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The Philosopher Games: Who would win in a knife fight between all the philosophers?

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Inspired by who would win in a knife fight between all the American Presidents, I decided to launch my own thought experiment of a similar nature, namely: who would win in a knife fight between all the major philosophers of history, both Eastern and Western. In this hypothetical duel to the death, the following factors are in play:

Unlike the United States Presidency, Philosophy has been going on for thousands of years, so instead of 44 contestants there are a whopping 89. Don’t be afraid of the numbers, for I guarantee you won’t get bored; philosophers are a very interesting bunch of people, and the most rewarding part of this post has been researching their lives and finding out how crazy they all are. This will be a wild knife fight.

Let the games begin!

  1. Thales of Miletus – Thales is the Father of Western Philosophy, arguably the Father of Science, and an undeniable badass. He would be respected by all the other philosophers without question, and thus would survive out of sheer reputation. He was a respected sage, intelligent battle tactician, shrewd business man, astrologer, and twice winner of athletic games in his home city. Thales is a definite finalist
  2. Anaximander – The student of Thales, Anaximander was the second sage of Miletus. He was a cool guy, but that’s about all we know of him. Given the lack of info except that he would follow Thales’ impeccable example, I’d but Anaximander down as a fighter.
  3. Anaxagoras – Another successor of Thales’ Milesian school, Anaxagoras gave up potential political power in order to devote himself to philosophy and science. He was also driven out of Athens for “impious” scientific beliefs. He seems like a pretty intellectual fellow who wouldn’t put up too much of a fight. I’ll put him in early casualty.
  4. Pythagoras – The early mathematician was more than a philosopher; he invented his own religious system and was an extremely successful cult leader. Legend says that he gained his secret knowledge of natural philosophy from Egyptian priests, and among the special powers gained from his knowledge was his magic voice that could convince entire crowds of people to convert to Pythagoreanism. I’m putting him with the survivalists.
  5. Xenophanes of Colophon – The only notable thing about him is he was a devoted traveler. I’ll put him in the resisters.
  6. Heraclitus of Ephasus – Known as “the Obscure” and “the Weeping Philosopher,” Heraclitus hated people and lived on his own. He was next in line for a kingship, which he first refused to take up because he was too busy gambling, and then abandoned for the sake of being a melancholic philosopher. He was a keen observer of the ebb and flow of all things, so he would be good at taking advantages of sudden changes in the battle. On the other hand, he died because he thought he could cure his dropsy by burying himself in cow shit. He would be a great fighter for one day, but he would spend the night in manure camouflage and wake up with dysentery.  Thus I think he is a fighter (he’ll take out some others) but sadly an early casualty.
  7. Parmenides of Elea – Parmenides was opposed to Heraclitus’ obsession with change and thought that all motion was an illusion. With a philosophy like this, he has no chance in a fight. He’s an early casualty, probably at the hand of Heraclitus.
  8. Zeno of Elea – Zeno agreed with Parmenides about the illusion of change, but he justified his beliefs with paradoxes that still have philosophers crying themselves to sleep at night. For his sheer power of confusion and ability to outwit every philosopher ever, he is a definite fighter.
  9. Empedocles of Agrigentum – Empedocles has a lot going for him. First of all, he is Sicilian, which means ties to the mob and a stocky, robust physique. Also, he claimed (and was confirmed) to have extraordinary powers such as the ability to ward off evil, control thunderstorms, cure diseases, and avert danger. Despite this mystical side, he was extremely practical and was the first to propose the four elements (earth, wind, fire, water), making him one of the first theoretical chemists. He died by throwing himself into a volcano to prove to his followers that he was immortal. I’m putting him in either survivalist or finalist.
  10. Democritus – Democritus was the inheritor of a large wealth and used it to travel the world, collecting experiences. He was mild-mannered and studious, but had a habit of laughing at others when he disagreed with them (which was often). Plato despised him, as did others. Plus, he was blind (he plucked out his own eyes for the sake of science). This guy is a definite early death
  11. Gorgias – Gorgias was a prominent sophist and contemporary of Socrates. In Plato’s dialog of his name, he is depicted as a soft-spoken and unforceful old guy. His special skills include (and are limited to) being a nihilist and being able to speak effectively on any subject. Combine his golden tonge with his presumably nihilistic attitude to life, I’d put him among the fighters, but he won’t survive long. 
  12. Socrates – What a badass. This guy is a definite finalist. Besides being a wild interrogator with a razor sharp mind, he was a veteran of the Athenian army, saved the life of his friend Alcibiades, would march through the snow barefoot without flinching, and was known for never retreating from battle. He died by drinking down a goblet of hemlock as his friends begged him not to. Cold. He was also presumably gifted with the voice of an inner daimon which would warn him against stupid actions. Perfect mind-over-matter control, no fear of death, and an inner tactical control? This guy is going far.
  13. Plato – Honestly, as much as I love Plato, there’s not much going for him except that Socrates would fight alongside him the whole time, as would a bunch of later philosophers who were influenced by him. He’ll survive (not thrive per se) for a while, so I’ll put him with the survivalists.
  14. Aristotle – Compared to Plato, Aristotle’s philosophy demonstrates a cool, empirical, practical, and utterly realistic (as far as he knew) depiction of the universe. Everything about his writings make him sound like a more robust person than Plato and most others. Plus, like Plato, he’d have a whole possy of later philosophers to back him up. He’s not a whirling dervish of potential violence like Thales or Empedocles, but I’d put him with the survivalists for his level-headed thinking.
  15. Epicurus – This guy has no chance. His “well-known” philosophy of epicureanism is actually largely unknown. Rather than imply satin couches and harems of palm-fanning sex goddesses, his “philosophy of pleasure” demanded that his followers avoid all pain by sitting in a garden and twiddling their thumbs. He’s without a doubt an early casualty.
  16. Confucius – This venerable and wizened sage single-handedly steered Chinese civilization for many centuries. He was an amazing diplomat and lawmaker, and probably one of the most respectable and upright people ever. I doubt he would fight for any reason other than self-defense, but he’s also the last guy in the world that anyone would want to kill. He’s a resister, but maybe a long-lasting one.
  17. Sun Tzu – The author of The Art of War is a definite finalist. The King of Wu wanted to know how good of a general he was, so he asked Tzu to train his harem of 100 girls into soldiers. Tzu complied, and put the king’s two favorite girls at the head as commanders. He gave the harem an order to about-face, but the girls giggled. To teach them a lesson, he immediately beheaded the two favorite harem girls. Afterwards, the harem performed all formations perfectly.
  18. Siddhārtha Gautama BuddhaThe compassionate Buddha is a difficult case. On one hand he has incredible self-control and unprecedented mind-over-matter powers. On the other hand he would not participate in the violence. I think he would go off and meditate, and would somehow transcend the battle such as to survive for a long time. He invents a new category of transcend the battle. He doesn’t die, doesn’t count toward the final contest, and in the end has nothing to do with the knife fight.
  19. John the Evangelist – Writer of one of the Gospels, John is more theologian than philosopher, but he is in some sense the founder of Neoplatonism within the Christian framework. Consider: Jesus promised he wouldn’t die of martyrdom, he was best friends with the Virgin Mary, and he was a huge mystic, so he joins Buddha in the transcend the battle category.
