Heidegger was adamant that this was an inappropriate translation of Dasein.

OK, now you know and the joke still sucks.

(I didn’t understand this one either)

An engineer, an experimental physicist, a theoretical physicist, and a philosopher were hiking through the hills of Scotland. Cresting the top of one hill, they see, on top of the next, a black sheep. The engineer says: “What do you know, the sheep in Scotland are black.” “Well, *some* of the sheep in Scotland are black,” replies the experimental physicist. The theoretical physicist considers this for a moment and says “Well, at least one of the sheep in Scotland is black.” “Well,” the philosopher responds, “on one side, anyway.”


(This one had them doing spit takes)

Question: How many constructionist philosophers does it take to replace a light bulb?

Answers: Two. One stands at tone of the room and argues that it isn’t dark; the other stands at the other end and says that true light is impossible.


(This next “joke” absolutely KILLED!!!!”)

Descartes is sitting in a bar, having a drink. The bartender asks him if he would like another. “I think not,” he says and vanishes in a puff of logic.


(This one made me laugh ONLY because it’s so ridiculously inane. I kind of “got it”, but it was so damned esoteric. What was funny was the reaction of my drinking colleagues. The profs LOVED it!)

Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress, “I’d like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream.”

The waitress replies, “I’m sorry, monsieur, but we’re out of cream. How about with no milk?”


(And this one made me realize I was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong crowd because I obviously majored in the wrong subject)

A boy is about to go on his first date, and is nervous about what to talk about. He asks his father for advice. The father replies: “My son, there are three subjects that always work. These are food, family, and philosophy.”

The boy picks up his date and they go to a soda fountain. Ice cream sodas in front of them, they stare at each other for a long time, as the boy’s nervousness builds. He remembers his father’s advice, and chooses the first topic. He asks the girl: “Do you like potato pancakes?” She says “No,” and the silence returns.

After a few more uncomfortable minutes, the boy thinks of his father’s suggestion and turns to the second item on the list. He asks, “Do you have a brother?” Again, the girl says “No” and there is silence once again.

The boy then plays his last card. He thinks of his father’s advice and asks the girl the following question: “If you had a brother, would he like potato pancakes?”

And with that “joke”, I could take no more. Amid the fits of laughter from those ’round the table, I slammed back my beer, burped into my napkin—and threw up little,  excused myself, said good night and literally ran to Descartes…..with de keys in my hand.



  1. I think it was WAY worse when I got the jokes, ’cause the french-fry, pizza and godfather ones seriously made me wanna puke…I hope the alcohol helped a little bit!!!

  2. This is why I rarely hang out with people that are much more intelligent than I am. Sometimes its nicer to be around people who as dumb as you are 😉

  3. i spent an evening with some rice philosophy students once.
    i kept relating their existential ramblings to episodes of diff’rent strokes.
    sometimes it’s fun to play the role of low-brow turd in the intellectual punchbowl.

  4. Ah well, you know what they say: One man’s Meade is another man’s Poisson.

    I’m just glad that you didn’t put DeCartes before the Hoerste.

  5. Most of those jokes ranked very high on the “groan” scale…but I have to admit the Descartes one made me laugh.

    Does that make me a dork?

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