If you are close enough to a philosopher, you will probably, at some time, either have the occasion or desire to give them a gift.
Non-philosophers usually have one of two common misconceptions about philosopher-gifting: either (1) philosophers are extremely easy to buy for or (2) philosophers are extremely difficult to buy for.
Both of these are false. Philosophers are easy to buy gifts for if you know what to get, but they are not so easy to buy for that you can just get them anything.
First, we must iron out what exactly you should NEVER get your philosopher.
Do not get your philosopher:
Giving your philosopher one of these books not only proves to them that you know absolutely nothing about philosophy (and you do know something now if you’ve been reading this blog!), but it also suggests to them that you think what they do is silly and worthless. Getting them a book like this is like getting Queen Elizabeth’s gardener a Gardening for Dummies book. You may think these books are cute, but they are really insulting to most philosophers.
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (another book).
Faux-philosophers sometimes read books like this and think they are really philosophers. Real philosophers may use this book when they teach an Introduction to Philosophy course, merely for making their students excited about philosophy, but real philosophers do not consider this real philosophy. In fact, they are usually annoyed by faux-philosophers who read this book and then try to talk to real philosophers about philosophy. Summary: Getting your philosopher a book like this is insulting.
3. Any books.
Let’s just simplify: Unless you are willing to follow your philosopher around a bookstore or ask them to send you links online to books they want, purchasing a book for your philosopher is a very bad idea. By the time your philosopher reaches grad school, she/he will be into such hard stuff.
4. Items with “philosophy” quotes on them.
The only person who is really amused by these is you. Your philosopher will not really care. Also, most “philosophy” quotes are from Greek philosophers (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle), and are usually taken out of context and popularized.
Now, do not despair over these do-nots. Even if you have already given your philosopher something like this in the past, she/he will forgive you readily if you stick to the following list of acceptable gifts the next time you give something to your philosopher.
Do get your philosopher:
Philosophers are poor, unless they are in a prestigious position at a top-50 university. Philosophy grad students are especially poor. Giving them money could be giving them grocery money for the month, or giving them a chance to purchase that obscure book they’ve been lusting over on amazon.com.
2. Gift cards.
Ask your philosopher where they like to spend money and then purchase them a gift card. This will be greatly appreciated.
Ok, philosophers love pens, for some reason. They all have their particular favorites, though, so ask then first about which type they like. You could buy them pens at every special occasion and they will be extremely satisfied.
Some of you may be thinking, “This list of acceptable gifts is so impersonal. I want to give my philosopher something that they will treasure for a lifetime and always remember me by.”
I’m sorry. Get them a gift card to buy a book. Philosophers are not like normal people. If you want to give your philosopher something they will treasure, then give them the resources to buy some books or fund their education. This is what your philosopher will treasure for a lifetime, and they will remember how thoughtful and understanding you are.