  20. Marcus Aurelius – The Warrior-Philosopher-King, can we doubt that Marcus Aurelius is a finalist? He is stoic (literally), battle-trained, a great strategist, prudent, courageous, reasonable… what more could you want? He was also a persecutor of Christians, so he would make short work of many of the Saint philosophers.
  21. Plotinus – Plotinus suffers from the Neoplatonic disadvantage of not putting trust in the material world. Such being the case, he would not do well in the visceral reality of a knife fight. On the other hand, he tried to start a colony of thinkers called the Philosopher City (which was ultimately unsuccessful), so maybe he would make some early alliances and get other Greeks and Platonists on his side. I think Plotinus is a resister.
  22. Origen – This guy is a Church Father and a heretic – fun stuff. So maybe he’s got the Platonists on his side, but the Romans want him dead and the Christians are non-committal about defending him. Legend says he castrated himself, so that’s another mark against him (after all, how can you face down the chutzpah of Socrates when you have no – eherm – corhones)? He’s an early casualty.
  23. St. Jerome – Speaking of chutzpah, this curmudgeony old monk had almost too much of it. He was known for his fire-and-brimstone fear of hell, scathing criticisms of his intellectual opponents, and rigid asceticism. Being a Christian, it’s not clear if he would engage in the violence. But if its a matter of mere survival, this guy is a wiry little bugger. He’s a fighter, even if he doesn’t kill anyone.
  24. Lucretius – The only things known about Lucretius are from his writings: that he was an atheist (in a manner of speaking) and an Epicurean (although perhaps not of the thumb-twiddling variety); and from legend, that he drank a love potion, went mad, and eventually committed suicide. Lustful rage and insanity can be powerful tools of violence, so I’ll put him with the fighters.
  25. St. Ambrose – A great saint and bishop, but not a fighter. He would fight all the non-Christian philosophers with fervor, but with words. He’s an early casualty, which he would welcome as a “crown of martyrdom.”
  26. St. Augustine – This guy has a fire in him. If he chose to fight, all his sexual energy channeled by self-discipline and asceticism would turn into a swift fury. However, he would have strongly condemned such fighting and would have been put to death by Marcus Aurelius. He’s a resister (and martyr).
  27. Boethius – Although his middle name is MANLINESS (alright, it’s Manlius, same difference), he’s an undoubted early casualty. He was imprisoned and eventually executed by King Theodoric, who suspected him of treason. The upshot is he’s the author of The Consolation of Philosophy, so he would die a peaceful death.
  28. Avicenna – This Muslim philosopher had a photographic memory. Also, when locked in a fortress by an enemy emir, he escaped in disguise. He also heavily encouraged physical exercise in his medical writings, so one would suspect he was in good physical condition. I have no idea if he would kill anyone. I’ll say he’s between resister and fighter.
  29. St. Anselm – The founder of scholasticism and the formulator of the infamous ontological argument for the existence of God. On one hand he was a very contemplative monk and bishop. On the other hand he had to endure a lot of political strife, including exile on two occasions. I’ll say he is a resister.
  30. Abelard – This guy is a firecracker. He got a tutorship in the house of the canon Fulbert so that he could seduce the man’s daughter Heloise. He got the girl pregnant, took her away so she could give birth secretly, and then was caught, castrated, and forced into a monastery. He’s a fighter.
  31. Averroes – Averroes is in the camp of Aristotle, so he’ll get Aquinas’ help but his fellow Muslims will probably let him die. Not really remarkable beyond his communication of Aristotilean writings to medieval Europe, Averroes is an early casualty or resister, the meat shield of Aristotle’s army
  32. Al-Ghazali – This fiery whirling dervish of Islam (almost literally) was a fierce opponent of Muslim Neoplatonism and Aristotileanism. He advocated ardent faith over Averroes’ rationalism. He was also a mystic and ascetic. I think Al-Ghazali is a very effective fighter. He’ll hunt down the Greeks, Scholastics, Modern Rationalists, and even his own Muslim brothers. His kill count might be high.
  33. Maimonides – Possibly the greatest Jewish philosopher. I like the guy, but I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t die the first round. Early death it is.
  34. St. Thomas Aquinas – Aquinas is the saintliest of the saint philosophers. He has such a quiet, sweet, humble, charitable disposition that none of the compassionate people would dare touch him, but bullies like Nietzsche would figure the fat man is an easy target. He might levitate in battle as he engages in one-on-one conversations with God, and he might have a whole army of guardian angels at his disposal. All the Catholic philosophers would defend him to the death, and all the moderns would attack him once the other scholastics were dead. Also, even though he would not kill, Aquinas was the proposer of the Just War Theory. I think he would be an effective resister, even if he is too fat to have any athletic prowess.
  35. Roger Bacon – A scholastic, Franciscan, and early proponent of the scientific method. He’s an unremarkable early death.
  36. John Duns Scotus – A scholastic genius, but really not much more suited for a knife fight than Roger Bacon. Legend has it that he was buried alive because his servants didn’t know about his extreme susceptibility to comas. He’s a resister only because he’ll go into a coma, be thought dead for one round, and consequently be left alone for a while.
  37. William of Ockham – Another Franciscan scholastic, except this guy was considered by some to be a heretic. He was a bit of a coward, so I think he’d die early.
  38. St. Bonaventure – Possibly the greatest Franciscan philosopher. Bonaventure was a very pious man who was known to go into religious ecstasy when in prayer. He devoted himself to bridging the relationship between faith and reason. I’m guessing he would adamantly refuse to fight and would be put to death fairly early on.
  39. Niccolo Machiavelli – This guy is known for being a cold-hearted pragmatist, and it’s not entirely without cause. Even apart from his political work The Prince, he was a distrustful military man and was put in charge of the Florentine militia. When Florence was defeated, he was tortured for a confession of treason, which he refused to give. To the guy to whom the end always justifies the means, I say he will survive
  40. St. Thomas More – A saint, a politician, a man of letters. Not a fighter. However, this man had an iron will and a very strong conscience. He spent the latter part of his life in prison for refusing to accept King Henry VIII’s divorce of his wife. He would have resisted the fighting adamantly.
  41. Erasmus – Probably not a natural athlete, but this guy was a very difficult adversary for his opponents (mostly Martin Luther). He liked to use battle imagery in his theology. I think he’s a fighter if under pressure.
  42. John Calvin – The father of the Dutch Reformed intellectual strain has to be mentioned. His theological beliefs like predestination and total depravity are heavy with philosophical implications. I think Calvin would be fine with putting to death people he deems to be non-elect, like when he denounced Spanish heretic Michael Servetus and got him executed. He’s a fighter.
  43. Copernicus – This astronomer was mild-mannered and cowardly. He’s an early casualty
  44. Tycho Brahe – This guy is a personal favorite and the oddball finalist in my book. He is just too odd to not survive. He had a pet elk, which died after drinking too much beer at one of his many crazy house parties. He owned a psychic dwarf (as in, yes, a very short person who could presumably read minds) named Jepp who he would have sit under his dinner table and make oracular predictions. He lost his nose in a duel and replaced it with a silver-and-gold prosthetic. He was possibly the inspiration of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He owned 1% of all the wealth in Denmark. He had a massive orange man-stache. He named two craters after himself, one on Mars and one on the Moon. He was possibly poisoned to death by rival astronomer Kepler. The other theory is he tried to hold his bladder for too long at a party and died of kidney failure. The other theory is he was poisoned by the King because he had an affair with the Queen once upon a time. This guy is such an oddball that he can’t not survive. Granted, he is more scientist than philosopher, but he is from the era when “natural philosophy” was still vaguely a branch of philosophy.
