Philosophical Powers

You can’t always count on philosophers to have a sense of humour, but Ian Vandewalker, from the New York University of Law, has shown that the discipline can be more than syllogisms and supposition. By combining the zeitgeist of the superhero genre with the colourful cast of characters in the history of philosophy, he has created Philosophy Powers, a mock action figure collection that no thought experiment or Cartesian evil demon could have anticipated. In a word: epic.

View the full collection (with more information on each character’s group alliances, alternate titles, and product notes) on his webpage.

The “Angry” Ancients


“Plunderous” Plato: Powers: talented dramatist, invulnerable skin. Weaknesses: his mentor was executed early in Plato’s career, leaving him to come up with some pretty weird stuff on his own.

“Arrogant” Aristotle: Powers: walking. Weaknesses: some people think maybe he could have taught Alexander the Great a little more about diplomacy.

The “Merciless” Medievals


“Awful” Augustine: Powers: cognition aided by divine illumination; shape shifting ability. Weaknesses: inability to do anything that will earn the divine grace necessary to make up for original sin.

“Angry” Anselm: Powers: the power to preserve rectitude of the will for its own sake. Weaknesses: vulnerable to Gaunilo’s™ Perfect Island® attack.

“Acrimonious” Aquinas: Powers: breathes underwater. Weaknesses: sainthood not all it’s cracked up to be.

The “Contumelious” Continental Rationalists

“Dangerous” Descartes: Powers: certainty, laser vision. Weaknesses: Cartesian circle, susceptibility to bronchial ailments.

“Spiteful” Spinoza: Powers: knowledge of the infinite intellect of God, invisibility. Weaknesses: geometric method, excommunication.

“Liable” Leibniz: Powers: monads. Weaknesses: monads.

The “Brutal” British Empiricists

“Lethal” Locke: Primary qualities: invulnerability, super strength. Secondary qualities: smells great, facility with prose.

“Bashin'” Bishop Berkeley: Powers: God on his side (not a unique power among Moderns), ninja stealth skills. Weaknesses: eye-closing defense is vulnerable to Samuel Johnson’s™ Rock-Kicking® attack.

“Hurt ’em” Hume: Powers: Scottish Karate, local skepticism. Weaknesses: Never really sure about anything other than the contents of his own experience.

The “Terrible” Transcendental Idealist

“Killer” Kant: Powers: follows rules well, can leap as high as hundreds of times his own height. Weaknesses: sometimes seen as overly critical.

The “Exacerbating” Existentialist

“Nefarious” Nietzsche: Powers: remarkably original, ahead of his time. Weaknesses: crazy.

The “Antagonistic” Analytic Philosophers

“Ferocious” Frege: Powers: first axiomatization of logic; knowledge of eternal, immaterial entities. Weaknesses: Russell’s Paradox, unpopular with publishers.

“Vindictive” Wittgenstein: Powers: poker-wielding ability. Weaknesses: teaching ability.

“Rough” Russell: Powers: comprehension of sets. Weaknesses: radical political views about war and nuclear weapons being bad.

Quine “The Quasher”: Powers: in 1951, he punched through the wall between the legendary twin cities of Analyti City and Syntheti City, thereby debunking the Empiricist Dogma that Analyti City was populated. Weaknesses: possible world semantics, baldness.

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