Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Philosophers in Love: Happy Philosophers

Non-philosophers sometimes assume that because their philosopher is a complex person, that all of their tastes and desires must be complex. This is false. Philosophers do have some complexities in taste, but there are several, very simple things that make philosophers happy. If you are in a relationship with a philosopher, you may discover that they really appreciate these simple pleasures. Here are some of them that I’ve discovered:

1. A reading chair and a work space.

Philosophers do not need huge rooms or fancy furniture, all they need is a comfy place to read (preferably with a table for caffeinated beverages/alcohol and a bookshelf close by) and a sufficient place to do work. When my philosopher and I got our first place, we spent lots of time looking for just the right desk and reading chair. Because of the time we took to find the right furniture, my philosopher is perfectly content and happy to work at home.

2. Invest in a nice coffee maker.

Philosophers generally do not like bad coffee. Encourage them to do some research (philosophers are very good at researching things) to find just the kind of coffee maker they want, then purchase it. Simple, right?

3. Be prepared to invest in “good” coffee.

Once your philosopher gets a nice coffee maker, it would be a sin to make poor quality coffee in this coffee maker. Your philosopher will want to start purchasing good coffee (example: we buy a fair-trade, organic, locally roasted coffee). If your philosopher does not like coffee, perhaps they like tea or alcohol. Invest in quality beverages.

4. Surprise your philosopher by asking them about their research.

Philosophers love talking about their research. It helps if you try to learn a bit about philosophy on your own first, but once you know a little bit, you may even discover that your philosopher’s research subject is rather interesting. I recommend asking them a question like this, “I would love to know more about your research. Are there any parts of it that I might find interesting?” This will make your philosopher very happy (unless they are of the impatient, “Don’t bother me while I work” type). See my post on How to Get Your Philosopher Talking Without Much Effort.

5. Surprise your philosopher with food.

Philosophers are often too distracted to remember to eat food, let alone good food. If your philosopher is a graduate student, she/he will already be a scrounger (one who scrounges for free food), due to the nature of their poverty. Surprise your philosopher with baked goods, dinners out, and favorite snacks.

This is it, really. Some philosophers might like particular gifts or might like to take short road trips, but most philosophers I know also like a few simple things. 

Any other simple pleasures I've missed? [Note: Keep it clean, please! Some of your children read this blog :-)]
You can follow me on twitter (@philosiologist) or friend me on facebook (Philosiologist Qed). I also usually answer emails (left sidebar). 

~The Philosiologist


  1. Simple pleasures are the best.

  2. Buying books for them works well. Your philosopher will certainly talk to you about books s/he wants to read. Make a note, bring the book home and voila! happy, HAPPY philosopher.

  3. I am writing a novel about two philosophers. They both drink very good teas, and never coffee, but other than that, all of the above certainly applies. (and they fall in love <3 )
    I love your blog. It confirms many of my perceptions, and opens me to many more perceptions of The Philosophic Mind.

  4. Coffee maker: Bialetti

    Alcohol: Mead

    Food: Homemade jerky (in the oven--it's so easy!) because working is like trekking, and jerky makes snacking easy.

  5. Keeping it clean: The usual advice for making a man (assuming here maleness) mostly still applies. A sixpack of beer (or diet Mt. Dew), munchies, delivered by a very comfortably attired lady, who says, tell me about your work it must be really important.

  6. I am enjoying your blog, and I know it's mostly light-hearted, but I just wanted to sound a note of caution about this sort of generalizing about a large number of people. Philosophers are a diverse bunch in many ways. I'm a philosopher who lacks many of the traits you say 'philosophers' have, and I know many others in a similar position. There's a risk of making people feel objectified if you assume too much about their personality, interests etc. based on a single fact about them. And there's a risk of making people who don't fit your pattern feel like (or even: be regarded as) not 'real' philosophers, which could be particularly problematic if (say) groups who are already under-represented in philosophy are also less likely statistically to share the traits you ascribe to 'philosophers'. Thousands of flowers should bloom; it's good that not all philosophers are alike! Maybe a post on how different philosophers can be would help counteract the suggestion that we are all the same. :)

  7. @Anon. 08:34

    If you notice, in every entry I say "most philosophers" not "all philosophers." If I did not make this blog a bunch of generalizations, then there would be no blog because the point of the blog is to point out the most common eccentricities that philosophers have. If every entry was just about one philosopher (mine, for example), then people would not want to read it because (1) it would be a personal blog about someone they don't know, nor do they care to really know me and (2) not as many entries would ring true to them and their experiences.

    I think I make it very clear in every entry that most, but not every, philosopher has a degree of sameness. Thank you for your suggestions, but I am planning on keeping this blog in the same format I started with.

    This is what the study of Anthropology does.

  8. May I add shoulder massages? I get very tight and achy when I write all day, especially when I am stressed out about my work, and a shoulder massage is the best thing ever.
    Also: keep the blog going the way it is, it's awesome.

