Thursday, 5 May 2011

DUIP: Driving Under the Influence of Philosophy

Your philosopher may be the most careful, cognizant driver in the world—when they are not thinking or talking about philosophy. Give them an argument to ruminate over or a sparring partner, and suddenly your Ms./Mr.-fancy-pants-I-had-a-perfect-score-on-my-driving-test-and-even-know-obscure-traffic-rules-and-the-history-of-all-traffic-rules philosopher becomes, quite frankly, an octogenarian[1] who forgot her/his glasses.

One of my facebook friends coined this phenomenon DUIP (Driving Under the Influence of Philosophy). DUIP is extremely dangerous to you and/or your philosopher and/or other philosophers and passengers (children, cats, etc).

Your philosopher may be able to talk about anything other than philosophy and/or may even be able to talk to another philosopher while driving, but if they happen into a philosophical conversation while driving, you may want to have an escape plan in place. Because I’m on an acronym kick today (I do work for a state university, after all, which is just one big jumble of acronyms), I came up with an acronym for protecting yourself and others from DUIP related incidents: LADI[2]

L: Learn to recognize the signs of intoxication

If you hearken back to this article on philosopher-intoxication, I mention a few signs to look for. Also just be aware that intoxication is most likely to occur after extended periods talking with philosophers and hearing other philosophers give papers. A different sort of intoxication occurs after spending all day reading philosophy. This kind of intoxication is harder to identify. My favorite method is to ask the simple, “What did you do today?” before driving.

A: Avoid talking about philosophy in the car.

Your philosopher may view a car ride as the perfect time to discuss philosophy with you. Only discuss philosophy-things if your philosopher first agrees to give up the wheel to you. If your philosopher is adamant that they should be the drivers, try to either distract your philosopher with talk of other things.

D: Don’t let them drive.

This is the easiest way to avoid messy DUIP situations. It is also very obvious. This doesn’t work in our case, though, because my philosopher is a much better driver than me (except when philosophy-intoxicated).

I: If there is no other way around it (you are just friends and it is their car), distract, distract, distract.

Sometimes there is just no other way around the situation. Your philosopher may be a parent or friend or you could be in a situation where it would be awkward and/or impossible for you to drive (be under the legal driving age, have casts on both feet, etc). In these situations, it is better to sacrifice a little squeltching of your philosopher for safety. Some non-philosophers find it effective to “redirect” through forceful directions (shouting), but I prefer a more gentle approach of distracting my philosopher with a long story he might find interesting or a discussion about current events.

Here are some examples of distractions that might work:
1. Discussing a news or current events story.
2. Asking your philosopher about their family, childhood, and/or all-time favorite pets.
3. Sports (if your philosopher likes sports)
4. Discuss an event that happened at work and how you might interpret it.
5. Talk about fiction (books).
6. Ask about news from their academic department and/or university

[Philosophers, don't be offended at the simplicity of these topics. You have opinions about many of them, I am sure.]

Only you can prevent a DUIP accident. Remember to LADI and, when all else fails, grip the seat and close your eyes.

[1] I meant no offense to the elderly. Please do keep wearing your glasses, though, for both your safety and ours. :-)
[2] Obviously, I could have also structured these letters to spell LAID instead of LADI, but this is a “family” blog. I could see too many of you having fun with LAID.

You can follow me on twitter (@philosiologist) or friend me on facebook (Philosiologist Qed). It may really annoy you to follow me on twitter, though, because I don't know how to make short-links, so every link I post is long and cumbersome. You can also send me an email, if you would like. I accept blog ideas, questions about philosophers (specific or general), just chatty emails, and chocolates.

~The Philosiologist~


  1. I just discovered your blog. A non-philosopher friend of mine suggested it might be something I should share with my non-philosopher friends and family as an instruction manual. I just sent emails around widely to let them know about this very helpful resource. Thank you so much.

    Anyway... about the driving thing, as I mentioned on your Facebook page, the philosophy intoxication can be dangerous in many circumstances. Like crossing the street (walking) while intoxicated. Or operating heavy machinery, I suppose... not that I would know where to find any heavy machinery to operate.

    But I was reminded in reading your posting today that I have also frequently found myself traveling to a conference by car with a fellow philosopher. We have often gotten very lost. And I have heard some incredible stories from other philosophers about philosopher road trips that have become inadvertent epics to rival the Odyssey.

    So do you think there might be any way in which two or more philosophers driving somewhere together without supervision might adapt your LADI strategy, or should such trips simply be avoided at all costs?

  2. Be aware though that if your philosopher does political philosophy current events can be a bad thing to talk about... it can induce intoxication... I prefer to talk about what's for dinner for example or what movie we should see next.

  3. @ Mckean: Agreed. Distraction #1 is too close to dangerous grounds

  4. Just copy your blog URL into a URL shortener like or It'll give you a short link for you to copy/paste into Twitter, for example.

  5. You can also use a service like Twitterfeed to automatically Tweet your blog posts once they go online, and I think it will shorten the links for you.

  6. I was thinking ...I read this blog obsessively, having a philosophy boyfriend, but he's also a major MAJOR nerd. I mean Star Wars, all kinds of video game, comic books (Marvel AND Dc) and I found a lot of the advice you give works for that as well. Like encouraging him to talk, learning little things to keep in the conversation etc. Because the level of study he puts into his Nerdom is staggering. He could teach a degree on comic books. So yeah, a lot of this stuff applies pan-subject :D Thank you x

  7. Jemma, that must be a common thing with philosophers. My philosopher husband is also a Star Wars, comic book, gaming nerd :)

    Regarding the DUIP, he definitely falls under this category and I am not great with directions so we have had to depend upon our googlemaps app to re-direct us when we miss our turns!

  8. My best advice for surviving Philosopher/Philosopher car rides (or Nerd/Nerd, or other groups prone to philosophical intoxication) - get a GPS with a very loud speaker and no ability to take voice commands.

    Keep it turned on, even when driving familiar territory!

    I'm a computer programmer, and a nerd, so there's some overlap with the habits of the analytical philosopher; I've learned that if I have a car full of similar friends, the only way to make sure I don't accidentally "kidnap" everyone while animatedly discussing something is to have the GPS shouting instructions at me.

    Since the GPS cannot be argued with or reasoned with, and in fact does not respond to verbal commands at all, it both shocks me out of the "argument fugue state" AND makes sure I don't miss my exit on the freeway.

    Bonus points for setting the GPS to a language the driving philosopher only superficially understands - this forces the driver to "shift mental gears" and suspend the conversation while they double check the map, look at their surroundings, etc.