Somewhere Atop the Ivory Tower 8


“The Present King of France”

This is a nuanced dialogue that comes about in the Philosophy of Language. It concerns the predicate “The Present King of France is bald” as popularized by Bertrand Russell. Just like other entries in this series, this is meant to be a humorous take on the questions raised by philosophy. I apologize for any errors that are made to the actual arguments posed if there are any, as I do find their critiques to be important and fascinating to philosophy.

Scene: Lecture hall atop the Ivory Tower. Bertrand Russell has called a summit to solve the problems with modern logic. A crowd of philosophers and logicians have come across time and space to attend. Enter Bertrand RUSSELL, Gottlob FREGE, P.F. STRAWSON, Alfred TARSKI, H.P. GRICE, Jean-Jacques ROUSSEAU, Rudolf CARNAP, W.O. QUINE, Saul KRIPKE, and others.

RUSSELL: Hello and welcome, everyone. Glad you can all be here today. Philosophers, Mathematicians, and Logicians alike, we have had our differences in the past. But now, we have a grave concern on our hands.

[The crowd of intellectuals murmur among each other, as Russell writes a predicate on the blackboard: “∃x((Fx & ∀y(Fy → x = y)) & Gx).” The crowd roars.]

STRAWSON: Oh dear god.


FREGE: You guys still write like that?

RUSSELL: Hear me out, all of you! (crowd falls silent) We all know what this is. This is a classic case of definite description. A means that there exists only one F, and it is G.

TARSKI: Okay. So what’s the problem?

STRAWSON: Yeah, it’s perfectly fine. Seriously, what’s gotten into you?

RUSSELL: What’s gotten into me? This sentence has posed a threat to classical logic. The law of excluded middle! What will this do to how we speak!

FREGE: Russell, stop. I’ve discussed this problem before. Sure, no one bothered to review it, but nothing is being threatened. The sentence remains true–

RUSSELL: No, it is not!

FREGE: (pause) Come again?

RUSSELL: Just think, the sentence presupposes something that exists, that is also something else. But what if that thing doesn’t exist at all?

GRICE: Like what?

RUSSELL: Like the present King of France! And more importantly, “The present King of France is bald!” That fits the predicate just fine.

KRIPKE: Okay, but why the King of France?

TARSKI: (to KRIPKE) It’s best not to ask.

STRAWSON: Well isn’t it obvious? Just like Frege said, that predicate would be indeterminate.

FREGE: (to STRAWSON) I never said that.

STRAWSON: (to FREGE) You inferred it.

RUSSELL: No! That sentence must be false because it implies that a present King of France exists, which last I checked, there isn’t one.

ROUSSEAU: Really? Because last time I checked there was one. What a bloody bastard.

RUSSELL: Yes, but was he bald?

ROUSSEAU: How the hell should I know? I didn’t bother to check!


QUINE: Look, Rousseau makes a good point. Finding out which present King of France is being uttered depends on who is uttering it and when. It may not be true if someone in Rousseau’s time said it, but it might be true if the present King of France was from another time or place, and that one happens to be bald.

CARNAP: Yeah, like what if there was another universe, where the present King of France does still exist, and he happens to be bald? Wouldn’t the statement then be true?

QUINE: Don’t confuse things, Carnap.

TARSKI: Look guys, it’s simple. The sentence is true if and only if the present King of France is in the set of all persons that are bald. Just as the syntax dictates. At present, there is no present King of France. Therefore, Russell would be correct.

RUSSELL: Thank you.

TARSKI: Whatever.

GRICE: Look, maybe we’re all approaching this problem from the wrong position. Sure, we can agree on the syntax of a sentence like “The present King of France is bald,” but the semantics? Surely none of us agree on what exactly we’re talking about, when some of you think a real one doesn’t exist, while others believe that one exists as an idea.

TARSKI: And what are you trying to propose?

GRICE: Nothing. Just tell me what you mean by “present,” “king,” “France,” and “bald,” and then I’ll tell you whether or not it’s true. (pause)


TARSKI: Not a chance.

QUINE: That’s even more confusing.

KRIPKE: You guys are all missing the target. Why don’t we just go and check whether the rigid designator for the present King of France is bald?

RUSSELL: Impossible!


TARSKI: Where?

KRIPKE: Yeah. It just so happens that he’s right here in this ivory tower, as we speak.

RUSSELL: No way.

KRIPKE: Behold! The current placeholder for the Present King of France! (Enter PLATO, holding a sign that says he’s the present King of France, wearing a hat to cover his head)

STRAWSON: (whispers) Isn’t that Master Plato?


