George Carlin Flawlessly Combines Comedy With Philosophy: The 10 Commandments

by James Gray

George Carlin is the greatest comedian of our time. He flawlessly combines philosophy, insight, and comedy. This is a huge achievement. Bill Hicks is the only other philosopher-comedian that even comes close to combining great comedy with decent philosophy, but very few comedians even try.

Below is an example of Carlin’s greatness, his “10 Commandments” skit.

Guest Contributor James Gray has an MA in philosophy, manages the Ethical Realism blog, and is the founder of the Philosophy Campaign.

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://thinkingdoesnthurt.blogspot.com/ David

    Doug Stanhope is another (and at least living, last I checked) although he is not as eloquent as either Hicks or Carlin in my opinion.

  • Jason

    One may also consider the work of Monty-Python – in their penchant for touching upon analytical linguistic theories etc., as well as their use of non-sequiturial farce to highlight/exaggerate logical deficiency and political obscurantism.

    Other comedians as well, Andy Kaufman, who though I personally think is one of the first genuinely post-dialectical comedians of the 20th century, who was actually aware of being-so and doing-so.

    Bruce, Carlin, Hicks, Stanhope – though each are brilliant and I love each of them – the Ribald tradition in America has a deeply Socratic tendency overall, and it is highly dialectical thus. I am personally awaiting a post-dialectical comedian with a penchant for the political to arises. A comedian who eschews the permissive foundations of the audience/performer division, and truly breaks into the political to disrupt, displace and disturb – albeit, with political panache – not this pseudo-post-dialectical Mitch Hedburg-esque bullshit.

    Still – love the fact – you appear well attuned to the enormous congruencies and subtleties of philosophy and comedy!

  • http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com James Gray

    How can a comedian break “into the political to disrupt, displace and disturb” better than Carlin? Some people hate what he has to say because it can be disturbing. I don’t think we can make people listen to anything meaningful that needs to be said. Of course, I am happy if comedians can start real change, but I think they do. I think Carlin’s comedy in particular makes people think in ways that can change things for the better.


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