  45. Francis Bacon – Interesting fellow. Father of empiricism. Possibly a pedophile. Possibly an occultist, Rosicrucian, or Freemason. Legend has it that he faked his own death so that he could travel Europe incognito and spread occult doctrines. Running with the conspiracy theories, I’m going to say that Bacon is skilled at cloak-and-dagger secret-agent style fighting, so he’s a survivalist.
  46. Galileo – This guy was very provocative and took his fight all the way to the Pope. He’s a belligerent fighter.
  47. Kepler – Assuming he poisoned Tycho Brahe, yet considering his very sedentary nature, I’m going to say he is a resister.
  48. Hobbes – He thought men were essentially self-interested and only formed contracts for the sake of mutual self-preservation. I think he would be quick to form alliances, but would eventually start killing people. I’ll put him with the survivalists.
  49. Descartes – The Father of Modern Philosophy. I cannot help but think he would be an early casualty. He’s not athletic, not menacing, and very distrustful of his senses. Sure, he’s got some guys who would side with him because of his contributions to rationalism, but there’s just as many people (if not more) who would want him dead.
  50. Pascal – Enter the Two-Face of Christianity. Flip a coin, heads or tails. Heads, you believe in God. Tails, you don’t. If heads, you’ve gained the world, because you have gained God. If tails, you are back to where you started and you haven’t lost anything. Oh, and you have to participate in the wager, because if you don’t… well…. Pascal has a knife that he’s eager to use. So what’s it going to be? Feeling lucky, punk? (ADDITIONAL FACTS: Pascal was a Jansenist, which is a movement in Catholicism that especially emphasized human depravity and predestination  He was what many modern people would consider a religious fanatic. He is a fighter).
  51. Baruch Spinoza – This man is an early death. Consider: (1) He was a fairly reserved individual, (2) his ideas got him ostracized from the Jewish community, (3) he also managed to anger the Calvinists, and the Catholic Church later banned his books, (4) he spent most of his time indoors, living a quiet life as a lens-grinder, and (5) eventually died of lung failure from all the glass particles he inhaled over the years. Sickly, lonely, and hunted.
  52. John Locke – The Father of Classical Liberalism, Locke would be well-respected by all empiricists and American philosophers. He was suspected of involvement in political plots and was driven out of England. None of these suspicions were ever confirmed, but given the influence of his writings on the Fathers of the American Revolution, I like to imagine Locke bounding through Virginian hills with a coonskin hat and musket to take it to the redcoat. He was also a very ambitious, diplomatic  practical, and a keen observer. His personal correspondence suggests that he was a slightly paranoid individual. I think he is a fighter, maybe even a survivalist.
  53. Isaac Newton – Newton would use his knowledge of projectile motion to lob his knife right at Leibniz’s face, since the two were engaged in a heated debate about which of them invented calculus. With his difficult and complex personality, and all that toxic mercury in his brain from his alchemy experiments, Newton might either flip out in violent rage or just sit there and take it. He’s either an early death or  a fighter – time will tell.
  54. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz – The guy was a little naive with his bizzare theory that God had made the best possible universe (sin included) in which everything was predetermined and each individual was stuck in their own little monad wherein God had already programmed what they were to see. On one hand he might survive a moment in the ring because of his huge optimism (after all, this knife fight is just a program that God has predetermined him to be in). And he’ll go straight for Isaac Newton’s jugular. On the other hand this guy will be eaten by the less naive philosophers. I’d say he’s a weak resister.
  55. George Berkeley – He’s a pretty hard-core immaterialist (nothing exists outside the mind). That alone makes him an early death.
  56. Voltaire – François-Marie Arouet, better known by his mysterious name “Voltaire,” was a bit of a Count of Monte Cristo. After being attacked by the servants of a French nobleman, he went to seek a duel with the nobleman, but was imprisoned in the Bastille by a  lettre de cachet (a penal decree to get rid of political troublemakers). He got out of prison on the condition that he exile to England. Eventually he returned to France and built a cool batman-style manor, from which he executed his philosophical vendettas with more tact. Running with the Count of Monte Cristo theme, I’m going to say he is a survivalist. He’ll hide away from the battle, but every once and a while someone will find a dagger in their back.
  57. Hume – Hume was a very worldly man. I suspect he would gain allies by offering them scotch. He was a stolid figure, a bit of a curmudgeon as I understand, and pretty fat. I think he would give it the ol’ English try, but I think he would be an early death among the resisters.
  58. Jean-Jacques Rousseau – The guy is such a romantic, but less in the dragon-fighting Chesterton way and more in the hopeless French fashion. I think he would enjoy the first round of the knife fight because he would fancy it like something out of a fairy-tale, but he would eventually have to wake up to reality. He was also a bit of a cuckold to the Mmsl. de Warens. He seems like a really sincere guy who wanted to fix things but always ended up making enemies in the process. I think he is a resister.
  59. Denis Diderot – Another sincere guy and friend of Rousseau. The two are destined to die together. He’s a resister.
  60. Immanuel Kant – This dry rationalist had a great influence on later philosophers, so he would have a good possy alongside Plato and Aristotle. Legend has it that he was ridiculously predictable, so much so that neighbors would set their clocks based on his evening walks. Kant is like the stiff army commander in the movies who dies immediately, and like the commander the main thing he has going for him is the army at his back. Also, his categorical imperatives would (if interpreted literally) prevent him from killing anyone ever, so he would never fight. Just because of the other philosophers who would initially defend him, I’ll call him a resister.
  61. Jeremy Bentham – The first utilitarian and a radical proponent for liberal rights for all people. He is part of the Utilitarian Trinity, all of whom are fighters.
  62. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel – The guy is an idealist and historicist, which means he’ll have a strong grasp of psychology. He’ll be able to pinpoint the ways in which his opponents are constructing their own reality within the battlefield, and he’ll figure out their underlying assumptions to exploit them. His recognition of the selfishness of humanity would prevent him from being caught off-guard by the eventual killing, and would predispose him to use his knife himself. I think he’s a strong fighter
  63. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Goethe had a more or less tame personality. He was a real gentleman and a likable figure. However, he self-described his own genius as that he always saw everyone and everything objectively without any personal attachment. I think Goethe will charm his friends before sticking them with a knife. He is a fighter.
  64. James Mill – The second member of the Utilitarian Trinity. He not as remarkable as his son John Stewart Mill, but they fight as a family unit.
  65. Schopenhaur – This guy is pretty darn spiteful, has mommy issues, worships his own willpower, and combines Buddhism and Christianity into a strange egocentric, theosophic atheism. He has a very robust constitution. He hates academia.  He is a eugenicist. He hates most women. My guess is Schopenhaur will kill a lot of people. And he really hates Hegel (dare I say out of jealousy), so we know he’ll have at least one kill. I think Schopenhaur is a definite survivalist.
  66. Auguste Comte – I think the guy would be willing to kill. I think he might fight the ancient and medieval philosophers with glee, in the name of positivism. He would also tag along with the Utilitarian Trinity, but I don’t think he would last as long. Thus I’ll call him a resister.
  67. John Stewart Mill – The third member of the Utilitarian Trinity. You can count on him and his fellow utilitarians to fight for liberal freedom to the end and stick it to the man. They’re all shrewd economists, which lends them a pragmatic leg up.