KRIPKE: Present King of France, please remove your hat.

PLATO: (mumbles to himself, as he bows before the audience and removes his hat, thus revealing his bald spots).


GRICE: Agreed.

TARSKI: Definitely true.

CARNAP: Of course.

FREGE: Works for me.

ROUSSEAU: (rolls eyes) Here we go again.

QUINE: I’m convinced.

RUSSELL: Oh, Come on!! (Exeunt)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Like what you just read? Consider becoming a Patron!


My Earliest Memory — A Critique of Dialectics (Part 2)


This is my second part of my critique on my earliest memory. To see the first part, click here.

So if you’re reading this and you’re scratching your head, “Where’s the dialectical part? You didn’t explain it very well!” Well that would be a problem, if the term “dialectics” was the main focus of these essays. Now if I were here to talk about dialectics, I may as well have just copied Phenomenology of Spirit verbatim. If you read my account and still scratch your head, it’s fine. Dialectics are a dense subject that’s usually boiled down to a basic dynamic of competing structures or theories talking about the same thing. They yell, they clash, they fight over which one is the dominant account of the thing that is being observed, when in truth they are just picking apart specific things that are but partially true about the same thing.

And that is the crux of why everyone hates Hegel!

Continue reading

My Earliest Memory — A Critique of Dialectics


Please excuse my absence from this blog for the past couple of weeks. Been doing some other stuff lately like volunteering as a reading tutor and critiquing Confucius or something. Who knows?

Between anime reviews and Ivory Tower dialogues, it seems that I haven’t written any philosophical editorials inbetween, so I think it’s time to resurface that before I move on to other writing projects.

Continue reading


Somewhere Atop the Ivory Tower 7


“Mr. Kant Goes to Elementary School”

(Getting a number of complaints that he knows nothing about human decency, Immanuel Kant has taken it upon himself, or was rather forced by his colleagues, to teach Elementary school for a day. This excerpt is… probably how it went down.)

(About 20 kids are playing around at their desks, goofing off with one another. Enter KANT.)

KANT: Alright, alright, listen up everyone. (Class continues to act rowdy, as Kant grows more irritated. Kant shouts) EVERYONE QUIET DOWN!! (The children settle down in their seats, as they look at the stout male adult in front of them.)

KID 1: Hey Mister, where’s our teacher?

KID 2: Yeah, where’s Mr. Hegel?

KANT: Mr. Hegel had to call out sick this morning. I’ll be your teacher today.

KID 3: Uh huh… and who are you?

KANT: I’m Mr. Kant. And today, we’re going to learn about truth.

KID 1: Truth? you mean that big, ambiguous thing that is really hard yet so simple to grasp? Yeah, we already know it’s Geist.

KANT: Yes, but how do you know when someone is telling the truth?

KID 4: Who cares? Everyone speaks the truth to some varying degree.

KANT: Yes, but–

KID 5: And that means either everything is true or nothing is true!

KANT: NO! THAT STATEMENT IS FALSE, AND YOU KNOW IT! (Kids cower back into their seats) Look, I’m not so much interested in what the truth is, but how you can tell when someone is not telling the truth, and why it’s important to speak the truth at all times, alright?

ALL: Yes, Mr. Kant…

KANT: Good. So here’s the thing: (Kant writes down important words on the blackboard, shown caps here) In order to determine what is good, you must make a RULE, and suppose it as a UNIVERSAL MAXIM. That means that if the rule stands, every person must follow it. If you find that this maxim stands to REASON, then it is good. However, if the rule does not stand to reason, then rule is IMPERMISSIBLE, and thus, you must never do it!

KID 4: Okay, but what if your reasoning is different from somebody else’s?

KANT: Well, that’s why we let just laws solve what is most appropriate for all people, and as good citizens, we are responsible for abiding in those rules.

KID 2: Yeah, but how do we know when those laws are just?

KANT: Listen, the rules that stand the test of time are made by rational adults, and all the rules that are ridiculous are thrown out immediately, as reasonable human beings soon discover that those illogical rules are in fact unjust.

KID 5: Whatever. Adults are full of shit.

KANT: You watch your tongue, kid! (Kid 5 crosses his arms and smirks) Look, it’s an adult’s responsibility to make sure that you children grow up to be rational human beings. That way, you will know how to run a great society, as we have today.

KID 3: Fine then, Mr. Kant. How are adults more rational than kids like us?

KID 6: Will you just shut up and listen? You’re always like this, dude!

KANT: Now, now, there’s nothing wrong with asking those challenging questions. And if you wish to know the short answer, it’s because reasonable adults go through years of experience, studying law, science, and the arts to understand what is good. However, not all adults will become truly rational beings. Those are the ones we have to watch out for.

