Sunday, June 6, 2010

Police: "Prove You're a Philosopher!"

A friend attended that crazy philosophy conference in Athens last week, and just received the following note from a colleague, who was also in attendance:

On the walk to my hotel after the last night of the conference, I was stopped and detained by the police. As I was walking past the parliament building a police officer stopped me and asked me for my passport. I didn't have my passport, so he called for backup. They questioned me for a while--what are you here for, what's in your bag, etc. Eventually, I told them I was a philosopher, and they asked me to "prove" it!! How they fuck am I supposed to prove I'm a philosopher? I wanted to give him an argument against god's existence but I didn't want to thrown in prison and miss my flight! Eventually they let me go.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would imagine that launching into a discussion of the impossibility of the specified task would be sufficient to convince most people.

Anonymous said...

Step one: Acquire writing materials (stick + sand, paper + pen/pencil, blood + wall, etc.).

Step two: write out a random string of logic (I advise modal or deontic, for maximum confusion). Even better, write out a theorem.

Step three: test the string from step two for validity. Or endeavour to prove said theorem.

Step four: read out all your lines in a natural language of your choice.


Verification: comedu

ModalPontiff said...

I would mumble something about how lucky my counterpart who didn't get arrested is.

Anonymous said...

wandering the streets of Athens, confused and hassled by the authorities? what more proof do you need?

Anonymous said...

This is why I always keep my APA membership card in my wallet.

The Brooks Blog said...

How about this:

"Let's begin with pure being and seeing where the full development of Geist in the world takes us. I will first discuss -- in detail -- Hegel's 860+ page Science of Logic before beginning the larger task of applying this logic to the philosophy of nature (covering all sciences) and philosophy of spirit (which will take us across psychology, politics, ethics, history, art, religion, and the nature of philosophy itself. What? You don't want to hear more...?!"

Verification: reessym

Anonymous said...

To prove you're a philosopher by "writing out a random string of logic" is like proving you're a novelist by disassembling a typewriter.

I would think being stupid enough not to carry a passport in a foreign country would be sufficient proof that one is a philosopher.

PA said...

Er um, anon 8:33, I don't think the point is to actually prove you're a philosopher but rather to get the Greek police to leave you alone.

Skeptical said...

Well, you certainly couldn't prove that you're a philosopher from the fact that you were attending that pseudo-conference.

Anonymous said...

Spiros you said 'that crazy philosophy conference in Athens last week' - what crazy philosophy conference in Athens? Do tell...

Anonymous said...

How about: "Can you prove I'm not a philosopher? After all, most civilized societies accept the principle of innocent until proven guilty." And then say "Oh--I forgot--I stand in the place where Socrates wasn't tried by that principle!" Then smile and wait for the clubbing.

Anonymous said...

He should have said, "Okay, I'll prove it. Drop your pants and bend over."

Nicolas said...

Crossing the Canada/U.S. border I've had similar experiences. I tell the border guard that I'm going to the U.S. for an academic conference, and they invariably ask in what discipline. I answer 'philosophy' trying not to sound too sheepish. They always probe you with a few questions to see if your story holds up.

One time, the guard paused, looked at me in the eye, and said, "What kind of philosophy? Do you know Immanuel Kant?" and then we got in a five minute discussion on the relation of Kant to contemporary analytic philosophy. It was kind of weird.

Anonymous said...

2:41--

Givn the job market, such conversations at the border, the supermarket check-out, and Starbucks are inevitable, as well as is the increase of their quality as well as their quantity. And when the McDonald's cashier asks "do you want fries or a shake with that, and of course that is an inclusive disjuction"--you should reply "DOOM!"

Anonymous said...

How about just:
"Google my name together with the word 'philosophy'."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1.11. I tried that. The top hit for 'anonymous' and 'philosophy' is, unsurprisingly, Philosophers Anonymous.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Oddly enough, my faculty ID says "Philosophy" on it...

John S. Wilkins said...

"What do you mean by 'philosopher'?"

William said...

It's a little prosaic, but I would have talked up the rich philosophical history of Greece, with enough detail about famously smart dead locals that they got bored. As Raymond Chandler wrote, the only thing that cops really want is for things to go smoothly. A foreigner wandering the streets at night might be a problem, but a boring teacher is a comfortably known quantity.

Jon said...

The entirely empty wallet wasn't a clue?

Anonymous said...

The first comment clearly has it right.

But really one would start out by admitting confusion about the question: does the officer want proof that one is employed in a certain way—e.g. by a department of philosophy or of some plausibly adjacent discipline, to research and teach—or that one thinks in an intuitively "philosophical" way, being careful to make that the officer knows that articulating the second sense of the question less opaquely would be hard work?

One could then moot the question by presenting one's papers: this would take care of the first sense, and as for the second sense, well, takes one to know one.

David Auerbach said...

Some years ago a prominent American philosopher of language was crossing over into the then East Germany; questioned about his reasons for being there, he said that he was attending a linguistics conference. "What's your field?"
"Semantics"
"Do you speak German?"
"No."
"Russian?"
"No."
"What languages do you speak you speak?"
"Just American."
"You're a linguist?!"
etc.

Brett Stevens said...

Just drink the hemlock, and 2400 years later people will think those cops were horrible, and ignore the implications for their own politics.

Lantern Bearer said...

Acquire a hogshead, a lantern and a dog. Never attend a conference without them.