  68. Soren Kierkegaard – He’s a little too melancholic for the battlefield, and his extreme existentialism isolates him from all the other philosophers (socially as well as philosophically). However, I think Kierkegaard’s incredible faith and deep respect for what he calls “Knights of Faith” would lead him to sacrifice his life for one of the saintlier philosophers like Augustine or Chesterton. He’s a lover, not a fighter. Not good at knifing people but willing to be knifed for someone else, Kierkegaard is a resister.
  69. Henry David Thoreau – A man of simple taste, but a rugged woodsman. The dirty yankee Thoreau would run into the woods as soon as the killing starts, and live off the land. He would use the ruggedness of the wilderness to train himself for the upcoming ultimatum, before emerging from the forest as a weather-worn wildman. He will survive to the final rounds for sure. At night the Greeks will be telling stories of the American nightmare whose knife never misses its mark. The question is if his woodcraft will be enough to face the final Greek fury of Socrates and Thales when he has to fight in the open.
  70. Karl Marx – Although Marx was more of a political activist than a fighter, I think his activism would go to the streets if under the pressure of survival. I really think he would go far, if only because he is a natural revolutionary. I also believe him to be perfectly capable of taking another’s life if put under enough pressure. Watch out, capitalists (I’m looking at you, Smith), this guy is a survivalist.
  71. Adam Smith – What an early casualty! Poor proto-capitalist Smith was a bit of an airhead, a daydreamer to the extreme, a poor conversationalist, would talk to himself and his imaginary friends, and would fall into bouts of placebo illness. Poor Smith.
  72. Freidrich Nietzsche – This man will kill anyone. AnyoneHe honestly thinks he is a prophet of violence and the model of human excellence. He will immediately set to work knifing down anyone in his way, especially Jews. There is no chance he won’t be among the survivalists, but the question is if he is good enough to be a finalist. For all his angst, he is mentally unbalanced, hates animal cruelty (so it’s unclear how he would actually do in a battle), and has a sickly constitution. It remains to be decided how far Nietzsche will go. He’s certainly a contender.
  73. G. K. Chesterton – Fat and jolly, almost childlike, Chesterton has the advantage of being underestimated. He is also quite possibly the most romantic, patriotic, heroism-inclined philosopher in history. He would not do well on the battlefield athletically, but he would put up an unbelievable fight in the name of Beauty and Love. He would rush into battle against all the moderns at once, and they would be so caught off guard that at first they would not know how to combat him. Eventually they would ignore him, but he would fight on. Chesterton is the most honorable definition of a fighter, even if he has no chance of surviving in the final rounds.  
  74. Bertrand Russell – I think Russell will die very early on. He’s a stern pacifist, which implies that he would be a resister. He was also a very dry, unflexible, and frail person. Early casualty I think. Solving logic problems won’t save him from a heart-hungry dagger.
  75. G. E. Moore – I think he’s the fighting version of Bertrand Russel. He’s a more flexible thinker, as well as a more flexible moralist. He’ll start killing once Russell falls, and then he’ll join the Greeks so he can be near his analytic hero Thales. He’s a resister or fighter, depending on how well he fights with the Greeks.
  76. Ludwig Wittgenstein – This guy is a bit of a loose cannon. He had a very strong suicide tendency (it runs in the family – all his brothers killed themselves). He was a bit harsh and violent. He was a haggard melancholic. He worked in an army hospital in World War II, and was decorated for heroism in World War I. He’s off doing his own thing, both socially and philosophically. This guy is the gritty G. I. Joe of philosophy, and I think he’ll see the finals.
  77. Martin Heidegger – His existential and phenomenological awareness of being in time might help him in the battlefield as long as he doesn’t overthink it. This guy is an existential warrior and a Nazi (literally). He’ll fight, maybe alongside Nietzsche. 
  78. Edmund Husserl – The Nazi’s are going to attack him because he’s Jewish. I like the guy, but I don’t see why he shouldn’t die earlyish.
  79. Edith Stein (St. Teresia Benedicta of the Cross) – A more modern Catholic philosopher, a student of Husserl and a coworker of Heidegger. Also the only woman in the bunch. Also Jewish. Also lived through the Nazi oppression of Poland (she died in a concentration camp). Stein was a strong, strong woman with a large personality. The fact that she was a woman would mean all the Greeks would want to kill her, and everyone else would refuse to touch her (except the Nazis). I think she is a fighter at least, and maybe a survivalist. Then again, she would not kill anyone. Her fate is really up for grabs.
  80. C. S. Lewis – Some people might not like his inclusion on this list, but for better or worse Lewis is an influential philosopher within the Christian world. He wrote penetratingly and poetically on issues of epistemology, metaphysics, anthropology, and theology. He’s an English gentleman, so I can’t see him do much more than resist, although not without a cry of LONG LIVE ASLAN!
  81. Jean-Paul Sartre – Arguably the first self-proclaimed existentialist. A Marxist, activist, feminist, and anti-Nazi. He’ll make enemies with anyone he deems to be an oppressor. He’ll also join up with Kierkegaard. He’s also accustomed to battle, since he was drafted by the French army and captured by the Germans. He’s a fighter.
  82. Albert Camus – He would join up with the existentialists, even though he rejected an official affiliation with them and is more strictly an absurdist. I think he’d be caught between his absurdism, which might allow him to take a human life more easily, and his existential crises, which might prevent him from being an effective soldier. So, I think he’d be a resister.
  83. Derrida – Not to deride Derrida, but it’s not clear if this guy believes in anything. I don’t think he is at all violent in his personal life, but under the pressure of a knife his deconstructionism might lead him to be unpredictable and nihilistic. I’m going to say that Derrida would easily kill other philosophers, so I’ll put him with the survivalists.
  84. C. S. Peirce – He might try to join up with Thoureau, but I doubt he’ll be able to keep up with him. He’s a pragmatist, which means he should be good for a knife fight, but his economic failure later in life questions the effectiveness of his street smarts. He’s a fighter – he’ll be an early contender, but ultimately fail to deliver. 
  85. Willard Quine – The guy was a military intelligence officer, but he’s also very academic-y and conservative. I think he’s an early casualty.
  86. Karol Wojtyla – Better known as Pope John Paul II, the man was – believe it or not – a very intelligent student of philosophy and probably the most philosophical Pope in history. Whatever your feelings toward him may be, this guy is a possible finalistHe survived several near death experiences, including whole eras of near-death under the Nazi and Communist occupations of Poland, and a Turkish bullet to his abdomen. He was a great athlete, larger-than-life personality, and world-traveler. He would not have fought, but he would have helped any non-violent or religious philosophers survive as long as possible. He can’t win the battle since he doesn’t fight, but he can make it to the last round with a smile (so by finalist I mean the last standing survivalist).
  87. Michel Focault – This guy was passionate, complex, and a natural revolutionary. He loved to philosophize about power, control, and sexuality. He was a very hard worker. I think all these characteristics spell fighter.
  88. Karl Popper – This famous philosopher of science was unfortunately not very physically robust. I’m not so sure his falsification theory will be of any practical help in a knife fight. He is an early casualty.
  89. Alasdair MacIntyr – Alright, he’s a biased choice because he teaches at my university, but he’s still one of the most influential philosophers of our day. After flirting with Kant and Hume and other such modernists, MacIntyr defected to the very unpopular and outdated camp of Aristotileanism. The guy is a Christian, so he might not fight. On the other hand he seems like a resolute sort of man, so I’ll put him in the resisters.

