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The Why and How of the Unemployed Philosophers Guild

There’s a bad joke: The engineer asks ‘how can I build that?’ the scientist asks ‘how does it work?’ and the philosopher asks ‘do you want fries with that?’ In all fairness to the Philosopher, he’s probably not referring to ontological French fries, but the 18th centrury thinker Jacob Fries. Anyway, some people think unemployed philosophers are funny. But why? Was it funny when philosophers gave us Democracy, Justice, Truth, Science, a sensible analysis of intramundane social practices or Freudian Slippers?

In your first philosophy class you’ll read about Thales, the first Greek to ask the big philosophical questions. He’s famous for asking about the fundamental structure of the world (less famous for his answer: the world is water), but really it’s that other fact about Thales that makes him a favorite anecdote for philosophers. Thales reportedly used his knowledge to predict a huge olive season, bought most of the olive presses in town and made heaps of money out of it. (The question is never answered as to how his philosophical thoughts led him to this conclusion, we’re left to surmise. Maybe since the world was water it would rain a lot?) Anyway, Thales stands out because he was not only the first western philosopher per se, he was also the first philosopher to actually make some money out of it.

Moving on, in the 19th century philosophy retreated to the university and became a strictly professional if not esoteric affair. For decade upon decade philosophy searched in vain for its own purpose until late in the last century when it was declared dead (paradoxically, this was declared by philosophers).

Well, not everyone took those Cassandras to heart and out of the ashes, like a phoenix rose the Unemployed Philosophers Guild. In our Ivory Tower we haven’t yet discovered the first principles of Being (though we concur that the world is watery), but we have discovered that people seem to really like the giants of our culture reduced to little finger puppets, mugs and witty jokes.

Despite what you may think, we think deeply about the things we do and the objects we bring into this world and suffice it to say we’re proud to return philosophy to the days of Thales, when a philosopher could, with some crackpot ideas, make a living and make the world a better place. How do we do it? I don't know. We just do.

And what's better, part of every purchase you make goes to philosophically profound causes. The other part goes to extra gold plated faucets in the Ivory Tower bathrooms.