Downes said...

I would begin by asking "why", then ask to know "what is the significance of that", and proceed by means of questions to force him into a position where it really doesn't matter whether or not I am a philosopher, and even if it did, there would be no conclusive answer to the question in any event.

Christopher said...

If you wanted to prove you were a philosopher, your response should have been, "what do you mean by prove?"

macshaggy said...

I'm thinking he might not have been a good philosopher. I would have asked the police officer, "What is philosophy?" and then began to explain the history of philosophy and each branch of thought on the subject until the they let me go.

Anonymous said...

Deconstruct something, preferably a concept with which the police officer is familiar. Intimate that the police officer himself is next.

formerly a wage slave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
formerly a wage slave said...

I have had a few unpleasant experiences crossing from one country to another. That includes the time I was traveling from Toledo, Ohio to Windsor one spring because a Chinese restaurant in Canada had fresh asparagus as part of a dish. The Canadian border guard commented that it was a long way to go for a meal--and that was after asking me whether the woman in the car next to me was my sister.

That was before the attacks in New York and Washington. Since then the questions have become more direct, more personal, and more offensive.

One representative of the British government once commented on the ethnic origin suggested by my family name with raised eyebrows and a voice suggestive of the blackness and immorality only found in the "East" of Europe. He also required me to back up my claim that I was on my way to Prague to work at a magazine. By chance, I had a copy of a publication of the Slovak Academy of Sciences which included an article by me. That satisfied him.

But there is nothing funny about this general phenomenon, though I suspect that those of us commenting on this here haven't experienced the worst of it.

I will, however, add one story that I heard from an Austrian student. He and his wife were coming to the USA on vacation. On two occasions his wife was detained and questioned alone at great length. Later, it emerged that a man from Australia who was on some kind of list actually had the same passport number as my student's wife. In a conversation with the American officials, my student sought to distinguish Austria from Australia by saying, "We don't have any kangaroos"...

June 13, 2010 5:03 PM

Posted to Police: "Prove You're a

Chinmay said...

Or ask them if they have ever heard of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Camus etc etc.

Or define philosophy to them, it will keep them occupied with thoughts they cannot bear, and you can escape easily!

Duncan said...

Greek police asking you about philosophy? They probably just wanted you to tell them something interesting and rambling about Plato. Now, proving you're a good philosopher: that's harder.

Anonymous said...

Prove I'm a philosopher? ...relative to whom to what, my good fellow?

Anonymous said...

Ah one advantage of being a woman in this profession: I'd simply show them my tits

Thomas said...

From Nabokov's Bend Sinister, chapter 2:

As Krug, trudging steadily, approached, two Ekwilist soldiers barred his way. More were lurking around, and when a lantern moved, knight-wise, to check him, he noticed a little man dressed as a meshchaniner [petty bourgeois] standing with folded arms and smiling a sickly smile. The two soldiers (both, oddly enough, had pock-marked faces) were asking, Krug understood, for his (Krug's) papers. While he was fumbling for the pass they bade him hurry and mentioned a brief love affair they had had, or would have, or invited him to have with his mother.

'I doubt,' said Krug as he went through his pockets, 'whether these fancies which have bred maggot-like from ancient taboos could be really transformed into acts - and this for various reasons. Here it is' (it almost wandered away while I was talking to the orphan - I mean, the nurse).

They grabbed it as if it had been a hundred krun note. While they were subjecting the pass to an intense examination, he blew his nose and slowly put back his handkerchief into the left-hand pocket of his overcoat; but on second thought transferred it to his right-hand trouser pocket.

'What's this?' asked the fatter of the two, marking a word with the nail of the thumb he was pressing against the paper. Krug, holding his reading spectacles to his eyes, peered over the man's hand. 'University,' he said. 'Place where things are taught - nothing very important.'

'No, this,' said the soldier.

'Oh, "philosophy." You know. When you try to imagine a mirok [small pink potato] without the least reference to any you have eaten or will eat.' He gestured vaguely with his glasses and then...

seth edenbaum said...

Why not just say you're a professor?
Regardless of the vogue for claims of technicality, philosophy is not chemistry. If it were there would be no problems at Middlesex. Philosophy professors disdain the arts and humanities until they need protection from the vulgarians they would otherwise champion.

Calling yourself a philosopher in this context is as pretentious as a writer calling himself a Literateur. Add the issue of class and your friend's behavior becomes even worse.

Anonymous said...

I always thought the answer would begin "Here's one hand..."

Anonymous said...

When strangers inquire about my career, I always tell them first I am a teacher. People are often satisfied with that answer. If a person follows-up, then I tell them a university professor. And if they follow-up again, then I confess philosophy. Fuck I still can't believe how lucky I am to get paid to read, write and teach philosophy!

Joshua Harwood said...

Describe the conference in detail, that is if you were paying attention...

Anonymous said...

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
who was very rarely stable.
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
who could think you under the table.
David Hume could out consume
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
who was just as sloshed as Schlegel.

There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya
'bout the raisin' of the wrist.
Socrates himself was permanently pissed.

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
after half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
Plato, they say, could stick it away,
'alf a crate of whiskey every day!
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle,
and Hobbes was fond of his Dram.
And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart:
"I drink, therefore I am."

Yes, Socrates himself is particularly missed;
A lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he's pissed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQycQ8DABvc

nnyhav said...

Cant (Morgenbesser)

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