Monday, June 9, 2014

How Philosophical Are These TV Dads?

With Father's Day looming next weekend, it's important to remember all the wisdom we've gleaned from our dads over the years. For instance, my old man taught me how to scalp tickets, why nothing good ever happens after midnight, and where to find the hidden parking spots in Manhattan.

In many ways, fathers are like philosophers. If I had to choose one famous thinker to represent my dad, I'd pick Socrates because of his ideas about minimalism. It seems like my dad hasn't bought a material item for himself since the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, when he splurged on a couple commemorative pins. This quote from Socrates sums him up pretty well:

Phoro via

With that type of comparison in mind, here's an assortment of TV dads and the philosophers they most closely resemble.

Dad: Danny Tanner (Full House)
Philosopher: Rene Descartes
Major Philosophical Parallel:
Descartes is often regarded as the "Father of Modern Philosophy," so we might as well start here. Bob Saget's Danny Tanner, meanwhile, was like a father to the current generation of 20-somethings. Descartes advocated dualism, the triumph of mind over body. Danny likewise ended almost every episode of Full House with some sort of speech about the importance of well-thought decisions.

Dad: Ned Stark (Game of Thrones)
Philosopher: Thomas More
Major Philosophical Parallel:
More wrote the classic book Utopia, in which he imagined a perfect society. Ned Stark, meanwhile, sought to create such a community in Winterfell. Unfortunately, both men were eventually convicted of treason and beheaded. Not too utopian.

Dad: Tim Taylor (Home Improvement)
Philosopher: Epictetus
Major Philosophical Parallel:
In The Art of Living, Epictetus provides readers with a terse bits of advice for living a virtuous life. For instance, Epictetus says, "If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid." On Tool Time, Tim the Toolman lived by that mantra, destroying the set and his body in the eternal quest for home improvement.

Dad: Homer Simpson (The Simpsons)
Philosopher: Thomas Edison
Major Philosophical Parallel:
Edison wasn't exactly a philosopher, but he's the best parallel for Homer because the Simpson dad once became an inventor and couldn't step out of Edison's shadow.

I wonder if Edison ever dropped a philosophical gem on par with "Women will like what I tell them to like."

Dad: Eric Camden (7th Heaven)
Philosopher: Friedrich Nietzsche
Major Philosophical Parallel:
Nietzsche famously proclaimed, "God is dead." After undergoing a heart operation, Reverend Camden left the ministry and stopped attending church. Eventually, he returned to his faith. Nietzche, on the other hand, died, giving God the last laugh.

Dad: Frank Barone (Everybody Loves Raymond)
Philosopher: Thomas Henry Huxley
Major Philosophical Parallel:
Huxley coined the term agnostic to describe the idea that the truth value of certain claims is unknowable. Frank seems pretty agnostic when he says, "You want to know the meaning of life? You're born, you go to school, you go to work. you die." Maybe that would fall under the umbrella of some other philosophical ideal, but I'm not sure. I'm actually pretty agnostic about the whole thing.

Dad: Jay Pritchett (Modern Family)
Philosopher: John Locke
Major Philosophical Parallel:
Locke said that the three natural rights are "life, liberty, and estate." Jay certainly enjoys the finer things in life (expensive booze, fancy cars, hot wives), and he definitely doesn't like when others encroach on his liberty. The patriarch of the Pritchett family also boasts a pretty substantial estate, courtesy of his immensely successful construction supply company.

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