Absurdism, Books

The Laughing Philosophers

I have been reading a book, just published, by Slavoj Zizek consisting entirely of jokes culled from his cultural theory texts, called Zizek’s Jokes*. Here is an example:

Jeremy Bentham deployed the unique notion of ‘self-icon’ that is the notion that a thing is its own best sign, as in the Lewis Carroll joke about Englishmen using ever larger maps until they finally settled on using England itself as its own map.

I don’t advise him to change his career to stand-up comedian, just yet. The book is a compilation of about a hundred jokes illustrating concepts such as the logic of the Hegelian triad and the Lacanian real. Wittgenstein once said that “a serious and interesting philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes” (On Certainty), and Zizek’s publishers quote it, but this compilation fails to amount to a work of philosophy (interesting or otherwise). Continue reading

Books, Law

Prison Books No 2

I recently wrote a post on this blog complaining that a prisoner in the United States was sentenced to cruel and unusual punishment when she was forced to read a book by Malcom Gladwell (Prison Books, 1st February 2014). In taking things to the other extreme the Lord Chancellor, Mr Chris Grayling MP, has made it against prison rules to send any book to a prisoner in England or Wales. From 1st November 2013 it is forbidden for any convicted prisoner to receive a parcel (either in the post or by hand) whatever it contains, including books, unless exceptional circumstances apply. The rule can be found at Prison Service Instruction No 30/2013 paragraph 10.4. Continue reading