Category Archives: Humor

Some of the best of the New Yorker’s cartoons

I particularly like this one:

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Via James Goetz

See here for more.


Filed under Humor

How to review books, quickly and informatively


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Filed under Academe, Humor

Yeah, I’m teaching too

As always, click through, and press the red button…

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Filed under Education, Humor

Tractatus Logico-Chocolatus

1. The world is all that is the taste.

1.1 The world is the totality of flavours, not things.

1.1.1 The world is determined by the totality of flavours, and these being all the flavours.

1.12 For the totality of flavours determines both what is the taste and also all that is not the taste.

1.13 The tastes in experiential space are the world.

1.2 The world divides into individual flavours: sweet, sour, salt and bitter.

1.21 Chocolate is more than the sum of these flavours.

2 What is the taste, the fact, is the existence of elemental flavours.

[The rest is left to the reader to fill out as a personal exercise… should take about a day]


Filed under Chocosophy, Humor

Chocolate history

Reader Jeb McLeish has brought to my attention an early attempt to do the metaphysics of chocolate: The Natural History of Chocolate by D. de Quelus (1730):

The Spaniards, who were first acquainted with Chocolate after the Conquest of the new World, have laid it down for an undoubted Truth, that Chocolate is cold and dry, participating of the Nature of Earth. They have supported this Determination neither with Reason nor Experience; nor do they know from whence they learnt it; perhaps they have taken it upon the Words, and from the Tradition of the Inhabitants of the Country. Let that be as it will, it is natural from false Principles to draw false Conclusions, of which the two principal are as follow.

The first is, That Chocolate being by Nature cold, it ought not to be used without being mixed with Spices, which are commonly hot, that so they might, both together, become temperate and wholesome. This was the Jargon and Practice of those Times. For the same Reason the ancient Physicians erroneously imagining that Opium was cold in the fourth Degree, never fail’d to correct this pretended Coldness in their narcotick Compositions, with Drugs extremely hot, as EuphorbiumPellitoryPepper, &c.

Their second Conclusion was, That Chocolate being dry and earthy, and from thence supposed to be of a styptick and astringent Quality; if it was not corrected, must necessarily breed Obstructions in the Viscera, and bring on a Cacochimy, and a great Number of other incurable Diseases.

These Prejudices have from the Spaniards pass’d into other Nations. To prove this, it will be unnecessary to cite a great Number of Authors, for whoever has read one, has read them all, the later having done nothing but copy the former; they have even sometimes improved their Dreams, and exaggerated this pretended Coldness of Chocolate, and at length push’d the Matter so far, as to make it a kind of cold Poison; and if it was taken to Excess, it would bring on a Consumption.

de Quelus is attacking the idea that chocolate is somehow an Aristelian substance, identified by a mixture of wetness, dryness, heat and cold:

It is not very extraordinary that People who are more ready to believe than to examine, (such as the World is full of) should give into the unanimous Opinion of so many Authors; and it would be strange if they were not carry’d down by the Stream of a Prejudice so general. But I cannot sufficiently admire that Chocolate being so much decry’d, has not been entirely laid aside as unfit for Use; without doubt there was nothing but the daily Experience of its good Effects, which could support it, and hinder it from giving way to Calumny.

Now to overturn this old System, it is sufficient, in my Opinion, to observe with how little Skill and Penetration they then treated of the whole Natural History; one ought not to be amazed that they have affirmed Chocolate to be cold and dry, in an Age when, for Example, they could say Camphire was cold and moist, which is a kind of Resin, from whence one Drop of Water cannot be extracted, whose sharp Taste, and penetrating Smell, joined to the extreme Volatility and Inflammability of its Particles, even in Water itself, are such evident Signs of its Heat, that it is difficult to conceive upon what account they persuade themselves of the contrary.

A clever and perceptive man, but he failed to realise that chocolate is greater than the sum of its parts, as revealed before. Chocolate cannot be made of four flavours, humours or elements, since it exceeds the properties of these things.

However, he notes the chocolate was discovered in Mexico in the 1520s, giving us a point at which we can safely say that western history was set on the path to True Endarkenment.


Filed under History, Humor, Metaphysics

Evolution quotes: The English and theories

‘What I really like about the English is that they don’t have theories. No Englishman would ever have said, “I think, therefore I am.” Although possibly he might have said, “I think, therefore I am, I think.”‘ [Solomon, from Dodger, by Terry Pratchett, p219]


Filed under Epistemology, Humor, Quotes

Evolution quotes: On human nature and doubt

That Pyrot had stolen the eighty thousand trusses of hay nobody hesitated for a moment to believe. No one doubted because the general ignorance in which everybody was concerning the affair did not allow of doubt, for doubt is a thing that demands motives. People do not doubt without reasons in the same way that people believe without reasons. The thing was not doubted because it was repeated everywhere and with the public, to repeat is to prove. It was not doubted because people wished to believe Pyrot guilty and one believes what one wishes to believe. Finally, it was not doubted because the faculty of doubt is rare amongst men; very few minds carry in them its germs and these are not developed without cultivation. Doubt is singular, exquisite, philosophic, immoral, transcendent, monstrous, full of malignity, injurious to persons and to property, contrary to the good order of governments, and to the prosperity of empires, fatal to humanity, destructive of the gods, held in horror by heaven and earth. The mass of the Penguins were ignorant of doubt: it believed in Pyrot’s guilt and this conviction immediately became one of its chief national beliefs and an essential truth in its patriotic creed.

Pyrot was tried secretly and condemned. [Anatole France, Penguin Island, trans A. W. Edwards, 1908]


Filed under Epistemology, Humor