About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The philosophy of Jon Stewart

I'd like to note the recent publication of a new book in Blackwell's series on “Philosophy and Pop Culture,” edited by Jason Holt. The book focuses on Jon Stewart, the popular host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central.

Holt's book, subtitled “Moments of Zen in the Art of Fake News,” contains chapters grouped in five segments: “Headlines: faux news is good news,” “Correspondent's report: Jon Stewart (not Mill) as philosopher, sort of,” “Regular feature: critical thinking and the war on bullshit,” “Interview: religion, God, and Darwin,” and “Checking in with Stephen Colbert / Your moment of Zen: Beyond The Daily Show.” My own contribution is a chapter focused on a four-part series that Stewart ran in 2005, during the Dover, PA trial on Intelligent Design, and entitled “Evolution, Schmevolution.”

I have actually seen Stewart in action a few times in New York, and I have to admit that I subscribe to his show on iTunes (most of the clips are now available on the show's own web site). The guy is impressive, and it was a lot of fun sitting in my office, repeatedly going over the video of “Evolution, Schmevolution,” all the while explaining to curious colleagues that this was, in fact, work.

Of course, that a satirical show is both a rich source of philosophical discussion and an insightful view on current affairs is a reflection on the state of our society. Is it a sad reflection? Perhaps, but it sure is fun to tune in on Comedy Central every weeknight (Fridays excluded) and see which politician of either party is going to be in the lethal line of Stewart's fire.


  1. Just for the records, and I know nobody's asked, but I'm a huge Stewart and Colbert fan. :-)

    Besides some sport event here and there (NHL, PBR, F1), their shows are the only TV I watch.

    "America, the book" is quite funny, and I just bought "I am America (and so can you)", let's see how that goes.

    Colbert for president! (SC customers only)

  2. But J

    Will it be the Democrat Colbert or the Republican Colbert?

  3. I have always liked and thought that Stewart was funny and witty.

    However, I gained extra respect for him when he interviewed, with great respect, Evo Morales, the indigenous president of Bolivia. It is quite an interesting interview, no matter where you are located on the poltical spectrum.

    Having spent quite a bit of time in Bolivia and even more time in its neighboring country of Peru, I know that it is an extraordinary historical event that somebody like Morales was elected. Stewart really provided his viewership a educational service in providing coverage of international events and issues that typically recieve no coverage.

  4. Looks like a cool book. I will check it out.

  5. Stewart has a far greater mind than anyone in the present administration. HE should run for president.

    Colbert is a bit over the top for me most of the time, but I tune in now and then, not for a while though - its World Series time. But if the Rockies don't shape up I'll be back to The Daily Show very soon.

  6. Will it be the Democrat Colbert or the Republican Colbert?

    Either one, he says he wants to lose twice anyway... And I can't vote, so... I wonder how far he's taking this, whether he's really going to the primary there.

    Yep, Dennis, Colbert is like that, which for me makes him funnier, actually... The most interesting thing is something he said in an interview a while ago (I think it was on the "Rolling Stone", but I am not sure). He said that (maybe he is exaggerating?), sometimes, when he's back home in South Carolina, people stop to talk to him and praise his show. Thing is, many seem to actually believe he's a neocon. I don't understand how that is possible, he's not that subtle in his satire. Who knows.

  7. J,

    "Thing is, many seem to actually believe he's a neocon. I don't understand how that is possible, he's not that subtle in his satire."

    Then again, he was invited at the White House Press dinner a couple of years ago, and something tells me Bush didn't realize he was going to be insulted to his face that night. A precious performance...

  8. Massimo,

    That's true, I still don't know how THAT happened... Actually that was the first time I saw Colbert in action, on YouTube.
    By the way, the videos are still there, amazingly enough. Just search for "colbert white house correspondent dinner" or the like and enjoy... :-)


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