A Young Person’s Guide to Philosophy: I Think Therefore I Am, A Round-Up

By Barbara Ungar

             Thales said the world floats like a log on endless water. 
    All things are full of gods.   
                                        Anaximander said we evolved from fish 
                          and the universe from the boundless. 
                                                   Anaximenes thought all was air,  
                                         and the heavens moved around Earth 
                                                   like a hat on a head.

             Pythagoras thought reality ten-sided, and that beans
  were reincarnated souls;
               he was killed by a hostile mob beside a beanfield
                            he refused to trample.
                                     Heraclitus thought all was fire. 
                            Everything flows and nothing abides.
                                                     Parmenides said something
                                            could not come out of nothing.

             Empedocles named four elements and two forces, love and strife, and leapt into Mt. Etna. 
                                         Socrates said, The only thing I know is that I know
                                         and paid his last debt with a chicken.
                                                   Plato thought we live in a world of
                                              fleeting shadows, mistaking it for the real. 

            Aristotle identified five hundred species of sea life, but mistook women for unfinished men.  
                                      Epicurus taught in a garden,
                         Pleasure is the highest good. 
                                                    Zeno taught acceptance from a porch
                                       (stoa) to the Stoics

             Diogenes the Cynic told Alexander the Great to get out
  of his light. 
                                       Augustine said now is all there is.
                                                      Hypatia was flayed alive
                                       by mad Christians with oystershells.
             Anselm proved that God exists because we can
 imagine God.
                                         Aquinas saw plants and animals have souls, yet grew
                          so fat he had to have a niche cut into his table. 
                                                    Descartes' pet peeves
                                       were cold and early rising; he died of
                                       giving early morning lessons
                                                       to the Queen of Sweden.

             Spinoza said the universe is God.
  There cannot be too much joy. 
             For this he was thrown out of the synagogue
                          and stabbed on its steps.
                                    Locke's father was an inspector of sewers,
                        and Locke was in charge of England's slave trade.
                                                    Bishop Berkeley said,
                                       To be is to be perceived, and proved irrefutably
                                                  the nonexistence of matter.
             Dr. Johnson said, I refute it thus,
 and kicked a stone.
                                       Hume questioned everything, even
                          cause and effect, inspiring Einstein.
                                                    Kant never married, traveled, or
                                         got sick.
                                                      He called space and time irremovable goggles. 
                                                                  His tomb reads: 
                                                    Two things fill my mind 
                                       with ever-increasing wonder and awe, 
                                                      the starry heavens above
                                        and the moral law within me.

             Hegel's lectures were plodding and he got evicted 
  for dallying with his landlord's wife. 
                                       Mary Wollstonecraft said,
                          The mind has no sex. 
                                                    Nietzsche's autobiography had
                                     chapters called
                                                    Why I Am So Clever and Why I Write
                                                    Such Good Books.

           Husserl found time an eternal now, just as space is always 
  here, wherever you are. 
                                       Heidegger asked, What is it to dwell?
                                and became a Nazi. 
                                                 John Dewey found school boring.

            Wittgenstein loved second-rate cowboy movies and once attacked Karl Popper with a poker.
                                       Sartre liked to drink 
                                and smoke and hang out in cafés.
                                                  Simone de Beauvoir saw women
                                        oppressed by mundane chores and invisible in

             (Simone Weil, for example, is not
  mentioned in this book.) 
                                       Foucault pointed out that the deranged
                                  were once called prophets.
                                                     Derrida maintained everything
                                          differs from everything else, and made
                                                    deconstruction the rage.

             Adorno found our time no closer to the truth
  than any other.
                                       Luce Irigaray said women will write
                            with breast milk, a white ink.
                                                    Crippled but jolly, Feyerabend
                                       concluded philosophy
                                                  should not be taken too seriously.
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About Barbara Ungar

Barbara Ungar’s new book of poetry, Immortal Medusa, is just out from The Word Works. Prior books include Charlotte Brontë, You Ruined My Life; Thrift; and The Origin of the Milky Way, which won the Gival Press Poetry Award, a silver Independent Publishers award, a Hoffer award, and the Adirondack Center for Writing poetry award. She has published in Salmagundi, Rattle, The Nervous Breakdown, and many other journals. A professor of English at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, she coordinates their new MFA program. For more information, please visit Barbaraungar.net.

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  • By Literal Latte Contest Winner! | on March 2015 at 5:18 pm

    […] I Am, A Round-Up” won second place in their 2014 poetry contest. You can read the poem here, or find it in my latest collection, Immortal […]

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