Well, that’s it for the pre-fight line-up and evaluation. May the best philosopher win!

Continue to the next page to read about the first round of battle. 

Round One: The Initial Bloodshed

This is by far the most chaotic and least philosophical of the rounds, mostly determined by the ability of each (wo)man’s individual philosophy to either permit murdering each other or cope with absolute chaos.

All the philosophers line up in a giant circle in the central part of the battleground, which is a great circular field. They are arranged according to their date of birth, from Thales to McIntyr in a giant clockwise circle. On every side of the field is forest. This is the venue of today’s fight.

The horn goes off signifying the start of the battle. In the first few seconds, many lives are taken in the immediate struggle. Some philosophers are quick to take lives, and others are unable to react properly to the situation.

The first one dead is Epicurus, who is sitting absently in the grass and twiddling his thumbs. Lucretius sees Empedocles bearing down on the idle epicurean, and he runs to help him out. He is too late, and in a matter of seconds Epicurus is dead. Mad with love for the dead Epicurus, he turns and punctures Boethius lung. Boethius lies in the grass and dies peacefully. Derrida sees all the bloodshed and enters a deep state of nihilism. He turns and stabs Popper.

St. Jerome tries to get St. Ambrose and Origen to flee into the wilderness. Meanwhile, Marcus Aurelius and Sun Tzu are both bearing down on the peaceful Christians. St. Ambrose makes a sign of the cross starts preaching against the violence, but is cut down my Marcus Aurelius, who hates Christians. Sun Tzu cuts down Origen before Jerome can get him out. Jerome escapes into the woods. Marcus Aurelius and Sun Tzu meet in the middle. They attack each other, but neither one is wounded. They move on to other targets.

Al-Ghazali attacks Averroes with a whirling blade. Averroes is wounded but not killed. He limps off to find shelter with Aristotle. St. Bonaventure kneels down and starts praying. Galileo runs at him, shouting and red-faced, and stabs him in the heart. Spinoza does not know what to do. He looks left and right, and then finds himself stabbed by several people at once. It’s not clear who killed him, but chances are it was Heidegger, Marx, Schopenhauer, or Calvin. Berkeley the daydreamer is killed by Pierce, who figures he might as well make the best of this open opportunity (one less opponent for him to worry about). And when Marx turns and sees poor Adam Smith muttering to himself, he cannot contain his rage. He vents his hatred for capitalism on the sniffling little Smith.

Leibniz forgets the fact that he is trapped in his own God-made monad long enough to go for Newton’s throat, with a shout of ‘I invented calculus!’ Newton freaks out and starts weeping in the middle of the battlefield, but luckily Leibniz trips over his own robe, breaks a heel, and gets his knife caught in his wig. He falls down next to Newton and can’t get up. Meanwhile, Quine the strategist tries to sneak up on Wittgenstein, but the decorated war hero is too perceptive and at the last minute turns and takes Quine out.

Confucius backs out of the battleground into the shadows of the trees to survey the battlefield. Rousseau and Diderot fight in “back-to-back mode” and slowly inch toward the woods as they fend off potential enemies. Thoreau immediately takes off into the wilderness, but not before collecting knives off corpses for later use.

Erasmus takes a while to get warmed up, but soon he starts defending himself against attacks with pedagogical screams of fury. Copernicus tries to slink away from battle to find some alone time. Erasmus thinks he is trying to sneak up on him, and promptly dispatches of the timid astronomer. C. S. Lewis runs to Chesterton, who is singing a battle hymn and swinging his knife like a broadsword to fend back his would-be enemies. Russell unsuspectingly walks right into one of Chesterton’s swings and dies. His friend G. E. Moore sees this happen and becomes infuriated. Hume, meanwhile, calms his terrorized nerves when he sees the strong presence of Locke crossing the battlefield like Washington across the Delaware. He huffs over to Locke and tries to get the man’s attention long enough to offer him a sip of brandy and a truce. Locke is distracted by fending off Kant and Hegel.

Francis Bacon goes to join his ancestor Roger Bacon, but Machiavelli pops up and kills the older Bacon and flees into the woods. William of Ockham runs from battle wetting his pants, and practically runs right into Machiavelli’s blade. John Duns Scotus faints, goes into a coma, and is left for dead. Nietzsche runs across the battlefield. He spots Maimonides, recognizes him for a Jew, and kills him. Pope John Paul II gets Stein and Husserl off the battlefield in order to keep them away for Nietzsche, Heidegger, Schopenhauer, Calvin, or any other potential Jew killer.

Pascal and Descartes back up toward the woods. Pascal sees Descartes and pulls out his coin. ‘Which way will you wager?’ he asks. ‘I do not wager. I only rely on what I can know clearly and distinctly,’ said Descartes. ‘Tell me,’ says Pascal as his knife goes into Descartes‘ abdomen, ‘is this clear and distinct enough for you?’

The two Mills and Bentham immediately huddle together and form a trio of Utilitarians. Comte joins them. They have safety in numbers and are not attacked.

McIntyr runs around the perimeter of the battlefield, calmly looking for Aristotle.

As the initial violence begins to register with people, a few small groups begin to form. Socrates immediately pulls Plato and Aristotle out of the fray into the forest and begins to question them about the best way to survive the battle virtuously. The surviving scholastics begin to gravitate toward Aquinas, who has remained untouched so far. Thales stands unafraid in the Greek quarter and rallies Anaximander, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Democritus, and Anaxagoras to him. Parmenides, Zeno, and Gorgias try to join Thales, but Heraclitus won’t let them and kills his enemy Parmenides. Zeno retaliates, and ends up stabbing Democritus. Zeno gets out before Thales can kill him, and joins up with Gorgias, who is the only Greek left without an alliance other than the creepy Pythagoras and Empedocles, who seem to be drawing magical symbols in the dirt.

Thales orders his possy to attack the cultists Pythagoras and Empedocles. Anaxagoras is eager to please Thales and jumps forward to attack, but he is hypnotized into submission by Empedocles and sacrificed to the gods by Pythagoras. Thales’ possy is intimidated, so they back away despite Thales’ insistent orders to charge.

Somewhere in all the chaos John the Evangelist levitated off into the sunset. Buddha was last seen gliding toward the forest before he disappeared in a flash of nirvana.

End Round 1.

Round Two: The Alliances

This round is where men take sides and begin to think more rationally about their own survival. This is also when the most men die. 

The German Camp.

John Duns Scotus’ eyes slowly adjust to the pleasant light of a campfire. Where was he? Oh Lord Jesus, he must have fallen into a coma again! Yet, here he was, alive! He lifts his head and looks around the fire. ‘Look, the monk lives,” says a pleasant voice to his right. He turns; it is Goethe who has spoken.

‘How unfortunate,’ says Schopenhauer to his left. ‘This small soul will soon wish he was never born.’