KID 5: Yeah, like Mr. Hegel. (A handful of kids laugh)

KANT: THAT’S NOT FUNNY! Your teacher is a very nice man to put up with all of you, even if I strongly disagree with him a lot of times.

KID 1: Wait, you know Mr. Hegel?

KID 2: Why do you disagree with him?

KID 3: Do tell.

KID 6: Ugh! All you guys are getting off topic!

KANT: Right. Anyway, let’s get back to the subject about our universal maxim. Let’s start with the maxim for a world where everyone lies. Now what would that look like?

KID 5: What’s the problem? Everyone already lies. (All the kids make a collective “ooooh” sound.)

KANT: That… may be true. Sure, it is possible for any human to not say something that is true. We make mistakes. We’re human. But what about the people who INTENTIONALLY lie to you? Surely they do it for reasons that are not good at all.

KID 3: Well, there goes my argument. We’re all bad.

KANT: I didn’t say that–

KID 1: I guess adults really do know everything that kids don’t.

KID 2: Man, being a kid sucks.

KID 4: Wait, but what if the adult in question has good reason to tell a lie? And how would anyone who believes that lie know that it is a lie in the first place?

KID 5: Adults are stupid! All rules are relative to each individual! The only real rule is to survive, and be the last man standing. So if that means you have to lie your way to get what you want, then so be it! Go ahead, Mister. Say that I’m lying.

KANT: Ah, funny you should say that. (There is a knock at the door) Come in. (Enter HEIDEGGER)

HEIDEGGER: Good morning, Sir. Sorry to interrupt everything.

KANT: Not a problem.

HEIDEGGER: We are told that there is a boy in this class who was caught stealing at the drug store last night. A boy named Friedrich Nietzsche? (KID 4 covers his face)

KANT: Why yes, let me check my role sheet. (Kant scans a sheet of paper) Ah, yep. He’s right over there. (HEIDEGGER restrains KID 4 and cuffs him away)

HEIDEGGER: Thanks for cooperating, Sir.

KID 4: Are you serious? I didn’t do anything, Mr. Kant, honest! This guy is lying to you! Lying!! (HEIDEGGER covers KID 4’s mouth)

KANT: It’s a shame. He’s such a great kid, and asked a lot of really great questions in class. Are you sure it was him?

KID 5: Yeah, it was him! I saw him do it too, Officer. That boy is a troublemaker!

HEIDEGGER: There you go. We have a witness.

KID 4: (comes loose from his grip) LIES! All of you! You adults can’t even tell when your very own egos get in the way! To Hell with all of you!

HEIDEGGER: Yeah yeah, tell that to the judge. (Exit HEIDEGGER and KID 4)

KANT: So, as you can see, you must never tell a lie, not even to save a child. After all, you kids haven’t practiced enough of what it means to be truly rational yet. In fact, we all must practice doing so if we are to let our society flourish for good. (Kids are completely silent in shock of just what happened) So… are there any questions?

KID 5: Oh, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Mr. Kant, for getting rid of Fred. He’s soooo annoying with all those questions he asks. Who would’ve thought that he would have the gall to say all those things and still steal from a department store? I’m so glad you’re my teacher today.

KANT: Right… And remember: always respect others in high authority, for they are doing their best to maintain the just laws from getting in the hands of unjust tyrants.

KID 6: Really, Mr. Kant? That officer just stupidly believed Donald over there!

KANT: Yes, you’re right. And it’s unfortunate that such officers do exist. They are, after all, doing their job, as am I. (bell rings) Well… as of today, I am no longer your teacher. Mr. Hegel will be back soon enough. (KID 5 gets up out of his chair and walks toward the door). Oh, and one more thing.

KID 5: What?

KANT: (punches KID 5 in the face) That’s for letting a child who was trying to learn go to jail over a petty crime! That officer isn’t skilled in thinking rationally, and irrational people like you always take advantage of them! He may not deal with you, but now, you’re dealing with me!

KID 5: You’ll be sorry, Mister! I’m still just a child.

KANT: If I were your teacher, then maybe I would be obligated not to harm you. However, cruel intentions come with vile consequences in the public sphere, where people do and say whatever they want. Remember that the next time you think you can just get away with doing anything you want! This is the nature of humanity.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Like what you just read? Consider becoming a Patron!


Somewhere Atop the Ivory Tower 6


“On the Night of Bacchanalia”

(I don’t have a silly or fancy introduction to this dialogue. This is my quasi-absurdist take on Plato’s Crito.)

Continue reading