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Monday, Sept. 8, 2008

Philosophy for Fun

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   Why did the chicken cross the road? What do you get when you cross a llama with a lampshade? It doesn't take a genius to work it out… or does it? In their new book, Harvard-educated philosophers Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein show unsuspecting readers the myriad philosophical concepts craftily concealed within jokes. Never again will you dismiss a lame gag without pausing to consider the metaphysical truths buried within it. And never again will you make the errant assumption that philosophy can't be a hoot.

  In Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar Cathcart and Klein offer readers a fast and funny tour through the often-tortuous trails of major philosophical disciplines. Chapters devoted to everything from metaphysics to epistemology guide you through concepts built around religion, language and social theory. The authors even sniff out eloquent truths from cable TV, offering a "Sopranos" take on the Golden Rule, which reads: "Whack the next guy with the same respect you'd like to be whacked with." Can't argue with that.

  They do occasionally get carried away with the "philogagging"-the "philo" part sometimes eluding the gag-but nevertheless they provide a digestible introduction to philosophy that offers plenty of laughs. You can meet the authors at the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop in Shorewood on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m.

  And now for something completely different… This week poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal will be appearing at a forum organized by the United Community Center and Latino Arts Inc. as part of their 2008 Immigration Series.

  Cardenal, who was born in Nicaragua and served as that country's cultural minister in the late-1970s/early-'80s under the Sandinista government, has been described as one of the most important proponents of liberation theology, which explores the links between religion and political activism. His poetry forges connections between man's spiritual and social state and is often compared to the work of Ezra Pound and Pablo Neruda.

  The forum takes place at 5 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the Latino Arts Auditorium. Cardenal will also be giving a presentation at UW-Milwaukee the following day, Sept. 16, titled "The Role of the Poet in Latin America," on the fourth-floor conference center of the Golda Meir Library at 7 p.m.