‘Now now, look here,’ insists Kant from somewhere in the dark, ‘it is categorically wrong to even joke in such a manner.’

‘Shut up, Kant,’ yells Hegel from somewhere nearby. ‘Everyone is tired of your dry moralism. If only you knew how tied you are to history, how conditioned by the outdated moralisms of medieval men like this monk.’

‘I can’t believe Newton chipped my manicure,’ says Leibniz to himself.

‘Brothers,’ says Heidegger, ‘allowing this monk to face and fear death is the greatest favor we can do him, for it frees him from the anxiety of death and allows him to live life.’

Husserl, always the champion of his student’s work, chimes in: ‘Yes, it is only when we consider existence and Being in a purer…”

‘Hey,’ interjects Schopenhauer, ‘aren’t you a Jew?’

‘I am a Lutheran. Yes, I was born Jewish. Heidegger, talk some sense into these men!’

Heidegger looks at his feet in embarrassment and hides the swastika pin on his tweed jacket.

‘If we are to usher in the era of the Overman,’ declares Nietzsche with all the fervor of a prophet, ‘we must pass on from Judeo-Christian illusion and leave such human-all-to-human darkness behind us!’ He raises his dagger first at Scotus, then at Husserl.

‘Thou shalt not kill!’ cries Kant in protestation.

‘I shalt kill you!’ cries Hegel with glee.

‘Oh God!’ cries Scotus with worry.

‘Thus speaks Zarathustra,” Nietzsche whispers in Scotus’ ear, ‘God is dead, and so are you.’

There is a scurry of motion and several screams, but then it is all over. Kant is dead, with Hegel’s knife in his face. John Duns Scotus is dead with Nietzsche’s knife in his ribs. And poor Husserl is dead with no knife in him. Did Schopenhauer the anti-semite killed him? Or was it his student Heidegger, a man eager to please the status quo to save his neck? Whatever happened, Heidegger responds to it by weeping in a corner, either out of guilt or mourning.

The Woodsmen.

Meanwhile, Peirce is running through the woods frantically, trying to track down the elusive Thoreau in order to gain an ally. The silent and camouflaged figure of Wittgenstein stalks behind him like Rambo. Peirce stops at a muddy footprint, clearly Thoreau’s, oblivious to his tail. Nearby, he finds Lewis gasping in the grass with a dagger in his back. Obviously the work of Thoreau. The woodsman must be nearby!. Peirce finishes Lewis off.

 

The Politicos.

Somewhere to the South in stinking marsh, the Revolutionaries trudge through mud. Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Marx, Derrida, and Focault keep their eyes suspiciously trained in every direction.

‘Rousseau, Diderot, scout ahead,’ Voltaire orders.

The two friends eagerly run off in the name of the Revolution. ‘Isn’t this quite the adventure?’ says Rousseau with a gleam in his eye. ‘ ‘Do not be too optimistic,’ warns Diderot. ‘We are alone in this battleground, and the material forces of the universe hold more sway than our ideals.’

Sure enough, the materialistic Utilitarians come out of the trees and surround them. John Stewart Mill, his father James, his predecessor Bentham, and the tag-alongs Comte and Hobbes emerge from the trees with knives glinting with what sunlight makes it through the upper canopy of the forest.

Comte spits in their direction. ‘Scum of the French Revolution!’

‘Calm down, Comte,’ says Hobbes. ‘It is more in our interest to offer them our friendship.’

‘We shall never surrender an inch!’ cries Rousseau in a voice heavy with melodrama.

‘You believe in progress,’ says Diderot to Comte in a sad, melancholic tone. ‘You shall see where your progress takes you. The age of science will fall, and all your positivism will fall around you. Your progress will fail you!’

‘That’s enough,’ screams Comte, and he lunges at Diderot. The two grapple for a moment and then both fall back with each others’ knives protruding from their bellies. Rousseau throws himself on Diderot’s body only to be cut down by Hobbes.

The Dynasty.

A strange group gathers at the foot of the mountains to the north. Confucius stands before Sun Tzu in tranquil reverie, and opposite to them stands Machiavelli before Marcus Aurelius and Lucretius. Confucius advocates virtue and balance in the fight, to which Marcus Aurelius gives his royal support. Machiavelli argues that their band track down any stragglers, and then start raiding the other parties at night. Sun Tzu is highly in favor of Machiavelli’s strategy.

‘There is as much to be gained from virtue as from cleverness in warfare,’ says Marcus Aurelius.

‘Tell me, Confucius,’ says Machiavelli, ‘you would wait for a peace meeting to take place before you would engage in open warfare?’

‘Yes, young grasshopper.’

‘Well, let us test this theory right now. You and I disagree. Let us have a peace meeting to resolve our disagreements.’

Confucius and Machiavelli walk toward each other. Machiavelli bows his head in friendship. Confucius makes a sweeping bow in return. As soon as he can see the old sage’s back, Machiavelli plunges his knife into it. He stands up, triumphant as Confucius crumples to the grass.

‘As you can see,’ he smiles, ‘diplomacy is not foolproof.’

Marcus Aurelius grows thoughtful and Sun Tzu spurs his mount forward in eagerness for Machiavelli’s plan.

 

The Empiricists and Natural Scientists.

Somewhere in the deep of the woods, two groups meet and exchange cordial greetings. Tycho Brahe steps forward with an air of extreme self-importance and introduces the members of his new-found company: Kepler, Galileo, and Newton. Francis Bacon comes forward and shakes Brahe’s hand eagerly before introducing him to his leader Locke and fellow empiricist Hume.

‘I am sure we can come to some agreeable constitution to establish our two companies as equal and free partners in this fight for life and liberty,’ says Locke with imperial imperviousness.

‘Yes, my horoscope said that I would make new friends today,’ Brahe notes amiably.

‘I have a condition,’ cries Galileo, ‘before any further agreements can be made!’

‘What condition is that, respected Galileo?’ asks Newton, who is gradually awakening from the shock of Leibniz’s earlier attack.

‘If we are to join together,’ we must attack the Catholics. Surely they have banded together by now, and with their vast numbers they will soon overpower human knowledge and scientific inquiry. They must be stopped!’

‘Agreed. We shall attack the Catholics,’ says Bacon, who is a secret Freemason.

Hume holds forth a snifter. ‘Brandy, anyone?’

‘Don’t mind if I do!’ Tycho’s arm shoots out for the glass.

‘Let me examine that,’ says Kepler. He takes the glass and quietly slips a drop of poison in it. ‘Smells like a quality vintage,’ he says as he hands it back to Tycho. (‘Now I will rule the scientists,’ he thinks to himself.)

Tycho is about to drink from the poisoned brandy when a three-foot man emerges from under his robes. ‘Don’t drink the brandy,’ says the midget. ‘It’s poisoned by Kepler!’

‘Whaaat!?’ Spittle showers forth from Tycho’s walrus mustache  ‘Kepplllerrr!?!?’ He draws forth his knife like a dueling sword and stands before his rival. ‘Have you anything to say for yourself, you rapscallion!?’

At the sight of the challenge, Kepler runs into the woods. And he runs right into Pascal.

‘Feeling lucky, punk? Heads or tails.’

End Kepler.

 

The Muslims.

Al-Ghazali paces before Averroes and Avicenna, knife bared threateningly.

‘I know in the past you two have been blasphemous toward the great Allah and Muhammad his beloved prophet. I am willing to overlook your past transgressions if you will join me now.’