  9. Katie, I have a superficial worry and a deep anxiety. (1) Could you explain to non-philosophers how philosophers (or yours in particular) distinguish between simple and complex pleasures? Also, can you provide a conceptual analysis of a simple thing? I'm worried simple things give me quite complex pleasures, and complex things (whatever they are) give simple pleasures. I'd like to dispel my worries. That's the superficial part. Thanks.
    (2) You don't have to be a Snake Enthralling Xena to spot this lacuna on your list. If there was ever a clear paradigm of pleasure, it is that which shall not be named on account of greedy little eyes perusing this site. Still, I bet voldermort is out there, horcruxed unhappily in the pining and the pined for. Is it likely to rescue or even momentarily distract my philosopher from his affair with propositions, and look me straight in the eyes? I hope you see my worry. If voldermort fails, what use are to me posh chairs and tables and Ethiopian coffee?

  10. @Bruce

    Your assumption of the 'maleness' of philosophers is extraordinarily awful.
    Things you assume:

    Men want 'ladies.'
    Men do 'important work.'
    Women are only capable of listening to men talk about their 'important work.'
    Women should be serving and aiding men so that they can do their 'important work.'

  11. It seems like most/all of this would apply equally to any theory-oriented academic (including, perhaps, certain sorts of Anthropologists). I've felt that way about a lot of recent posts here. It might be that you've exhausted the philosopher-specific traits in your earlier posts - which, by the way, were fantastic! Maybe you should branch out, and explicitly discuss academics-in-general.

  12. Haha Anon 8:13 ... I and my other philosopher friends often joke that the dead giveaway that someone is a philosopher is that s/he names her/his speech acts before making them... i.e. "I have two questions and a comment" "I have two points to make, one of which divides into two parts", or in your case, "I have a superficial worry and a deep anxiety". Awesome tell!

  13. Anonymous 9 June 08.46

    Really quite a silly (or ideologically hidebound) comment. Even leaving aside the begged questions contained in the rest of your response, assuming 'maleness' doesn't necessarily mean ascribing gender.
    There are an awful lot of perfectly and happily functional females - often doing philosophy - whose thought processes skew very much toward male ways of reasoning. Which does not imply that they are emotionally male, or even exclusively mentally male, but that they exclude emotional (dare I say nurturant?) considerations when dealing with philosophical questions.
    If your point is about the way we attribute a gender to ways of thinking, well and good, but please be clearer. If it is not, what exactly ARE you trying to say?
    Ontologist and doting mother.

  14. 'If you notice, in every entry I say "most philosophers" not "all philosophers."'

    I'm confused by this comment. What you say is "Philosophers" ... and then your proceed to ascribe various traits. Like, all the time.

    Of course, even saying "most philosophers" would be untrue and potentially isolating and damaging to those philosophers who don't conform to the stereotype of what a "philosopher' is that you are promoting here.

    But the fact is, "most philosophers" is really not what you usually say.

  15. @Anon 3:54

    Yes, in every entry I try to say--at least once--"most philosophers." If I don't sometimes type "most" in an entry before the word "philosophers" then perhaps I just assume my audience is intelligent enough to understand that I mean this. I don't think it is at all potentially damaging or insulting.

    Once again, I'm going to remind you that this is what anthropologists do, and I am approaching this blog from the standpoint of an anthropologist; reporting what I see everyday (I am around a significant number of different types of philosophers every day).

    I really don't understand why this is such a big problem for you, unless you are of the type who doesn't like to be categorized. Let me tell you something: You are a human being and human beings form in- and out-groups. In- and out-groups exhibit like characteristics.

    Philosophers are one type of in-group. As much as you--as a human being--try to pretend that you do not take on the characteristics of any in-groups, you do anyway. Seriously, this goes back to evolution. Would it be helpful for me to include some links to some social and behavioral science articles? Biological anthropology articles?

    You are not a completely unique individual. You are not a unique snowflake. Neither am I. Neither are the billions of other people in the world.

    And as for the comment that most philosophers are not the way that I portray them, I think you are also very confused here. I don't know where you are getting this observation. This blog would not have been successful if I had not been so accurate.

  16. strangely accurate as always. coffee description realy fits. I would like a post on relations between philosophers and people form specific areas, such as a creative designer (since it is my case). thank you for this blog

  17. @3:54

    'Dogs have four legs.' True
    'All dogs have four legs.' False

    'Dogs have four legs' does not mean the same thing as 'All dogs have four legs'.

    Substitute your favorite subjects and predicates (try 'philosophers'), draw the obvious conclusion, and cut Katie some slack on the rest.

  18. @Rebecca And possibly that they call them speech-acts? :)

    Also, I hope "coffee maker" means "French press" or "stove-top espresso maker" and not "drip coffee machine". ;)

  19. My philosopher loves Magic: The Gathering cards. He's usually quite happy if I get him a pack or two, especially if he bust a particularly good card.