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Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington Hardcover – January 1, 2008

3.4 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Tom Cathcart and Dan Klein pursued the usual careers after majoring in philosophy at Harvard. Tom worked with street gangs in Chicago and dropped in and out of various divinity schools. Dan wrote jokes for comedians, designed stunts for Candid Camera, and continues to pen thrillers. Each lives with his wife in New England.

From AudioFile

This quirky little gem takes world leaders and politicians from Genghis Khan to George W. Bush to task for what the authors have dubbed ³logical flimflam.² Cathcart and Klein gleefully deconstruct direct quotes from well-known people and documents to expose the faulty evidence, sources, and reasoning employed as politicians attempt to hoodwink us. Pointed references to current events and the occasional joke add timeliness and spice to the text. Johnny Heller smoothly handles the transitions from the sacred to the profane as the book shifts from the Greek of Aristotle to the often scatological language of the jokes. Heller's brisk pace and great comic timing allow the listener to follow the authors' serious underlying message while still enjoying their humor. M.O.B. © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 191 pages
  • Publisher: Abrams Image; 1st edition (January 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810995417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810995413
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book concurrently with the duo's previous book - Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes. That one was as advertised - providing a gentle introduction (or perhaps re-introduction) to, say, the iedas of Rudolf Carnap in a well-written and often humorous-enough way.

This book ("Aristotle and an Aardvark") attempts to do the same for "political doublespeak" Unfortunately, it falls flat and seems dated already, quite soon after its original publication. Even though this book shares the same basic format as the previous one, this one suffers from three fundamental flaws:

1. If you're a likely reader of this book, you will already likely have encountered the vast majority of examples of quotes in your regular internet browsing over the last few years. The specifics of Kant or Schopenhauer illuminated in the previous book required at least a philosophy major's background knowlege of philosophy. The "research" for the factual content of this book could more or less be summed up from skimming CNN and watching the Daily Show.

2. I'm left-of-lenin liberal, but reading a book teeming with wink-wink ad hominems about George W Bush and co seems dated and gratuitous. I was expecting something more timeless, along the lines of the Philosophy book. Instead, we get jocular Tom Delay bashing.

3. The "theoretical" content of this book (which, by the way, would probably be more accurately called "... through theory and jokes", though that sounds rather unsaleable) is weak. It's largely an abridged list of standard logical fallacies. Unlike Wittenstein, this tends to be something that the target audience already knows.
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Format: Hardcover
I read Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington after reading Cathcart and Klein's first book, Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar. Unfortunately, I did not find this one nearing as entertaining.

Foremost, it must be said that repetition of the same jokes over and over again became quite tiring. There was also nothing really new and innovative about the humor; most of the jokes about politics and politicians have been told before. Contrast this with Plato and a Platypus, where the humor was fresh and the punch-lines worth repeating.

As some of the previous readers have mentioned, there was a clear bias towards the Left. While the Republicans have been in power for the first six years of this decade and thus can provide more comedic fodder, I was still expecting a bit fairer treatment by Cathcart and Klein. But then again, I should have expected as much when Markos Moulitsas, founder of DailyKos, praises the book on its back cover.

Even still, it is an interesting read and you will learn how to identify the double-speak and fallacious reasoning so often employed by politicians. My personal recommendation: check-out this book from your local library. You'll learn a few things, and still have the $12.89.
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Format: Hardcover
The examples may be quoted from and especially relevant to Washington but the process of political doublespeak is universal. I mention that to try to reassure the Americans who may feel that their politicians (of whatever stripe) have been singled out unfairly. My own copy of this book is liberally festooned with Post-it notes, many of which cause me current amusement and may well form part of my future research for post-employment writing.

`It's a good speech - just a couple of points need obfuscation.'

The book (hardbound, as all good reference material should be) has six parts. Those parts are entitled:
Part I The Tricky Talk Strategy (Misleading with Doublespeak)
Part II The `So's Your Mother' Strategy (Misleading by Getting Personal)
Part III The Fancy Footwork Strategy (Misleading with Informal Fallacies)
Part IV The Star Trek Strategy (Misleading by Creating an Alternate Universe)
Part V Extra Credit (Misleading with Way Twisty Formal Fallacies)
Part VI The Debates (Misleading by Fabrication (Ours))

All of this is very important if you wish to understand what is fallacious and why. But if you are just in the mood for humour, and need to be comforted in these unsettling times consider: that failure may simply be a success that hasn't happened yet! This reminds me of another line (not in the book), which I will borrow from another famous philosopher (the late Jim Morrison) and quote accurately albeit out of context `No-one here gets out alive'. Is this a lie, or a larger truth?

Yes, it is true: `There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you' (Will Rogers)

Now I have a dilemma: where do I store this book? Under `H' for humour, or under `R' for reality? Alas, `F' for fallacy (examples) is already overflowing.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Even though the book is about Washington politics, it is quite evident the author does not like President Bush. I am no fan of Bush or some of his cohorts. Having said that, the constant anti-Bush theme gets boring at times - nothing really new. The persistent political inconsistencies cited by the author of many politicians and political groupies are well known and equally ignored by most people outside of the Beltway.
There are times when the humor is quite good and the jabs well placed.
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