Avicenna bows his head meekly toward the ground. He knows that his best chance for survival is with Al-Ghazali.

Averroes, however, takes off in terror, determined to find and take shelter with Aristotle.

Al-Ghazali takes off in pursuit. The athletic Avicenna jogs easily behind him.

The Existentialists.

Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Camus are sitting alone in the woods. Sartre and Camus are trying to dissuade Kierkegaard, who wants to abandon the fight and seek out the Christians so he can find what he calls a ‘knight of faith’ so he can learn from them the proper response of resignation and faith in a battle. Sartre and Camus are atheists, so they obviously think this whole dilemma is silly. ‘Yes, you are right that man must become a Saint,’ says Camus, ‘but the tragedy is that you can only become a Saint if God exists, and he does not exist, so you cannot become a Saint.’

Kierkegaard will not believe them but instead resigns himself to be alone (*sigh* ‘If only Dostoyevsky were part of this fight. He’d back me up’). He leaves them and sets out to find the Christians. Camus and Sartre roll their eyes and decide to follow him.

The Greeks.

Meanwhile, the Greeks have found each other and are quarreling viciously amongst themselves. Three teams stand in opposition: Socrates with Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, and the newly-joined McIntyr; Thales with his possy and the newly-joined Moore; and Pythagoras and Empedocles with Gorgias and Zeno.

To make a long story short, the three armies clash. Plotinus’ dream of building a New Republic of Philosophy is crushed, as is his skull, by Empedocles, who is known for overthrowing governments. McIntyr and Moore clash, and McIntyr loses (as he dies, he mutters to himself that Moore has no true virtue, has won unfairly, and that this proves the flimsiness of Moore’s post-Christian ethic).  Xenophanes, being an enemy of Greek cults, tries to attack Pythagoras. The geomancer luckily had enough time to prepare a time-teleportation spell, which he uses to travel back in time to a previous human incarnation of a tree that stands between him Xenophanes, convincing this previous incarnation to attack Xenophanes in the future (all the others see is Pythagoras mutter to himself and a nearby tree open up to swallow Xenophanes). Gorgias, who is goading on Plato, is cut down by Socrates (but only after a debate between the two, which Plato transcribes faithfully in dialogue format).

The Christians.

The Christian camp is large. They have erected a cross in the middle of the field where the battle began. Around this cross Jerome, Augustine, Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, More, Erasmus, Chesterton, Calvin, and the late-arrival Edith Stein with her admirer Pope John Paul II all gather around and pray. Little do they know the tempest they are about to face.

Gradually the sound of crashing branches is heard from every direction, and from the west the entire mob of Greeks come crashing down, fighting amongst themselves and looking for others to fight. Behind them comes Averroes, who is chasing down Aristotle, and behind them Al-Ghazali and Avicenna in hot pursuit. The Existentialists emerge from the south, Camus and Sartre chasing down Kierkegaard. From the east the entire army of empiricists and scientists comes like a tidal wave, with beet-faced Galileo at their front screaming and cursing the name of every bishop he knows. From the north the Dynasty emerges, calmly waiting for victims to fall into their hands.

All the groups clash once again in the field, but this time they know who their enemies are and who their friends are. There is no chaos, only resolute killing and resolute deaths. Kierkegaard runs to Augustine and Aquinas and begs them to pray that he might have faith. Camus and Sartre catch up to him and think to free Kierkegaard of Christian illusions (better that he be disillusioned and face his existential crisis honestly), so they both lung for Augustine. Kierkegaard puts himself in front of their blades to protect Augustine, and dies himself. Camus and Sartre are shocked at what just happened, but their rage overcomes all else and directs their blades to Augustine’s heart. Averroes runs to Aristotle, but Al-Ghazali catches up and cuts him down. He also turns and slices Anselm’s throat – Anselm who is not fighting but pulling enemies off his friends. More falls back and finds himself before the Dynasty. Machiavelli offers to spare More’s life as long as the Englishman will ignore his conscience and kill to survive. More refuses, and is dispatched by Sun Tzu.

The Christians retreat to nurse their wounded. Aquinas protects their retreat – he situates his hulking frame before the advancing pagan armies and holds forth his Summa like a shield, shouting down heresies. At last the Freemason Francis Bacon comes up from behind and stabs at him. The first stab is blocked by an angel, the second by the thick tome in Aquinas’ hand, but the third finds its mark. The young hot-heads Erasmus and Abelard run into the fray and retrieve Aquinas’ body.

Heraclitus slinks out of the fray, wounded. He finds a pile of crap from when Copernicus shit himself, and rubs it over his wounds as “medicine.” He then cries himself to sleep.

Aquinas’ death marks the end of the second round. The existentialists especially mourn the death of God in philosophy.

Round Three: The War

This is the decisive round during which factions form and split, heroes die, and bloodshed abounds. Almost everyone is willing to shed blood. 

With the Christians thrown into confusion by attacks from every side, they lose formation and some begin to scatter to the forest. The great battle continues to be waged in the face of the rout. The armies crash into each other like waves upon rocks. A war frenzy takes the entire arena, and those who were previously unengaged hear the sound of fighting and rush to the field to join the fray. Teams slowly begin to dissolve as man takes out man with regard only for life and philosophy. The body count begins to pile up, and all the names are valiant souls.

Anaximander follows Thales into battle with all the loyalty of a war hound, but is cut down by Aristotle, whose radical independence causes him to break from Socrates and Plato to land a crushing blow upon Anaximander’s skull. For all the strength of his paradoxes, Zeno abandons his theory of the unity of everything when Moore slices him into two very distinct halves. Lucretius’ epicurean madness is effective for a while, but eventually Marcus Aurelius’ stoic stride brings him past Lucretius’ whirling blades and within striking distance. St. Jerome attempts to flee to the wilderness, but Al-Ghazali follows him with the fervor of jihad. They grapple on the outskirts of the woods until Jerome stops breathing. Abelard takes down Al-Ghazali from behind, but is then dragged from battle and neutered by Sun Tzu. Calvin meets his inevitable destiny at the hands of Erasmus, whose humanism cannot face down the cold-hearted utility of Machiavelli’s philosophy, and the pedagogue soon eats dust. Aristotle, furious that Galileo mocked his cosmology without acknowledging how much he owes him, cuts the little scientist open. Heidegger kills Stein despite the best efforts of John Paul II. Pascal finds out that Heidegger used to be a Jesuit novitiate, so he goes to kill him. He is intercepted by Francis Bacon, who kills both Heidegger and Pascal in the name of the New World Order. The Utilitarian Trinity (Mill, Mill, Bentham) finds itself wedged between the fury of Marx and Sartre. Hegel is double-teamed by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, who abandon their German brother for the sake of philosophy and rivalry. Chesterton, once an unstoppable force, is surrounded by the post-war existentialism of Sartre and Heidegger. They quietly put the heavyset cavalier to sleep, and people forget he even existed. Goethe congratulates Heidegger for his excellent work, and then slits his throat. The very material knife of Hobbes finds its way past Goethe’s literary show. Nietzsche’s despairing knife twists to leave Sartre lost in a permanent existential nothingness. Peirce’s semiotics are rendered meaningless when Derrida deconstructs his corpse. Focault’s theoretical ideas of power are crushed by the very literal and meaningful power of Sun Tzu’s mailed fist. Heraclitus is about to take out Socrates, but he suddenly begins to foam at the mouth and then falls to the ground from shit-poisoning. Avicenna is choked from behind by Wittgenstein, Newton is smashed by Empedocles, and Moore is just kinda hit on the head by someone.

End round 3.

Round Four: Settling Scores

This is the cruelest round, where only the best of the best survive, and where former friends begin to realize that there can only be one winner. If they have made it this far, their stamina and strength are already proven. The determining factor here is increasingly their personal philosophy. 

Only twenty-one finalists remain, and the old armies are now skeleton bands of worn and bloodied soldiers. Thales still stands a god among men, and the Greeks rally to him willingly. Pythagoras and Empedocles still form their own tactical squad of ranged sorcery, but they do not direct their storms of hail and fire at the Greeks. They fire wave after wave of infernal weather at the modern philosophers about them. From across the battlefield, Wittgenstein and Sun Tzu share a silent moment of understanding. Knowing what must be done, the two warriors rush forward and fall upon the magicians. They quickly dispatch of Pythagoras, but Empedocles slams Wittgenstein in the face and gets away.

Socrates is with Plato, Aristotle, and Thales. When the destructive Derrida approaches them, hell-bent on destroying the father of dialectic, the indefatigable Greek steps forward and challenges him to a battle of wits. Whoever loses the battle must kill themselves. Derrida loses to the sharp tongue of Socrates by universal agreement and falls on his own knife.

When the amusing “battle of wits” is over, random killings begin again. Francis Bacon convinces his fellow Freemason Voltaire to help him take out Aristotle; while Bacon respects Aristotle, they both loathe his philosophy. Afterward, they convince Marx to assassinate Pope John Paul II. Marx throws his knife, but it misses the Pope’s major organs. The Pope then forgives Marx and publicly protests the way Marx has generally ignored human dignity. Marx is so ashamed that he stops fighting, and he is killed by Sun Tzu.

Marcus Aurelius overhears Machiavelli trying to convince Sun Tzu to turn against him. Already sick of Machiavelli’s unvirtuous scheming and eager to prove the extent of his imperial influence, the Caesar has Sun Tzu drag Machiavelli into the woods and behead him.

Voltaire tries to assert his French revolutionary independence from the monarchist Bacon and claim a leading seat among the Freemasons, so he stabs Bacon in the back, literally. Tycho Brahe sees his fellow scientist die and challenges Voltaire to a duel. Voltaire chops off Brahe’s nose, but Brahe is drunk and has no inhibitions. He charges madly at Voltaire and runs him through. He then escapes to cover up his ugly injury.

Thoreau and Locke temporarily join forces as an unstoppable tank of colonial anti-big-government. They team up against Hobbes (with his horrid notions of a Leviathan state), Locke charging at him from the front and Thoreau spearing him from the trees with a hand-whittled javelin.

The Greeks come by, and the rational Plato ends Locke’s empiricism with a knife stroke. Wittgenstein then ends Plato’s cerebral ponderings with analytic precision.

Only Nietzsche and Schopenhauer have not joined the fray. They are arguing. Schopenhauer wants to go and find the Buddha before the final round so he can properly detach himself. Nietzsche rejects the Eastern idea of Nirvana and wants to fully embrace the hard-boiled reality of the knife fight. Schopenhauer threatens to make the little Nietzsche squeal if he goes on about all that overman bullshit. Nietzsche slits Schopenhauer’s throat. “I am the overman,” he cries, “the destroyer of things human-all-too-human, the anti-Schopenhauer, the anti-Buddha, the Antichrist!”

Thus ends Round Four.

Round Five: The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Philosophy

This is it. Only ten remain, and only one can survive. Who will it be? Let’s take a quick look at the competition before the violence starts:

  Name: Thales of Miletus
Dates: c. 624-546 BC
School: Ionian, Milesian, Pre-Socratic, Naturalism
Strengths: Original, analytic, scientific, inventive, ambitious, shrewd, strategic, athletic, not afraid of death
Weaknesses: Potentially too sure of himself – never had any real opponents
Assets: Experience with strategy and diplomacy, money, universal respect
Special Abilities: Induce Awe, Rally, Trigonometry
  Name: Sun Tzu
Dates: 544-496 BC
School: None
Strengths: Strength, cruelty, courage, intelligence.
Weaknesses: Used to having command.
Assets: Military training to the max,
Special Abilities: Intimidation, Finishing Blow, Tactical Strike, Artful Strike
  Name: Empedocles of Agrigentum
Dates: c. 490-430 BC
School: Pluralist, pre-Socratic, Pythagorean
Strengths: Imposing, mysterious, strong, confident
Weaknesses: Vain, superstitious, deluded.
Assets: God complex,
Special Abilities: Cure Wound, Ward Evil, Magic Storm
  Name: Socrates of Athens
Dates: c. 469-399 BC
School: Classical Greek, Socratic, Platonic
Strengths: Witty, courageous, sharp, valorous, strong, resilient, original, independent, not afraid of death.
Weaknesses: Foolhardy, annoying, manipulative.
Assets: Inner daimon, military training, mind-over-matter control.
Special Abilities: Daimonic Possession, Courageous Feat, Transcendence, Use of Forms
  Name: Emperor Marcus Aurelius
Dates: 121-180 AD
School: Stoicism
Strengths: Courage, honor, virtue, stability, wisdom.
Weaknesses: Too temperate, haughty, spoiled.
Assets: Military training.
Special Abilities: Finishing Blow, Inspire Awe, Glory of Rome
  Name: Tycho Brahe
Dates: 1546-1601 AD
School: Natural Philosophy, Copernican
Strengths: Unpredictable, independent, confident.
Weaknesses: Illogical, eccentric, annoying.
Assets: Pet Elk, psychic midget, intimidating prosthetic nose, beer.
Special Abilities: See the Future, Elk Charge, Drunken Rage
Name: Henry David Thoreau
Dates: 1817-1862 AD
School: Transcendentalism
Strengths: Independent, Rebellious, Practical
Weaknesses: Pesky, compassionate (humanitarian)
Assets: Forestry, survival skills
Special Abilities: Retreat, Woodwork, Javelin Throw, Hide
Name: Friedrich Nietzsche
Dates: 1844-1900 AD
School: Classicism, Existentialism
Strengths: Ruthless, ambitious, desperate, selfish
Weaknesses: Sickly, mentally fragile, melancholic
Assets: Rage, insanity
Special Abilities: Mental Breakdown, Backstab, Reinvigoration
Name: Ludwig Wittgenstein
Dates: 1889-1951 AD
School: Analytic or none
Strengths: Choleric, observant, courageous
Weaknesses: Suicidal, moody
Assets: Military training
Special Abilities: Tactical Strike, Commando Crawl, Dress Wound
Name: Pope John Paul II
Dates: 1979-2005 AD
School: Phenomenology, Thomism, Aristotelian
Strengths: Passionate, hardy, athletic
Weaknesses: Compassionate, non-violent
Assets: Papacy
Special Abilities: Peaceful Protest, Miraculous Escape, Infallibility

(I cooked up something special for this last round. Watch the video below.)

The ten contestants gather in a circle in the central field as they did at the start of the Philosopher Games.

The horn sounds.

The fight begins!

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